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Twelve steps to better education

PUBLISHED: 10:16 13 February 2009 | UPDATED: 22:27 05 July 2010

SO Eton and Oxford-educated David Cameron has come out publicly to say his children will attend local state schools.

But note his proviso - only if the schools are up to scratch.

SO Eton and Oxford-educated David Cameron has come out publicly to say his children will attend local state schools.

But note his proviso - only if the schools are up to scratch.

Well, Dave, wouldn't we all? But you have a choice.

Every parent in the land would choose a free decent state education for their children if it could guarantee a solid rounded education by inspiring, effective and caring teachers working towards every child fulfilling his or her potential.

This shouldn't be a pipe dream, cloud cuckoo land. This should be what every child - remember Every Child Matters? - receives. As if.

Instead of schools with expectations of achievement, decent behaviour, standards and a competitive drive we have a rotting system that prizes and rewards mediocrity.

Excellence and elitism are treated like dirty words and our children fester in second - and third - rate schools with second and third class teachers where pupils are stabbed and police are stationed to keep order.

Then our teenagers are churned out, half unable to put together a decent job application letter let alone add up a shopping bill and the other half proudly waving hefty sheaves of A*s GCSEs so over-inflated they're undervalued.

Yes, Mr Cameron, if up to scratch schools were in every community, every parent would knock down the door for a place, just like you.

But they ain't.

Education, education, education, will be to be Tories' main priority in its first term, he says. We heard it all before, 12 years ago and look where we are.

The Tories want a new school in every community in their first term with private funding. No, no, no. Make our existing schools failing our children now fit for purpose.

As a (often disgruntled) user of the state system for seven years and a keen critic of its failings (too many to mention), I have a wish list for Brown, Cameron, whoever, which, hopefully, speaks for every other parent out there tearing their hair out about the state of our schools.

1.Treat children as individuals and scrap the one size fits all GCSE education that clearly isn't working. Every child has different talents, equally valuable. Why stick children who struggle academically in big classes in front of a blackboard where they'll switch off, bunk off and drop out when they could be thriving learning vocational skills for trades and crafts for a career and must be equally valued within the education system and society?

2.Fix the comprehensive model to work properly. Children should be able to mix with people from all backgrounds and abilities and this is what comprehensives offer - a mini-replica of the real world.

3.Scrap mixed ability classes that only encourage mediocrity, hold back the brightest and frustrate the struggling. Stream pupils - but ensure there are incentives and encouragement for children to move between the streams if they work hard. Grammar and secondary moderns never worked because people viewed secondary moderns as inferior, which they were not.

4.Bring back tradition, discipline and pride into schools. Insist on the basics - spelling, reading, grammar and basic arithmetic. If children get those right they're set up for life. If they work to expectations of high standards of behaviour, work and dress is expected, they respond with pride.

5. Raise expectations and encourage children to value education - whether it's learning maths or building a brick wall. Each is equally valuable to a healthy society and should be treated as such.

6.Impose uniforms in every school and uphold it with strictness. Abandon the trend for sweatshirts and polo shirts that always look scruffy and slovenly. It's been proved that schools with ties and blazers make pupils more business like and proud of their school.

7.Get rid of rubbish under-performing teachers who can hide in the system. Run schools like private sector companies. Pay teachers according to their ability and performance. If teachers don't come up to scratch and deliver the results, they have to go. Teaching should never be a job for life. Bad, ineffective and lazy teachers have no place in our schools.

8.More men, please, to stop the rot amongst our boys

9.Aim for excellence and recognise and respect it. Bright children need praise too.

10.Schools aren't just about learning, they're preparation for life. Insist on perfect manners and social skills. At a school I know, the teacher shakes every pupils' hand at the start of the lesson and checks their uniform is in order before he will start. Everyone then knows what to expect and it's perfect grounding for life after school.

11.Get more employers involved in schools. Not only pupils will benefit but also teachers will see just what the real world is about and what the real world of work expects of its workers.

12.Bring back competition in every aspect of education. Life is a competition and mollycoddling children to believe everyone is a winner and everyone achieves only does them a disservice for the future.

I could go on forever.

Politicians are parents. They know what makes a good school. Changes are needed now before yet another generation is failed.

And, if Mr Cameron's children end up in his local state secondary school, I'll eat this newspaper.

Obscene, revolting and must be stopped.

It's enough to cause a revolution. Perhaps it should cause a revolution.

The revolting “raw capitalism” of fat cat bank executives wallowing in massive bonuses - to pay for the ski chalet, summer cruise and a new Porsche Cayenne for the wife's school run, of course, darling - after being bailed out by the taxpayer to keep their jobs and the banks is grotesque.

As the rest of us queue in Aldi, stuffing our cut-price groceries into our old Sainsbury bags for life - mementoes of our life BR (Before Recession) - terrified for our futures, those who got us in this situation then bailed out by the Government with our taxes are planning how to spend their bumper bonuses.

And these bonuses aren't a few quid and a case of German plonk. We're talking up to £4 million - when we're struggling to pay the mortgage.

Few of us enjoy bonuses. We get a salary, if we're lucky.

Many hard-working people missed out on annual goodwill Christmas bonuses this year, relied upon for those extras for their families.

Even more have accepted pay cuts and reduced hours to help our employers keep going.

But in the City, these reckless and selfish oafs are taking our money for themselves, their lavish lifestyles and future security, cocking a snook at us, the ordinary person paying bank fees on overdrafts we need to survive and fearing house repossession.It stinks, it's sickening and the Government must not let it happen.

They must tell these greedy lot they cannot take their bonuses. They might insist bonuses are part of their contract “packages” but, Mr Darling, tell them you'll see them in court.

Surely no judge in the land would view this dipping into taxpayer's funds for their own accounts as justice.

The father of a teenager who stole £1 worth of sweets from a shop marched his son back to apologise publicly to the shopkeeper.

To terrify his son into never stealing again, he contacted the police and forced the boy to come face-to-face with the shopkeeper to say sorry and admit his crime

The police in Blackburn - who somehow amazingly found the time to accompany him - were so impressed with the father's action they say this could be a regular punishment if more parents agreed to take part.

No wonder children are running riot. This should be normal practice anyway. Hardly an innovative new initiative, just basic common sense and decency.

Every time a child is caught vandalising, bullying, stealing or anything illegal the parent should force their child to face their victim, look them in the eye and apologise unreservedly, preferably in front of a gathering.

It'll be the last time they break the law.

Trouble is too many parents cover up for their children or turn a blind eye.

My older son still remembers the humiliation of having to hand over a letter to the caretaker of his primary school when he was seven to apologise for joining older boys in throwing wet clumps of toilet roll at the boys' loo ceiling to see if they stuck.

I made him hand deliver it and stand there while his grovelling apology for the extra work his “vandalism” had caused for the poor man was read.

Nothing like it has ever happened again.

The irksome talentless Carol is deluded enough to think the BBC got rid of her to get back at her old mum.

She would never have been squawking into our sitting rooms if it hadn't been for her old mum.

And anyone who thinks it's a fuss about nothing in the wake of her description of French tennis player Jo-Wilfried Tsonga as looking like a “golliwog” has obviously never suffered prejudice, discrimination and abuse in their comfy lives.

Instead of being outraged at her treatment they should be outraged that others have - and should consider themselves extremely fortunate, as well as ignorant, naïve and lacking decent empathy for huge swathes of society belittled and persecuted because the colour of their skin.

So as the country collapses into debt, we'll all be dancing the cha-cha-cha.

As the bells toll for our national finances, dance music could be piped into the streets for communities to spring into life like scenes from a 1950s musical if health secretary Alan Johnson has his way.

Former postman Johnson reckons he nearly missed a trick until he watched John Sergeant lose two stone being Strictly Come Dancing's 'dancing pig.'

Fight the nation's obesity crisis with dance, he said. If we all shake our booties there will be less bootie to shake, if you get my drift.

So as city fat cats fiddle, Nanny State directs us to dance.

Shouldn't ministers be working to get us out of this money mess rather than ordering us all to do the pasa doble and sashay our way into bankruptcy?

So on to the dance floor….After you, Mr Johnson.

It was only a matter of time for Richard and Judy.

Boast and crow about your children's perfection, views and morals and it's sure to come back and bite you.

R and J, perhaps a little too smugly, publicly announced their 21-year-old daughter, Chloe, was “incredibly anti-drugs”. This, of course, is what every parent wants his or her child to be. and is, of course, what every teenager tells his or her parents.

Then there was a photo of her smoking cannabis through a giant bong, in Norfolk, no less. Oh dear.

Lesson number one. Never give your children the chance to let you down by never setting them up in the first place.

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