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25 Mar 2013

Tutors

Legally, I am perfectly in my rights to call myself a tutor and advertise my services online or anywhere else. I may have had no education beyond the age of 16, may have no qualifications and I may not even like children but there is, legally, nothing to stop me. I can lie about myself and claim all kinds of expertise and experience and, unless someone really investigates me and takes action against me, I can carry on like that for years. That is, if anyone is stupid enough to invite me into their home and ask me to teach their children.

So some organisations and individuals want people to be regulated and to have qualifications and accreditation by some official body in order to be a ‘tutor’.

The Good Schools Guide Educational Consultants stands firmly against this.

Who are they? Where do they come from?

Tutors tend to come from three sources:

  • The vast majority are local and their names are treasured, handed between friends and the best of them are oversubscribed with long waiting lists. They are good; parents trust them and they know what they are doing. The majority are retired or part-time teachers and, hence, have degrees in their specialist subjects and plenty of experience. If they didn’t get results and if the children did not like them, they would not get custom. They like children.
  • Tutor companies. These provide around 10% of tutoring and are concentrated in specific areas – most particularly in central London which bristles with tutor companies, all doing very nicely, thankyou. Their tutors are, for the most part, bright young graduates – often from Oxbridge. They may not have much experience but they are energetic, enthusiastic and good at bonding with children – especially reluctant learners. Mostly, they like children too. The best of the tutor companies choose their tutors carefully, the interview, train and monitor them. They take references and get feedback from clients.
  • Online. These are usually listing websites. Anyone can register. Mostly, there is no interview, scrutiny or other filtering. A few online tutor websites are far more professional and demand a lot more information. These enable potential clients to make a more considered judgement about the people who offer their services before they contact them. At the other end of this continuum, there are online tutoring companies – often based abroad, particularly in India – which offer only online tutoring ie you email your tutor back and forth with queries and problems and get virtual tutoring that way.

There are, in addition, flourishing organisations which offer classes for revision – usually for the 11+ exams. These are not one-to-one but in small classes. Thus they cannot address an individual child’s difficulties as a personal tutor can but they can certainly back up the syllabus.

Caveat emptor

In each case, the time-honoured principle of caveat emptor applies. The quality of online tutoring varies hugely. Some are clearly excellent. Others are clearly exploitative and useless. Revision classes likewise. Some are careful, conscientious and professional. Others are disreputable and merely exploit parental panic.

Parents are not stupid. People are not stupid. Very few people would visit someone who calls themselves a doctor without some means of ascertaining that he or she really is a doctor, with proper premises, qualifications and a good local reputation. Likewise a plumber or a builder – you ask your friends, you interview, you check references. It would be a very remiss parent who invited a complete stranger to their house to spend time alone with their child without any checks whatever. No accreditation. Just common sense

We feel that anyone who tutors children should have a qualification in the subject – or area – they offer to teach. Experience, too, has to be a plus. But we are against accreditation. Likewise we are against enforcing DBS (the new CRB) checks on tutors who work from home. All this would do is make it harder for those independent teachers – the majority, by far, of tutors – who teach at or from home, to keep going. It would boost the business of the tutor companies while threatening the excellent work that is done up and down the country by dedicated teachers who can make a huge difference to a struggler with a little one-to-one support

Sensible parents don’t take risks with their children. Sensible parents also listen to their children and children are pretty quick to complain if the tutor isn’t helping. A sensible parent will, having interviewed the tutor, checked references and reputation, sit in on the first lesson or two – especially with younger children. You can gauge pretty quickly if the tutor knows their stuff and can establish an appropriate rapport with your child. Likewise, when it comes to the safety of your child. We can recall hearing of only one attack taking place in a tutoring session within living memory and that was when a pupil drew a knife on his piano teacher.

There are times when it is best to leave well alone.


23 Mar 2013

Is IT all that matters?

In a piece in the FT this week, http://www.ft.com/cms/s/2/7b0e87fe-90f3-11e2-a456-00144feabdc0.html#axzz2OMTyg5j7 Merlin John cites a “globally respected Canadian expert on system change in education, Michael Fullan” who claims: “everything “is accelerated by good ICT. It accelerates the instructional practice; it accelerates the access to data. It accelerates the sharing of practice through digital means of what’s working and what’s not.”

Real or virtual?

Sensibly, Merlin John reminds us that real life ain’t that simple and IT isn’t everything that parents want to see in a school. “Should banks of shiny screens and iPads for every child reassure or concern them?” he asks. “Parents need to think holistically as well as keep their feet on the ground. ‘Inclusion’ is a good watchword. Does the teaching and learning cater for their child’s needs? Is it supported by appropriate technology?”

It is essential that all children are confident handling modern IT devices and operations – yes. And it is also essential that these tools are seen as just that – not ends in themselves and not as providing the one and only answer to every problem.

Yes, they can instruct and build and practise but, no, they are no substitute for thinking, discussing, investigating, questioning, imagining, inventing and creating.

No substitutes!

Above all, no computer can substitute for a teacher. This may sound like a purist and reactionary mantra but, increasingly, we hear of ‘tablet schools’ – especially in the Far East. Teachers merely hand out tablets or ipads – they no longer teach. There must be a real danger in a cash-strapped economy that our very own education bosses start to look that way.

Let’s get real

Here is a real practical reason why we should not just reach for our computer for every task. Most senior school pupils these days are directed to write their essay assignments on a PC. They, therefore, get little experience of writing essays or reports by hand. This comes back to bite them, firstly, in exams. Only those with a dispensation due to an SEN are allowed to do their GCSEs on a laptop. What of the rest who are simply not accustomed to hand-writing their thoughts and planning and structuring their ideas – by hand? Is it not illogical that they may be required to do so – for the first time – in exams?

Teachers of year 12 and 13 students find that, suddenly, a pupil who seemed competent at GCSE cannot write a coherent essay. Some few are able to order and express their thoughts directly onto a screen but for many it is not that simple. Typing straight onto a computer does not teach note taking, ordering one’s thoughts, structuring and planning an essay and then writing clear and cogent English sentences which say what one means. Typed, anything can look deceptively coherent. Get the pupil to read out loud what they have written and the thing falls apart.

And – it is as true of A levels as of GCSEs – the exams are done by hand. Glamour won’t help you think

Let us not be so wowed by the glamour of technology that we forget that thinking and the clear expression of our thoughts is not something that any computer can do for us.


22 Mar 2013

Q and A

This is not meant to be a post written by Mrs Pedantic Grouser of Good Schools Guide, Tunbridge Wells. But we would like to know what you think.

This week, a trusted English tutor we know has had tutees who have been taught – at school by their teachers: would of as opposed to would have or would’ve that the letter H is called Haitch and – most unaccountably – that ‘AD’ after a date stands for After Death. We will leave you to ponder after whose death this may be.

Woeful

Clearly, all these are examples of woeful ignorance and one can only hope that the children thus instructed will retain less than usual of what they heard.

We have nothing but respect, admiration and affection for the teachers who slog away, often in unrewarding circumstances, at the task of educating, inspiring and nurturing our children. We accept that they are not, necessarily, all of them ‘academics’ and that they can and do make extraordinary changes in children’s lives that may have little to do with passing exams or acquiring knowledge. And that we – all of us – make mistakes, sometimes. But how should a parent respond when their child comes home having been taught rubbish?

In primary school it need not be too significant. In senior school it can be very significant. The same teacher recalls how she had several tutees from the same school who were taught by the same English teacher. The GCSE poetry anthology included a poem by Wordsworth in which the word ‘pinnace’ (a small boat) was central. The teacher at school had confused this with ‘pinnacle’ – you can imagine how the poem was then mangled.

On a previous occasion, we are told that sixth formers had been taught by their teacher that Leontes and Polixenes – two central characters in Shakespeare’s The Winter’s Tale whose deep friendship is tragically fractured by jealousy – are, in fact, brothers – thus making a nonsense of the story. What was the tutor who picked this up – two weeks before the English A level – and the parents of her tutees – to do?

What should we do?

What should a parent do when the problem is not life-threatening or criminal but, nonetheless, their child is being taught stuff that is either misleading or just plain wrong? Quietly instruct the child otherwise – and undermine the teacher in so doing? Go to the head? Disabuse the actual teacher and risk deep embarrassment all round? Grin and bear it – telling the child, ‘well, we all make mistakes!’?


12 Mar 2013

Hooray for The Girls’ Day School Trust

What do:

Mary Beard

Mary Berry

Enid Blyton

Emma Bridgewater

AS Byatt

Charlotte Church

Margaret Hodge

Bettany Hughes

Konnie Huq

Baroness Eliza Manningham-Buller

Dame Louise Napier Johnson

Dame Stella Rimington

Miriam Stoppard

Fay Weldon

June Whitfield

have in common? Not a lot, you may think, apart from successful and worthwhile careers. They are all immensely talented in their own ways but are certainly not all of a kind.

So what do they have in common? All were educated by the same institution. Not one school but a family of schools spread over England and Wales. A family conceived by two sisters, Emily and Maria Shirreff in the 1850s. For twenty years the Shirreffs wrote and campaigned for the cause of educating women. Finally, in 1872, they founded The Girls’ Public Day School Company (now The Girls’ Day School Trust – GDST www.gdst.net ). Its motto, taken from Tennyson’s The Princess, was “Knowledge is now no more a fountain sealed”. Schools were to be set up where there was most need and the education they provided had to be affordable by people of modest means.

The first school opened in 1873 in Chelsea, followed, in 1875, by one in Norwich. Thirty years later, in 1905, there were 37 schools across the country, including 19 schools in the London area – an extraordinary success story.

Now the GDST runs 26 schools including one stand-alone prep and two non-fee-paying academies. It educates around 20,000 girls each year – around 8% of girls educated in the independent sector. Because much of its administration is done centrally, its fees are markedly lower than those of many of its competitors. In addition, nearly 20% of students at GDST senior schools receive a bursary or scholarship to help towards fees. Over £8.5m was spent on financial help in 2011-12.

But it’s the results that make most parents blink and queue up to sign registration forms. At A level last year, over 84% of exams taken gained A*/A/B grades. At GCSE, 74% of exams taken gained A*/A. This is way better than the average for independent schools overall which, of course, far outperform the state sector. Of course, this is largely because the schools – especially those in London – are able to be very selective on entry but it is far more than that.

There is a GDST culture – a girls-can-do-anything self-belief coupled with principles of service, cheerful collaboration and zest for achievement – that characterises its alumnae – something you learn to recognise in fellow alumnae, from whichever school they hail. Witness the list above which represents only a very few of the household names educated by The GDST. Ask around your bright, energetic friends – see how many went to a GDST school – you’ll soon get the idea. And this is no mired-in-tradition organisation. The GDST, under its current enlightened, imaginative and forward-looking leadership, is pioneering in all directions and is very much leading the way in all that is best in education today.

Many parents will know their own local GDST school but not, necessarily, that it is part of this august yet exciting and innovative set-up. Yet there is much to be said for such a family. It adds a dimension, a sense of belonging which persists throughout one’s life, and potential for much collaboration and fun. And – these days – fun is also a notable characteristic of these schools – perhaps inspired by the GDST head office led by the CEO, the sparkly Helen Fraser – one of life’s great enablers, as the heads of her schools warmly testify.

So – here’s to the GDST – a Great British Institution – and one it is our privilege to celebrate.


10 Mar 2013

Seven Year Pitch

One thing is certain. Computers in 2020 will be able to do things we do not dream of now. Why 2020? Because in that year, those pupils who have just found out which senior school they are destined for in September, will be about to take A levels.

Another thing. We will all be using computers – possibly even more than we do now but despite our historic brilliance and innovatory expertise, very few of us indeed in the UK will have a clue about how they work and why.

We all love using them, playing on them, depending on them. But whereas 15 years ago, when they were really starting to impact on all our lives, there was a genuine curiosity among the young about their inner workings, that seems to have virtually disappeared.

In 2012, only 3,400 students took an A Level in computing, compared with 12,500 in 1998. This despite the fact that the number of GCSE ICT candidates has been gently rising – in 2011 there were 47,000 takers, in 2012 53,000. There’s a big difference, of course, between the demands of the two qualifications but the statistics suggest that we are happy to leave the design and the innovative and imaginative work to pioneers overseas.

Does this tell us anything about the syllabuses and way the subjects are taught? Do they allow for creativity and problem-solving? Do they give credit to experimentation and risk-taking? How are these subjects ‘sold’ to potential students? Computing is the most polarised of all A levels in terms of candidates’ gender – 92% are male whereas the overall split for A level entries is 54:46 in favour of girls.

Let’s hope all the new year 7s leave school in 2020 competent in all necessary computing skills. Let us also hope that that our syllabus devisers and those who advise them think hard about inspiring them. We should turn back from being a nation of operatives to a nation of initiators and innovators.


20 Feb 2013

Here’s One I Made Earlier…

The Good Schools Guide Twitter account was fizzing and flaring last weekend when the subject of home education hit the fan and spattered in all directions. Dedicated home educators defended their lifestyle with the passion you’d expect – especially on the question of their children’s acquisition of social skills.

As The Good Schools Guide itself says, http://www.goodschoolsguide.co.uk/help-and-advice/school-types/alternative-schooling/431/home-education : Home educators are not a homogeneous group neither in their reasons for home educating nor in their methods of home educating. They come from all walks of life and will therefore also inevitably have very different ideas about what they consider a ‘suitable’ education.

I’ll come clean – I did not ‘home educate’ my children although I definitely educated them a lot in the home – before and after school and at weekends. I drew the line at making pictures out of sugar paper, pasta and glue – left that to people who like that kind of thing – and science was never strong in our house but educate them I did on the things I do know about and we did music, literature, art and history enough to satisfy the most ardent domiciliary pedagogue.

I did encounter home education, though, as a teacher when a mother turned up one day with her three girls – twins of 5 and an older girl of 7. They’d been ‘home educated’ but she hadn’t actually taught them to read. They were deeply steeped in all things artistic and had encountered a range of philosophical questions but they couldn’t read or write. They did not know their alphabet but were clearly raring to go. So, over the next year, I taught them all to read and they loved it. Then they went to school.

Perhaps this, then, is the nub of the question. Parents have pretty much complete authority over their young children and can make decisions such as whether or not to have a TV, a PC or a pet in the house. They can feed their children on burgers or bulgar wheat and can make them chant Oms or psalms or Kraftwerk. They can tell them that God made the world in 6 days or that we’re all descended from invaders from Betelgeuse; that people with curly hair are especially blessed and that anyone called Graham is a messenger from Satan.

Statutory education homogenises our children and gives them a commonality – a grounding that all will share. It ain’t perfect – not remotely – but it does go some way to equipping them to recognise the world and how to get along in it. And with each other.

Children educated at home are in some ways immensely privileged but there are, of course, losses too which any honest home educator will acknowledge. They aren’t necessarily social ones – there are plenty of clubs and activities out of school. But there are risks that, however catholic, assiduous and careful the parent is, the child will be moulded not by the great generality of life and society but by one parental vision. Parenthood is the biggest responsibility we ever take on. Home education adds a huge extra dimension to that responsibility.


17 Feb 2013

Consider this and in our time

There’s a city called Chelyaba – heard of it? It has a fortress built in 1736, some splendid domed churches and is in the heart of a massive manufacturing area of Russia, near the Ural mountains. Around 4 million people live in and around the city. The great trans-Siberian railway was begun there in 1900 and the city played a pivotal role in the Russian revolution. The area has 13 universities but it is, apparently, one of the most polluted places on earth.

Last Friday, 1100 of the local population were injured by splinters of glass flying in all directions from shattered windows. The windows had been shattered by a great shockwave in the sky. A meteor flying at 33,000 mph exploded around 18 miles above the city in a momentary flash as bright as the sun.

Can you imagine it?

I want to find out about Chelyaba – why was a fortress built there? What is the manufacturing that goes on there? Where exactly does the trans-Siberian railway go to and who uses it? Can anyone? What did happen there in the Russian Revolution? Why is the place so polluted? Is anything being done about it? What did the meteor look like? How big was it? Where did it come from? Were the people warned it might happen? What made it explode? Were any of its fragments found? What are they made of?

There must be material here for history, geography, physics, maths, chemistry lessons galore. What an opportunity to grasp the interest of children with something happening now, in an ordinary city, on an ordinary day.

How many teachers will seize this opportunity? Or will the demands of the curriculum deter them?


11 Feb 2013

What About the Parents?

Dear Boris, when he is not swinging from wires or taking on climate change orthodoxy, has some good ideas and he doesn’t mind spending the money his party collects from their much-loved ‘hard-working families’ to put them into practice.

So we now have a £24m fund called ‘The London Schools Excellence Fund’. This will, we are told, identify new sites for free schools in the capital, enable in-service training for teachers, develop the use of the great city itself as a teaching resource for schools and establish a Gold Club for schools where teaching is outstanding.

We applaud this initiative – it can only do good – although we urge caution on the free school side – these have yet really to prove themselves. The capital already outperforms the regions and, if this initiative is effective, it will give a valuable steer to the great authorities elsewhere.

We would like the initiative to include one more feature. Far too many children are taught well by dedicated teachers only to return to homes where aspiration is not encouraged and intellectual enquiry is not valued. In too many homes there is still an anti-education culture – being clever, working hard at school are seen as divisive and even threatening. Far too few parents – especially in disadvantaged areas – turn up to meetings in which the curriculum and paths to further education are explained.

You can’t force parents to attend such meetings but only when they do will their children feel sufficiently supported to stretch themselves and develop their innate potential. We urge Boris and his impressive team to come up with ways to get parents to involve themselves in their children’s futures and not leave it all up to the schools.


29 Jan 2013

Child’s Play?

OK then, boys ’n’ girls? What do we want? Lots of other kiddies to run around with and nice friendly helpers with GCSEs to watch us while we do it? Or just a few best friends to sit and play with and lots of nice friendly helpers who sit with us and teach us our As and Bs and 1s and 2s?


29 Jan 2013

If it’s good, knock it!

The English, The English, The English are best

Our independent boarding schools – at their best – are emblematic of all that British educational values are famed for – beautiful buildings and grounds, excellent teaching in small, well-mannered classes, a spirit of open-minded enquiry rather than hurdle-jumping and, of course, a superb cricket pitch. At any rate, that’s what they think abroad.

Most half-way decent British boarding schools could fill their beds several times over with eager overseas pupils desperate to be part of this idyll. There, their parents feel, is the way to civilised living, top universities, the right friends and, ultimately, a career of international significance.

Selling the Goose

But what about us? Do we – Brits – still want this for our children? Do we still value our traditional, world-famous English boarding schools? Or are we in danger of selling the goose with the golden egg?

Frances King, headmistress of Roedean, is leaving to run the Collège Alpin Beau Soleil in Switzerland. She is quoted as saying that it was “quite hard work” being in a sector that faced national disapproval. It was sad, she told The Times, that Britain could not celebrate the success and heritage of its independent schools, which are increasingly sought-after among parents across the world. The sector has gone through a “bruising time” and The Government “cannot afford to be supportive”.

“We are putting our heart, soul and effort into this provision,” she added. “We are making sure we have got a good amount of money put into bursaries and, as much as we can afford in our situation, we are trying to ensure we are widening access.” Mrs King is not the first top headmistress to jump ship to Switzerland on such grounds.

Vicky Tuck, former headmistress of Cheltenham Ladies’ College, left in 2011 to run an international school in Geneva. She complained that she had been made to feel that running a private school in England was “slightly immoral”.

And that is only the start. Christopher Ray, the high master of Manchester Grammar, is off to run the British Embassy School in Abu Dhabi from the summer. Helen Wright, headmistress of St Mary’s Calne in Wiltshire, left last month to take charge of Ascham School in Sydney, Australia.

Top Brand?

Perhaps we should celebrate these as excellent UK experts promoting a top British brand. Or, more cynically, see these top flight heads as just chasing lucrative last posts in sunnier climes as pension-boosters.

But perhaps it’s not as simple as that. Do we still want this type of education for our children? If it is excellent, should we not celebrate it and promote it while helping to widen its availability through bursary schemes and the like? Egalitarianism means, surely that we should want the best for everyone and not undervalue or undermine it?

Or are we doing that classic British thing of knocking what we do best?


24 Jan 2013

Education and Politics?

Mini-Hoo-Ha

You can sense the genteel howls from St Austell to Sunderland. Tamper with A levels – the End of the World is Nigh! The HMC attacked the proposals as “incoherent”. The Association of School and College Leaders said: “This is a classic case of fixing something that isn’t broken.” And Cambridge University said the changes would “jeopardise over a decade’s progress towards fairer access to the University of Cambridge”. Really? One fact and one question arise from this mini-hoo-ha.

Fact: Whatever the professional opponents of any new ideas might say, A levels are not what they were. In many ways this is a cause for celebration. They could not be what they were now that half the school population sit them, nor should they be. However, some subjects and those who govern what is set and how it is assessed have clearly lost their way. English Literature A level syllabuses are, in most instances, now parodies of anything approaching a rational, coherent introduction to the subject. In laudable attempts to make some subjects ‘accessible’ they have succeeded in making them incomprehensible and certainly not preparations for university or, more importantly, for a lifetime’s pleasure in literature.

Gove For It

But the question is the larger matter. Gove is at it again. From whatever perspective and standpoint, he is changing, yet again, how we teach our children. Anyone who has been around in the teaching profession for a decade or three has seen it all before, over and over and over. And, if anyone asks teachers what is needful, they don’t seem to be listening to the replies. Once again, there is a sense that politics are imposing a structure on education and that consensus, derived from experience, matters not one whit.

Should our children’s education be in the slippery hands of here-today-gone-tomorrow politicians?


11 Jan 2013

They Know Who They Are

We have seen recent reports in newspapers of children at ‘top prep schools’ being bullied on account of their dyslexia and being labelled as ‘dim and thick’. The dailies love, of course, to bash ‘posh schools’ but that, of course, distracts us from the more important point here.

Leaving aside the question of bullying which, of course, should always be dealt with rapidly and sensitively, this story exposes another problem. Many prep schools now take children from 4 years old and are ‘non-selective’. It is, indeed, hard to make academic selection work at so young an age. In recent years, prep schools have taken children younger and younger. They opened pre-preps and then nurseries in hopes of picking up children before their competitors.

Inevitably, if these schools operate a non-selective, first-come first-served policy, a percentage of their pupils will turn out to have special educational needs and will require additional support. The schools who scoop them up avidly at 4 owe them this assistance when the needs start to appear at 6, 7 or 8 and should be well-prepared – and well-disposed – to do so.

However, we are getting more and more reports of prep schools who are not giving this support and who make it plain that if little Rajiv or Hugo or Yasmin is not destined for a top school or needs extra one-to-one for dyslexia or organisational support then, really, Mrs X, you need to look elsewhere as we really can’t help.

This is not good enough and we take a very dim view of prep schools about whom such reports reach us. They cannot expect to stay long in The Good Schools Guide. They know who they are.


09 Jan 2013

Springboard

As we saw in the press earlier this week, our top state schools are seeing unprecedented numbers of applicants. In other words, those parents who want the best education for their children but who can’t or won’t pay for independent schooling, are putting immense pressure on the state system. In some cases, only one in 10, 12 or 18 of these applicants will end up at the school of their parents’ choice.

It’s easy to decry these parents as ‘ambitious’ or as wanting to get a privileged education and steal a march on the rest of us. But what decent parent doesn’t want what they perceive to be the best for their children? In any case, not all the over-subscribed schools are academically selective. They just do what they do well. Above all, they provide opportunities for their pupils and no-one – parent or school – can offer a child more than that.

There are, of course, thousands of children in the UK who don’t get much in the way of opportunities. Neither their parents nor their schools are interested in seeking opportunities for them or, if they were, they would not know where to start. Because of this, countless individuals never get the chances their innate talents deserve and the country wastes them and their potential.

Perhaps the children least likely to get life chances of this kind are those from dysfunctional families or disadvantaged backgrounds in which survival is the principal aim. The culture in some of our urban estates or in some areas of rural deprivation does not always encourage hard work and aspiration in school.

A new initiative – The Springboard Bursary Foundation http://springboardbursaryfoundation.org.uk – sets out to tackle this. Its aim is ‘over time, to have a profound effect on social mobility and the ethos of the boarding sector’. It is not, as you might think, a way of creaming off the bright but broke and getting them into the private sector for its greater glory. It is supported by all political parties as a way, simply, of providing opportunities to those who most need them.

We met its Chief Executive, Ian Davenport, today. His ambition for and commitment to this project are inspirational as are the professionalism and thoroughness with which it is being set up. It’s exciting and we – and all those who care about giving opportunities to the young – will watch it with keen interest.


05 Nov 2012

US election – Over there or Over here?

You will be aware that America goes to the polls tomorrow. You will be aware because, if you are reading this, you are someone who cares about the big wide world and things like education.

How many school children know that tomorrow the US – the country which, like it or not, still influences us and our way of life more than any other – will tomorrow decide on its direction for the next four years? How many schools are bringing this into PSHE or other acronymic courses designed to broaden their pupils’ understanding of the world? How many 14-year-olds know what the two US political parties are called or anything of their ideologies?

And does this matter?

Political ignorance and disengagement blights our society and leaves those afflicted feeling disenfranchised and dissociated from decision-making and power. So – do we take precious school time to tell them these things? Or do we leave it to their parents? Does it matter more or less than knowing about the Tudors? Or the respiratory system?

Well – does it?


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    As proud parents, we all know our children are unique. They're smarter than anyone else's, funnier, certainly more attractive, better behaved and above all bursting with the kind of talent that would leave Daniel Radcliffe, Jamie Bell and Charlotte Church standing. And for some extraordinary - though totally understandable - reason, everyone but us seems blind to our offspring's God-given artistic gifts.


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