Election Blog (7)
Blair has stated again this week that he won't fight a fourth election but, if elected this time, he will serve a full term. It's this kind of constant, casual dishonesty that has destroyed trust in politicians. If Blair were honest and prepared to treat us as grown-ups he would say:-
'A full term is five years. To give time for the convoluted process of electing a new party leader and to give that leader time to bed in and establish himself with the electorate, I would have to resign as leader after about three years.
However, a convention has developed that elections are usually called after four years. So, on that basis, I would probably have to hand over to a successor after two years of the next Parliament.'
Something that has been largely ignored in Labour's manifesto is a proposal to encourage more boarding schools "as ways of helping the most disadvantaged children." No further detail is given. The manifesto is frustratingly short on detail.
I find it difficult to think of anything that would increase disadvantage more than being removed from your family and incarcerated in a boarding school. Of course, if you are in a severely dysfunctional or abusive family you'll be taken into care, either a residential home or a foster family, but that these days is a measure of last resort. But Labour are talking only about 'disadvantage', whatever that means.
Boarding schools not only remove children from family life but from growing up up in the wider community with all the potential for diverse social interaction that involves. Boarding schools magnify the problem of bullying and, where it exists, unlike day schools, there is no respite from it. It is 24 hours a day. And boarding schools have a well-known and disturbing record of sexual abuse, whether by staff or other pupils.
They are also a very expensive operation for the Government to undertake with taxpayers' money. The same Government that can't find the money to feed children adequately in existing State schools.
On City Academies, the manifesto says "their results are improving sharply." Nicely spun! As a report revealed recently, many of them have some of the worst results in the secondary sector.
Every secondary school will become an independent, specialist school. I'm not sure how this fits with their passion for 'choice'. What if I want a generalist, non-specialist school? And if they're all 'specialist' the term loses any meaning.
I was amazed to read that they plan to teach art and sport in every primary school. I thought art, in the widest sense of that term, was a staple of primary school life. (When I was eight and mischievously flicking paint at my paper, the teacher told me of a famous artist who employed this technique and instead of caning me encouraged me to continue and see what resulted. I was very flattered by this and held that teacher in well-deserved awe for the next two years. [Perhaps the artist was George Seurat? I'm sure one of you clever people will know] What we need is less jargon and more teachers like that one.)
I was equally astonished to read that by 2010 all children will get 2 hours PE or sports per week. I had no idea they didn't. (If only I'd artificially inseminated a lesbian years ago I wouldn't be in this state of ignorance about children's schooling).
When I was at secondary school in the sixties I'm sure we had at least four hours of compulsory PE/Sport a week. In my memory, we seem to have done little else.
Well, that's not strictly true. Because I suffered from nose bleeds I was banned from rugby and sometimes spent two hours on the edge of our distant playing field sitting in the back of the games teacher's Morris Minor with asthmatics and polio victims, playing cards and smoking. I also got myself banned from cricket for watching passing aeroplanes when fielding and spent summer afternoons behind the pavilion with other miscreants discussing matters of great import to 13 year olds like whether the penis ever gets stuck in the vagina and what one should do if it did.
Well, comrades, we've somehow got from the Labour manifesto to the mysteries of heterosexuality.
I thought not.