An unapologia for state education


How can he tell I’m an ex-teacher? The twitching? The hair loss? The muttering of plenaries at a wall? Or the quick retreat into posh plonk? Can’t I just get plastered like everyone else and dance very badly to Fats Domino?

Can’t I just get plastered like everyone else and dance very badly to Fats Domino? It’s a bad faith question, anyway. He’s really worried that a comprehensive is not like his old public school. That appears to be the ideal these days. “Probably better!” I don’t say.

I nearly apologise – yet again. Why? Why do I accommodate such condescension? Why am I such a weed before any Big Wig with a beard or robe or gown – or Sir Ofsted Tofsted, when he finds us “unsatis”? Well, no more. I’ve reached the tipping point. Two people pushed me over.

One – the Gove, when he accused comprehensive teachers of “the soft bigotry of low expectation”. Grrrr! I bet he was pleased with that one. The soft bigotry of sophistry. Cant. How low can you go? And then he attacked “egalitarianism”. More cant.

And two – Elizabeth Price, the Turner prize winner, who was so passionate in defence of her comprehensive school. Yes, it was “egalitarian – and supportive and ambitious!” She trashed Noddy. “Inclusivity doesn’t equal mediocrity.” Indeed.

Her anger gave me courage. No more apologies! We’ll do the condescending round here. I was forgetting a few essential things. State schools are where 93 per cent of children go. They’re where the real action is. You get a better education there. You learn lots. You learn empathy. You meet all God’s children.

So much that is good about this country comes from comps. Danny Boyle’s Opening Olympic ceremony – that’s us. That’s England. That’s my England. State school teachers are frequently wonderful.

You have to be so good to survive. It’s so much harder to teach Dave Mania to read than to get Cordelia into Oxbridge – and probably more necessary. If you’re not teaching Dave, you’ve somehow bottled proper teaching. And public schools damage the nation.

Next time I hear the Usual Suspects bleating and bullying, I’ll remind myself of all the great teachers making pupils numerate or literate or A*s or turning them on to Shakespeare or nourishing the next Jessica or Wiggo – of being so good at so much against so many odds.

The New Year will be tough. My resolution is to never apologise for state schools – and to flag up that their teachers are some of the heroes and heroines of this nation.

“Of course you can,” I tell the silly fellow.



Please view our Terms and Conditions before leaving a comment.

Change the CAPTCHA codeSpeak the CAPTCHA code
Claim Free Subscription