I don’t want to turn into an advert for the Times– there is a lot about it that I don’t like — but it is the newspaper I scan on my daily journey to work. The reason — it may be rubbish but it is a mish-mash rather than pushing a particular political agenda. I often don’t read many, or some days even any, articles in it — just scan the headlines. But occasionally there is a real goodie. It only has to be once a week or so to keep me happy. (As my main fun on my journey is to do the crossword, the killer su doku, the fiendish su doku and the polygon (make as many words from a number of letters arranged in a polygon, always including the central letter) by the time I hit Kings Cross Thameslink.)
However, today being a particularly tense day, Richard Morrison’s feature was an excellent analysis of why. Entitled "State v sacrifice", it explains the state educational system — complete with excellent graphic of a tree of possible pathways from birth to 18. Here’s the first couple of paragraphs:
"So you’ve done the easy bit. Conceived the child. Given birth, or stood heroically near by while your partner pushed and perspired. Probed the peculiar pleasures of Pampers. Survived those joyous months of piercing screams in the night (and the baby was noisy, too).
Congratulations! You are now staring into the mouth of the world’s longest, darkest and scariest tunnel. Yes, the British educational system. It will take you 20 years to guide your child safely through it, at which point you will probably be a twitching shadow of your former self. And/or completely broke. Just look at the state of parents who received their children’s “11-plus” exam result this week. Some of them are psychological wrecks. And they are only halfway through the tunnel. "
If anyone wants to know what negotiating the system is like, and how it feels, read this article. I was struck by one of the text-boxes, entitled "20 good non-selective comprehensive schools around Britain". In about 2 years’ time it will probably be impossible to get your child into any of these now that Mr Morrison has given them away*, as frenzied Times readers up sticks and move next door, whatever the cost of local housing. That’s how bad it is — unless you can afford private, or unless you have the admirably sanguine attitude of Mr Morrison (which I am afraid I don’t).
But don’t get me wrong, Mr Morrison is great. He’s the best thing about the Times at the moment and has been for some time, since my last most-admired columnist, John Diamond, died.
* Poetic licence. All UK schools are published on various internet sites ranked in every which way, and anxious parents regularly search and scour these listings.