At the chalkface: Facts

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That’s what really irks. Let me run some other brute facts by you, in no particular order. Refute them, if you can. Inequality rules. It’s bad for all of us. It’s getting worse. Poverty kills. It’s getting worse. Poor children do worse than rich children.

That’s what really irks. Let me run some other brute facts by you, in no particular order. Refute them, if you can. 

Inequality rules. It’s bad for all of us. It’s getting worse. Poverty kills. It’s getting worse. Poor children do worse than rich children. “Rich, thick kids achieve more than poor, clever ones.” A bleeding heart lefty? No, the rigorous Mr Gove. Bad housing is bad for you. No housing is worse. Zero hour/no jobs are bad for you. It breaks up families and ruins children’s lives. No privacy and no books are bad for you. Closing libraries and playing fields and playgrounds are bad for you. It causes obesity, crime, depression and – strike me down with a feather – illiteracy. This is really bad for you. It can cause sadness and rage and often incarceration. Fact. If you can’t read by seven you’re doomed. Fact. Doomed children ruin classes. Fact. Estelle Morris is the only minister of education to have ever taught in a school. Fact. Why?

I could go on. And on.

These things can’t be accidental. They must be deliberate. A percentage – 20 per cent? – are surely being groomed for a permanent underclass.

Finally, ponder the following. 

In January the “Centre for Analysis of Social Exclusion” published a report on the effect of austerity on so many children. It is, apparently, catastrophic. Fact.

The government has just announced that they are testing some tests for the first four years of our pupils’ academic lives. Reception classes will have baseline tests – in their prams?

The Tory council at Battersea has just shut down a free adventure playground. It has been reopened in partnership with something called “Go Ape” offering something called “Tree-top Adventures”. Tots can have one for around £20 a go. Marvellous.

This isn’t surrealism. These are facts. Rarely contested. Invincibly wrong. Immoral. Destructive. The remedy? Erm... you just stop doing them.

So as you pass your pupils’ furrowed, benighted faces in your exam halls, ponder that things could so simply be otherwise.

It’s a stone cold fact.

  • Ian Whitwham is a former inner city London teacher.


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