Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

IN the Mid-60s I Was Part of the First Cohort of Pupils [...]

Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

IN the Mid-60s I Was Part of the First Cohort of Pupils [...]

Article excerpt


IN the mid-60s I was part of the first cohort of pupils to go to Grammar School without sitting the 11-plus. I followed my sister who, the year before, had been in the last group to have to sit the exam. We both attended the same school and the education we received was excellent, setting us up for life.

But as the Tory government attempts to turn back the clock to a time when winners and losers were picked at the ridiculously young age of 11, my mind goes back to a conversation I had with my mother on her death bed in 2001. At the age of 79 she was still full of anger because of the terrible twist of fate that happened to her in the early 30s.

She had passed the first part of the 11 plus with flying colours but was unable to sit the second part of the exam because she was laid up in bed with tuberculosis as a direct result of the poverty-stricken life she and her widowed mother suffered.

Her real anger was in the language. She railed against the fact that she was defined as having "failed" the examination, a definition which shaped her life as she was sent to what was clearly a second-class education system. Theresa May's grammar schools plan is a deliberate distraction from the real issues in our education system, as her government continues to make the deepest education cuts in a generation. The strain on school finances is set to continue, with the independent Institute for Fiscal Studies confirming that the biggest real terms cuts to per pupil funding in a generation are on the way. To add to the pain, the Government is increasing schools' costs by freezing their cash whilst increasing what they take from them in pensions and National Insurance contributions. This means that for every 20 teachers a school employs, it now has to find an extra teacher's salary to give back to the Government.

In order for school leaders to balance their books, they are being forced to cut back on staff, restricting subject options, particularly in the creative arts subjects. …

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