The Tory bandwagon (or juggernaut) is what everyone is jumping on at the moment, and for those of us who are still utterly disillusioned with the LibLabCon there are many reasons to sit on the side lines while the masses press on with what they want to do.
I am sure school class sizes, and education of school children in general, is something most of us have at least read about in passing or noticed at least briefly on the news. For the majority of voters this is a distant issue, mixed in with many others, and probably not a priority and a vote loser or winner. Many of us for whom GP is a regular haunt can probably hazard a guess about the main underlying problems with the issue of schools, and will be able to piece together the following clues:
- Mass immigration
- Spewing out babies
When you have a child a primary school like myself this becomes a far more intense issue, and the obvious indicators are far closer and clearer. I started going to school in the 70s. The decadent decade with flares, hair, oil prices crises, inflation, strikes, and the sick man of Europe syndrome.
What a dreadful time to go to school many might think. Well, actually: No. School did not start until you were five in my day. The old man, being a chippy / bricky / painter self employed kind of guy at the time, had a few bob spare so afforded me the luxury of part time nursey a couple of mornings a week paid for out of his pocket maybe for a year before school. The rest of the time I was with Mum or Nan. Then school started, and off I went: 9 – 3.30 each day, into school, get taught, go home, play in the afternoons, nice and normal, nice and easy.
My mum reckons there weren’t that many parents evenings, no serious attendance monitoring, no begging bowls from the school, and you sent your kids to school in proper uniforms EVERY DAY.
Fast forward 40 years, to the land of milk and honey where progressives have enriched us with their wonderful programmes and the EU takes care of everything; allegedly.
My school started school when he was three years old. Just take a couple of seconds to think about that. Three years old. I wonder how many people born prior to the 70s, or even the 60s, went to school at three? Now, his school at three was part time – two days per week at first and moving to 2.5 days after a few months, and it was actually optional. However, with both parents working full time it made great sense to sign up for this public service.
It came as a little surprise to me that this part time pre- pre-school had a proper curriculum. Not a total surprise as the private nursery we had used for childcare previously also had some form of learning rules and programme laid out by government. All we were really after was some free childcare and getting him used to the idea of school, but the additional learning was a bonus.
So then he moves into the next year and starts full time school at the ripe age of four. At this point I am thinking that he is probably ahead of the game compared to my time, or at least on target for what he should know and be capable of by the time proper school begins. Maybe you will assume the same, maybe lots of reasonable people would concur. Well, think again.
The evening before the school year starts all the parents were summoned to the school, where we were addressed by no less than the headmistress herself. We were informed that it is very important that children read. So I’m sat there thinking “Yes, tell me something I did not know. My son does read at home, but I am sure that in the 30 hours of attendance each week at school there will be plenty of reading”. The we get told that a book will come home every evening and we must read it with our children, sign a reading record, and put it in their bag to go back in the morning. Apparently this will only take ten minutes, and it will all be so helpful and some emotional blackmail is added into the mix as it is our children after all.
Next we are told that there will be homework sent home at weekends for the children to do. Of course children at the age of four do not do homework; parents do. So now I am beginning to fall in.
Despite starting them two years earlier than they should be, they are abdicating some of their duties on to us to compensate for the monstrous failure that is the education delivered by a school rated by Ofsted as “very good”. My thoughts spin and I start to wonder how they measure them, with memories of schools being downgraded for being too white, and then consider how bad a school that is rated as mediocre would be.
As an adult it was really tough to get through the early parenting years with both of us working full time, and we were lucky that one of us works shifts and the other Monday to Friday office hours. Juggling leave, shifts, paying hard cash for childcare, whilst all the while trying to be a good person, a good employee and above all a good parent. When we got to that first year in school, with just part time school hours, it was a tremendous relief in so many ways. And the arrival of full time school seemed to promise even better times.
Instead, things went backwards. At first it was just the small book each evening, and then the homework at weekends. Nothing too time consuming at first: a month in we had to collect ten types of leaf and stick them onto a page, dealt with by a country walk on a Sunday afternoon. However, that was just the beginning.
Steadily the books got bigger, and the assignments larger. By the time he was five it was a 15 minute book each day, a column of writing each day, a spelling test most weeks, and other assignments at the weekend. Some of the assignments were so complex I had to Google them to find out what they wanted, and others were misleading and I got apologies when I queried them with the teacher who blamed her assistant; some I got wrong and I found admonishments in the school bag waiting for me.
When he was five, about a month into the school year, I went to the parents open evening and met my son’s class teacher. I specifically asked how he was doing: was his reading above par, below, or indifferent? The same for sums. Don’t worry I was told, everything is ok.
Her Indoors was summoned to a ‘parent-teacher consultation’ meeting a month later. This was a kangaroo court where we were informed that our child was behind and failing, and it was all our fault, and what are we going to do about it, and they had a form for us to fill out for Social Services as our son needed to be referred as a special needs kid. She didn’t really know what to do. Thankfully I was not there, being a public servant that works in the enforcement arena, and someone who would be able to have a good stab at putting them in their place; I doubt it would have ended well – just a massive argument, and our son having to enrol at a new school.
So, despite all the extra learning at home on top of 30 hours at school each week, an excellent attendance record, and starting school two years early, the public service supplied to us was so appalling we had to procure additional education for our son.
He now attends a Saturday morning school for almost an hour, and has to do even more homework as part of the package: two workbooks each day which take 10-15 minutes each. So that is half our weekend gone, and yet another morning where I am pinned down to a time and a place each week.
Half of my work days now consist of working 8-4.15, getting home at 5.15, getting my son back from the after school club at 5.45 and then starting the homework routine: school book, school homework (two items: prep for a maths test, and an English test), then complete two workbooks for the private tuition. By the time we have done that lot it is 7pm – then my son still needs some food, a bath, and to get dressed for bed. My partner does the other half, or if she is on nights, then I get in at 6pm and then have to start the homework routine as she leaves for work.
His childhood is very different from mine, I don’t like it, and it puts me in a very difficult situation.
All of this is going on seven years into a Tory government. And every single day of each of those years they have let the underlying problems get worse and worse, while fobbing us off with false promises and obfuscations. So I am afraid that those of you who think this is a really prime time to go out and vote Conservative will have to excuse me. I have said before that I do not intend to vote Conservative again, even at General Elections, and I for one am sticking to my Ukip guns.