Picture, if you will, the scene in every school in the United Kingdom this Autumn. One day, suddenly, a large package is delivered. Inside? A leather-bound volume embossed on the side with 'A gift to schools from the Prime Minister'. The title? My Summer at the Olympics by David Cameron. But of course that will not happen, I hope, but there does appear to be some debate going on about education.
I will state it now, that I am a teacher. I have taught for nigh-on 20 years in different schools in different parts of the country, both independent and state (I hate the term 'public school', but that's just me), so I feel compelled to comment on the 'row' that has cropped up about why more independently-educated have medalled in the London 2012 Olympics, and what the reasons for this might be, and who might be to blame (teachers, caretakers, headmaster's cat, dinner ladies etc etc). You might have guessed that I don't take it particularly seriously.
I suppose I had best add some meat to the bones, as it were. It is a common contention, particularly among the more right-leaning sectors of the media, that the loony-lefties who infiltrate the state education system do not want any kind of competition and thus if there is a running competition, it is more likely that the child coming last will get a bigger award than the one coming first. Well, how can I put this... UTTER RUBBISH! 99% of schools have a sports day, where there is competition as well as a focus on participation and good sportsmanship.
Yesterday Sir John Major, former Prime Minister, said he regretted not funding full-time sports teachers in schools, working with individual clusters of primary schools. I don't know if he slept after May 1997, but Rip van Major obviously missed the School Sports Partnerships set up by the last government, which did just this, and which were scrapped by Mr Gove, probably because he thought PE teachers don't speak Latin.
The next argument is that state schools should offer the same opportunities that independent ones do. Well, it's time to wake up and smell the economics, Dave. Secondary schools in my area receive around £4000 per pupil per year (one of the lowest funded authorities in the country, as opposed to authorities like Westminster, that get around twice as much). This funding has to cover the whole curriculum. I would love schools in my area to offer the same opportunities as independent ones, but it would require funding from central government at a similar rate as the £5000 per term schools that Mr Cameron wants the state sector to mirror. I wait, perhaps not with bated breath as I will rapidly turn blue, for Mr Cameron and Mr Osborne to open the pursestrings.
There's one final thing I want to say, though, and it is possibly the most important thing I can say. I feel that there appears to be a desire on the part of some to ignite an argument on the grounds of 'class' - state versus independent, rich versus poor, aristocracy versus proletariat - and my answer is why? We are currently celebrating the greatest sports event to occur in this country in my lifetime, and this will only be surpassed when Southampton FC win the Premiership. In my view, at least, carping and sniping by politicians of all hues is unwanted, as it detracts from the achievements of all our medallists. I hope that the politicians shut up and let us enjoy the rest of the Olympics, and the whole of the Paralympics, in peace and quiet, or we should arrange for them all to dangle in a harness on the 'Boris zipwire' until they promise to be quiet.
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