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08 Aug 2012

A Sporting Chance

Let’s all cheer our Olympians to the skies as they deserve! But let’s also look ahead to the next Olympics and the one after that and wonder how we are to build on our success.

It has been widely reported that a high proportion of our athletes were educated at independent schools. We should not be amazed. Independent schools often have fabulous facilities, space and teaching. They also offer sports scholarships which enable the sportingly gifted from less affluent homes to devlop their skills and techniques.

Our specialist sporting schools also do brilliantly but the vast majority of children will go to a state school with no such specialism. You don’t need much imagination to realise that a child with the innate potential to be a brilliant fencer, rower, shot putter or horsewoman will probably never even get to hear of such sports, let alone try them out.

In the real world, we cannot provide for all such sports in all schools. But we can, surely, have sports centres within everyone’s reach where those who are keen get a chance to test their talents and, if they show promise, get the support they deserve. We need a properly structured system of progression and training accessible to all. We must nurture tomorrow’s talent while we celebrate todays’s.

10 Jul 2012

Lost Leaders

How incredibly sad. The number of UK students applying for UK university places this year has dropped by 9 per cent. The number of applications from students outside the EU has risen by 8.5 cent. So – that’s good for the universities – they can keep up their numbers and get more money as non-EU students pay more.

But it ain’t so good for us, is it? Where are our teachers, doctors, engineers, nurses, lawyers, scientists, inventors, designers, architects etc etc to come from in future? How can it make any sense at all to price our own young people out of a working world that is already hard enough to get into? And what sense does it make to pave the way for relying on more people from outside the EU whom we have educated to do our jobs?

Is this grown-up thinking? Is this joined-up politics? Is this not just stupid, cruel and wasteful?

05 Jul 2012

Beat Me! Beat Me! I’m A Parent!

I listen to parents every day. It’s in the nature of the job that the parents I speak to are desperate to be good parents and to do their very best for their children in a cruel and unappreciative world.

Parents I meet are all too quick to berate themseleves: – ‘we were so busy with the house move and looking after my father – we just didn’t realise Amy needed individual help’ – or ‘Oscar was having a hellish time at school, being picked on. I should have known. I should have done something’ – or ‘we just assumed she’d sail into the next school – it never occurred to us that it might not be straightforward’ and so on and on.

It isn’t easy being a parent but the very fact that you’re reading this means, in all probability, that you try awfully hard to get it right.

But what is right? And how can you know?

It’s all very well for seasoned parents – on their third family with their expensive mistakes now living independently and no longer speaking to them. They’ve learned. They know how to do it.

Eh? Surely not!

Parenting, more than any other job, is one you learn while you’re doing it. You won’t get everything right. Nor will you do everything wrong.

Here are a couple of tips:

  • beating yourself up doesn’t help. What’s done is done. How can you make the best of it, starting from today?
  • your first child hasn’t had any more experience of being a child than you have of being a parent. Why not discuss things with them – see if you can make decisions and come to agreements together. Trusted children learn through making judgements. Trusted children become, by and large, responsible children. And they’ll thank you, when they leave home, for being pretty good at the parenting lark.


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