Tuesday, 30 November 2010

'Let's Give Every Child a Chance'.

Tuesday 30th November

Indulge me if you will, blog reader. This post is more of a musing than anything else and regards Michael Gove's quote last Sunday in respect of education.

A fortuitous series of events permitted me to attend the 'Royal Grammar School, Guildford' for my secondary education. Schooled locally at a junior level at 'Prior Heath' and 'Ravenscote' in Surrey Heath, my parents sent me to take exams at the RGS in 1985 (oh my, was it really that long ago...?), and I was admitted in the September of that year. I thoroughly enjoyed my time at the RGS and, while often looking back and reminiscing fondly about my experience, feel extremely fortunate that I had that opportunity.

It was far more than exams and rugby. I recall talking to a pal of mine - a child psychologist - about our morning assemblies for example, and how we were encouraged daily to excel. How our contribution to the school was that which made it great; how collectively we could accomplish everything; how individually we were capable of anything. Like 16th century Jesuit priests, we were then sent on our way to make what we could of the world, imbued with an amazing sense of self worth and self confidence.
Was it indoctrination? Possibly. Was it 'Esprit de Corps'? Definately.
My friend was particularly enthused.
'Fantastic', she mused. 'Imagine if that kind of spirit could be bottled and bestowed upon every single child'.

I remember talking at length to Michael Gove MP, now Secretary of State for Education, about my educational experience and suggested to him that as a country, we should consider carefully the principle of Grammar Schools once again in order to raise educational standards. Consummate politician that Michael is, his riposte was naturally as encouraging as it was pointed.
'Stuart', he replied. 'It is more the case that every child should have an experience such as yours rather than a return to an older system where some are excluded from it'.

And of course he is right.

I strongly believe, like Michael, that good education is probably the most important strategic element that a government needs to get right. After all, each of us goes through it and as such it sets our collective horizons depending upon our relative experiences, to the benefit - or detriment - of all of us. To my mind, its not a case of ability; not a case of social demography: not a case of economics and geography. It is a case, like the child psychologist opined, of creating an environment where children can be encouraged and inspired to learn and to excel.

As such, I support the major thrust of Michael's educational plans in creating these kind of environments - whether in the formation of new schools or assisting existing institutions in altering their teaching methods - but I can't say I envy the social or political challenges he now has before him.

Just imagine the possibilities if he can get it right.

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