It is worrying that Britain’s performance in education is falling
relative to that of other countries, (“British schools slump in global
league table”, 8 December).
Look at those countries that come highest in the table. In their
schools, lessons are more formal and regimented but discipline is
excellent. In Britain, we are reluctant to talk about an “underclass”
but we have a stratum of society in which income (wage or benefit) is
low and the upbringing of children chaotic. These children are doomed
from the moment they walk into school if not, indeed, from the moment
that they are born.
The report suggests that the level of achievement in English and maths
of the bottom 20 per cent is sufficiently low as to limit their
chances of gaining employment. This is not strictly true. I have
taught many pupils of very limited ability who have good personal
qualities, have drawn fulsome praise whilst on work experience and
have gone on to find employment. When, however, limited ability is
allied with a truculent laziness and aggressive “yobbishness”, then
their employment prospects are bleak.
The Government has little doubt where the fault for educational
failure lies. Ofsted inspections are based on the principle that any
child, no matter how wild, will respond with enthusiasm if only the
quality of the teaching is good enough. We need to end this fiction
and tackle the problem of the “underclass” in a determined manner. If
we can succeed in this then improved educational performance will be
just one of the benefits that society will reap.
Stephen Shaw, Nottingham
The Sheriff, I presume.