Yesterday’s Observer has an article by Tess Reidy reporting the results of a YouGov poll that says that a fairly convinvcing 91% of parents at free schools are in favour of some sort of local authority or council input – to ensure maintenance of high standards,
And this in a schooling stream that was promulgated partly so that parents and others could set up schools in areas where standards were in decline.
Strange, huh? Anyone who works closely with local authorities knows what a good job they have done over the years in insisting on and helping to maintain high standards. It backs up the most recent opinion poll from YouGov on free schools in October that suggested that support for them was falling.
And then we have the chair of OFSTED, Sally Morgan, saying that if we admitted children to nurseries at age two or three, then this would overcome their educational disadvantages. The article, in today’s Guardian, has her saying:
Many young children from disadvantaged backgrounds have had a dire start to their education, and are around a year-and-a-half behind their richer classmates at the age of five…Exposure to poor parenting, diet and housing means that often they are not ready to start formal schooling.
Aagh! Exposure to poor parenting! What a ghastly fate! Get those children away from terrible smelly parents and give them to strangers who will look after them in a nice, hygenic school…
Can the woman not listen to herself??? Exposure to poor parenting! This is not a disease! It is not like chain smoking or growing up with your baby-gro smelling of wacky baccy. These are parents who often (not always) have weak education themselves, probably (but not always) with low-self esteem about their abilities to parent, often too ashamed or inept (again, not always) to ask for help, and without any affirmation in the public sphere at all, often unemployed or under-employed, vilified as an underclass, but, by their own lights, trying to love and care for their children as best they can.
And here comes Lady Morgan, deciding that the state, though its much criticised schools, can do this better, thank you very much, so they can grow up like richer children can. This feels like kicking the poor while they are down.
And then there is the evidence base itself, wih irrefutable proof that the prodcuts of these poorly parented smelly homes are up to 19 months behind by the time they get to school. This is provided independently by…er…OFSTED. Of course. It must be true. This sort of thing just brings the noble scions of the house of Wilshaw into even greater disrepute, needlessly.
At the other end of the scale, here we have massively underfunded children’s centres, perennially under threat of closure or reorganisation, one of the best vehicles for reaching out to those families who might find other organs of the state too intrusive and scary. Why not fund them properly and expand their reach? Schools are not going to clear up the mess in homes, improve the parenting or provide high quality diets around the clock. But there are organisations of the state and local authorities who have massive expertise in this very thing and can engage with, encourage and gently persuade those who might be willing to be helped.
OK, rant over.