Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Home Truths

Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Home Truths

Article excerpt

Byline: By Martin Wells

You know it's the silly season when the Government, in one of its earnest moments of social engineering, unveils its latest plan to cure the school system of all its ills: bringing back the sack race.

This, effectively, is the latest big idea from Charles Clarke, the Secretary of State for ( in case you'd forgotten Tony Blair's priorities when he took office ( Education, Education, Education.

In addition to reintroducing school sports, New Labour wants to bring back uniforms and the house system, the idea being, presumably, that healthy competition in children and the Windsor Knot will enhance their academic capabilities and create a new generation of ubermensch.

When the plans were unveiled earlier this month, it set me wondering where the motivation for this came from. Was it some think-tank of whiskery academics cloistered in a room with a supply of port and told not to re-emerge until they'd justified the return of grammar schools? Probably not.

Was it a high-powered lobby group of businessmen, brought to their knees by the woeful standard of new recruits? Hardly. They're too busy justifying the low wages they pay to these drones, to care.

I suspect some bright spark in the education sector has seen the success of the Harry Potter books and realised that if they create a Hogwarts in every town, everything will magically be all right.

It's absurd, of course.

As anyone who went through the old grammar school system (me included) will tell you, they were wonderful institutions but, if we're honest, they gave you a Mr Chips education and threw you out into a Grange Hill world.

I suspect we've a Government full of people who went through experiences I did and are guilty at times of the romantic revisionism that afflicts me periodically.

When my son, for example, returns home from comprehensive and tells me he's spent his history lesson watching Saving Private Ryan I berate him for attending the Mickey Mouse Institute for Lazy Children and Even Lazier Teachers. …

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