I learnt of the expression” check your privilege” today. That’s a way of shutting up people who are often better educated and come from richer families. That is cutting unemployment benefit may look fine to you, squire but to a single parent with two children the debate takes a different turn.
Yesterday I sat on a school appeal panel. The ten parents all wanted their children to get into a new Academy (run for profit) and did not want their children to go to the local comprehensive(run for and at a loss). The comprehensive has a reputation of badly behaved children, bullying and a general lack of discipline.
So none won their appeal. Overall only about 3 per cent ever do. The schools are after all full. As it was ,it was not Bolingbroke’s admission process they were really complaining about but the horror they and their children had of Battersea Park. One weeps when one realises the absolute nadir to which too many of our schools have fallen-where a majority in some schools do not get the basic GCSEs which only prove a adult level of literacy.
So up the appellants step. The Somali woman who speaks better English than her interpreter. The black woman with her white friend whose son is already being bullied by a boy at Battersea. The outstanding child who is at a fee paying school and unless he goes to Bolingbroke will ,it is threatened, be educated at home.(It’s a common threat we hear). They bring along a teacher to tell how brilliant the boy is and an expert who accuses the system of being corrupt which should therefore be skewed in favour of his honest client. What?
Then there is a very complicated case where the primary school does seem to have messed up the application but that’s not Bolingbroke’s problem. Then there is the woman,single mum, who claims in letter(she didn’t turn up) to have five children at a feeder primary school but she isn’t telling the whole truth. There was the mother who wept as she told that at every turn she had been thwarted and wasn’t it time fortune smiled.
But as always there was the couple who realised that they had no hope. They probably thought ,as many do, that just turning up would make the system so painfully erected with feeder school quotas and exact yardage from door to door some how relent. If it did it would not be a system and if you ask(which we cant) how would you feel if someone jumped over your child in the waiting list, its obvious what the answer would be.
So the point of this blog comes to the table. Middle aged decent white couple. Both have taken the day off work to come to the appeal. He is ashamed of his English “I’m not used to talking in front of people”. But he expresses it well. Their child has been bullied but has got over that and is now making good progress. They want her to go to the smaller new school where she can”grow with the school”. No tears, no lies, no exaggeration and also a realisation that there is nothing we can do and they have wasted their time. But they tried.When I think of my tolerant attitudes to gay marriage,immigration,cuts to services and I think of this couple(and George) I realise that its important to check my privilege.
Today I host an Old Boys lunch at the Beaujolais. Its 50 years since my XV beat Bryanston. Dieu Premier Donc Mes Freres will today become Cru Premier Donc Mes Frites.