State Schools – The Truth!

I recently read this article on the Independent. Chris Parry, a former rear admiral and the new chief executive of the Independent Schools Council (ISC), spoke out on his view of state education and was accused of snobbishness by the NUT and of being ‘misguided’ (i.e. wrong) by the Department for Children, Schools and Families.

His views was as follows:

1. State schools are ‘struggling with unteachable children, ignorant parents and staff who don’t want to be there’

2. ‘Comprehensive school pupils cannot be expected to get into top universities if they are bullied by classmates from “disadvantaged backgrounds”.’

3. ‘There are too many leaders but not enough leadership, there are a lot of managers but not enough management. There aren’t enough teachers and aren’t enough teachers in the subjects we need. It’s lacking human, material [and] financial resources.”

This seems to be a fairly accurate view of the situation, albeit very generalised. Of course schools are struggling, when inclusion forces them to take children who should be separated from other kids for their own protection, when parents insist that their little darling has done nothing wrong and ‘Miss X’ is just picking on him, and when they have teachers exhausted from working all the hours God sends for no respect. The comment about leaders has been fully covered on Old Andrews blog Scenes From the Battleground here and here, and he has much more experience in these matters than me. The TES forums to tend to support this view though. 

The one point I do have experience on, however, is the second point. In many ways mine, and many of my classmates’, success is despite the state education system, not because of it. As much as the powers that be would like to deny it, even when I was at secondary school (about 10 years ago now) it was not a good idea to do well (except at sport). 

Here are my tips for surviving state education:

  • Never voluntarily answer a question in class, certainly don’t ask any. 
  • Make sure you have at least one ‘popular’ friend (I had one from primary school) who will make sure you’re generally left alone.
  • Help a Chav with their work if they’re sat next to you, that’ll gain you some respite.
  • Grow a very thick skin.
  • Take up a sport, that’ll gain you credibility and make sure you’re not the last one picked during PE.
  • NEVER take the school bus, and don’t walk to or from school alone. 
  • Ensure you have a lot of people around you at break or lunch, better still immerse yourself in extracurricular activities, they are a haven from the chav invested waters of the school yard. 
  • Keep up with the fashion, rolled up skirts, tiny ties or thickly knotted ties, scrunchies, perms, straightened hair, friendship bracelets etc. Any of these can prevent serious teasing.
  • Break the odd rule, living a little bit dangerously now and again can get you a bit of respect.
  • Do not behave in a confrontational manner towards anyone bigger, or meaner, than you.
There are many other things to bear in mind, if you have anything to add please press the comments link!
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6 Responses to State Schools – The Truth!

  1. razzler says:

    Very good! As a teacher – do you think you’ll have the same tips for kids? Like the one about not volunteering information in classes?

    I understand that these things can be necessary for survival (I especially resonate with the bus one and the one about activities during lunch) but do you think there can be ways for teachers to tackle this problem?

    Like (and I know I’m rambling) it seems like it’s all up to the kids to learn how to survive. It was for us. We had to figure it out on our own, we couldn’t rely on the teachers for help. What can teachers do, if anything?

  2. thinkbubble says:

    It’s interesting to read this. It not only brings back memories for me at high school, I definitely grew a thick skin for shear survival.

    This is also why I am put off from teaching at high school. I also think that there is so much that needs to be changed and I would really like to be part of making that change and making a difference.

    But I think you need a real drive, commitment and passion to as you say: ‘work all the hour’s God sends for no respect’. I am not sure I have that right now.

  3. Miss B. Have says:

    I think somehow the culture needs to change…. the too cool for school thing has to end.

    I’d love to help with this, though it’s difficult. I dare say we could have relied on our teachers for help, but at the time we didn’t realise this. I’m of a slightly different generation to our teachers so I remember what it was like and identify with them. Perhaps that will help. I don’t think our teachers really understood what it cost us to be bright in our school. As long as I never forget this I may be able to help.

    And thinkbubble, I sympathise. It took me a long time to decide to do secondary, mainly because I want to teach my subject, rather than generally, and secondary is the only way of doing this. I also feel quite strongly that MFL teaching is important, so I felt I should get involved. The lack of respect (from pupils, parents and general public alike) is a major deterrant!

  4. thinkbubble says:

    I have great admiration in what you are doing. I agree that a drive to teach at secondary is because of the subject. Is MFL Modern Foreign Languages? I would really like to teach Religious Studies. Part of me is saying ‘I think I should do secondary’ and the other part of me is saying ‘are you crazy’. So I am going to pursue getting some experience at primary and if I enjoy it then ill do a PGDE. If not I would look to get some experience at secondary school. Is it this September you start your PCDE?

  5. Miss B. Have says:

    Yep, I start a PGCE in Modern Foreign Languages (German with French in my case) this September. I taught older pupils during my year abroad (ok, I was teaching English, but it gives you an idea) and I really did enjoy it, though it could be challenging, especially as I had almost no training for it.

    Is there no way you could get a little experience at a secondary as well? Perhaps as an LA one day a week or a weeks observation? Many schools do this for Prospective secondary PGCErs. That way you could get an idea of what you prefer. Secondary’s probably not as scary as you think…. well, stay tuned to read about me eating my words on this very blog.

    I’ve just looked up PGDE as opposed to a PGCE, it seems I’ll have a certificate and you’ll have a diploma (the border is the difference).

  6. reteacher says:

    Those rules for survival pretty much sum up my experiences at secondary school. I really wish they didn’t and I really wish that as (future) teachers we could do something to change the experience for those students. But that would just be idealistic!

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