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From Dream school to a real school making a real difference; and meeting Big Brother Lansley

Posted on 22 June 2011 | 3:06pm

Why did it have to be Piers Morgan who spotted the spelling error – I am OBSESSED about spelling – in my tweet from a school in Harrow? No, not that school in Harrow, but St Gregory’s Catholic Science College, a comprehensive not far from the well-known public school.

Piers was quick to point out that I had said the State schoolkids were ‘brigther, I’m sure’ when I meant ‘brighter’. Note to self – do not tweet without specs.

Now of course I have no way of knowing if they were brighter, not having been to Harrow School, and it was just a way of expressing what a polite, warm, welcoming and intelligent bunch the St Gregory’s kids were, and what a good time I had. So to those claiming class war is being launched – calm down dear, as the PM once said, and to Piers – love 15, as we say at this time of year.

Like some other London schools, the term ‘ethnic minorities’ has lost some of its meaning at St Gregory’s by dint of the fact that the majority – 82 per cent – are from ‘ethnic minorities,’ so it was certainly a diverse intake. You can usually tell the moment you walk into a school if it is well-led, well-run, and the students are in a learning environment. This one felt like all of those things. GCSE results have improved 23 per cent over the last three years, and the Department for Education has placed it among the top 100 most improving schools in the country.

The students asked some very good questions, on issues as varied as Iraq, US-UK relations, Libya, benefits, TB-GB, Princess Diana, journalism, marketing, and unsurprisingly, what I learned from my experience on Jamie’s Dream School. First, that teaching is tough. Second, that if you give young people support and opportunities, most will take them in the right way.

I thought the Dream School pupils who went to the education select committee yesterday gave a good account of themselves. They are all in their different ways picking up on their own talents and character, and finding ways to use them. What was good about today was the feeling of young people getting that feeling of support and opportunity in a school run for large numbers in a local community, not the few we were able to welcome to Dream School.

I was particularly chuffed to meet the girl who came up to me at the end and said she was determined to go into politics ‘for Labour.’

It has been something of a public services kind of day really, having earlier visited a relative in hospital after an operation. Fantastic treatment, amazing menu for lunch I have to say, and joy of joy a TV screen at the end of the bed where every few minutes Andrew Lansley came on to say welcome!

He should report back to his leader that some of the older patients in there were very angry indeed at the ‘you do the fighting, I do the talking’ remark about the military.

  • Piers is such “a clever dick”

  • Duncan Phipp-MacIntyre

    As a fellow linguist, former teacher and all round obsessive I am somewhat grammatically and spelling obsessed.
    Our foolish government seems equally overly focussed in undermining our society, community and values, as only the Tories can. With the bloated Eric Pickles at the helm of Communities and Local Government, Cameron berating the military leaders that they should fight and let him do the talking, well, if I may..
    Eats, Shoots and (hopefully) Leaves – p.d.q.

  • Yonks

    I hope you’re not ‘all round’ like that Pickles chap….who is actually performing relatively well.
    I have no time for Cameron but even less for the Millibands and Balls of this world; full circle, back to round objects!

  • Alastair

    I am a DT teacher and believe fervently in design,  innovation and practical problem solving.
    However my subject (and many others such as Food/Textiles) are being sidelined
    by Gove’s Education reforms. The NC (and a child’s educational entitlement)  will become diluted as more and more schools convert to Academies and the new FS’s
    roll out this September.

    Do these issues concern you? If so what future does the UK
    have if its ability to train and educate youngsters in Design and Technology is
    being substituted for subjects such as Latin or Ancient History?

  • MicheleB

    “,,,,,,,, some of the older patients in there were very angry indeed at the ‘you do the fighting, I do the talking’………”

    I’ve been fuming about the above since yesterday (I hope CamSham will be less sanctimonious at the weekend if he dares show his face at any Armed Forces Day events).

    I wonder if Sam gets anything like ‘You just go shopping while I think for us both’?

    Lots of chinks and imbalances are showing; if we want to persuade people to work past the present retirement ages perhaps it behoves LittleO to speak with more respect to someone that already has.  I was spitting feathers about this sneery smart rrrrrrrrrs retort a couple of months ago:


  • MicheleB

    You’ve definitely applauded the job that skilled professional teachers have to do AC and skill comes from training as well as experience.

    Oh lordy …..I’ve just heard that ‘free’ school teachers will not need to be so trained.  What the ‘eck?


  • Ehtch

    Just got blacklisted on the New Statesman site for comments. What did I do? Be me, well welsh, and point pathetic things out, I suppose. Things that disturbed them, in their nurseries in that London Grovsner houses no doubt.

    Amyway, e-mail the Berstein second-editor bloke to let me back in, in say six weeks time, for them to catch up on a person like me. Yes, me and New Statesman whatever is in a race to describe the next day.

    More tea?

  • Dave Simons

    If that’s true he should know the difference between a typo and a spelling mistake, a point that’s been made on this blog before.

  • Steven

    Not a word about “cornrows”?

  • MicheleB

    D&T is one of the best practical lessons around, it helps one to really get to grips with and find out what’s interesting and useful about Maths, especially geometry and with Physics.

  • Robert

    Yes, DT is important.

    However without wishing to go into full blown “what have the Romans done for us?” mode – especially considering their superb civil engineering skills – I am glad I did some Latin at school. Equally I am glad I have dipped into a bit of ancient greek in my late 50’s.

    Both of these ancient languages and cultures inform the English language and the practise of clear thinking.

    The questions: What am I actually trying to say or describe? What am I actually trying to do?  Both, I would have thought, are pretty fundamental to DT.

    And the Greeks were forever starting sentences with “but”, it seems.

  • …that Pickles chap maybe a good performer, but is he a cunning linguist?

  • Gilliebc

    eh Steven?   I don’t “get” your comment.

  • Gilliebc

    Hi Ehtch,

    Perhaps you went a little too much off the topic, for the NS.  Just a thought. I am currently involved in a slight disagreement on the Telegraph Blogs with people who believe that homosexuality is a life-style choice, rather than caused by genetics, which is what I believe.  However, Telegraph Blogs can be a good laugh at times Ehtch, with so many topics to choose from every day.

    AC, re. your blog post which I liked a lot. “you do the fighting, I’ll do the talking”  why DC actually felt the need to say this out loud is beyond me.
    These elderly hospital patients know only too well that this was ever thus.
    Politicians of all parties have been sending our military into unnecessary conflicts for many many years.  If they had to do the fighting rather than merely the talking, perhaps they would think again.

  • Dave Simons

    I’m also glad I did Latin up to ‘O’ Level, and would like to look at several languages if and when I retire from working full-time – Old English, Middle English, Old Norse, Welsh and Ancient Greek. David Crystal’s ‘The Story of English’ is an inspirational starter. However I think it’s a minority interest and see no point whatsoever in inflicting such studies on adolescents, unless they show a particular interest in languages. The English language is perfectly adequate for acquiring the practice of clear thinking and there are loads of translations of the Classics available.

  • MicheleB

    Video’s a bit rich isn’t it Likers, given that Peter Tatchell is ‘even’ older.  Both he and Skinner must by now be qualified for 100% of salary pensions, lucky blighters !

    Hopefully for long and happy retirements btw.

  • Robert I think you have rather missed the point. The UK economy is (I shall be polite) knackered! My wife was at the Paris Air Show this week and had to sit through a presentation from the smart young man from the UK dept of trade & Industry. We need innovators and future engine designers blah blah blah.

    Do we REALLY need to teach Latin/ancient history ahead of DT?

    Anyone with half a brain can work it out!

  • ZintW4

    My favourite quote about spelling is from Mark Twain. “Never be so narrow minded to think a word can only be spelt one way”.

  • MicheleB

    I had a funny feeling as soon as I’d pressed ‘post, of COURSE I meant Peter Tapsell durrrrr

  • Robert

    Absolutely fair comment Steve and I couldn’t agree with you more that we need youngsters who have good practical skills backed up by sound theory.

    It’s dreadful that UK “manufacturers” see little need for taking on apprentices when they get their stuff made overseas anyway.

    And lengthy courses drumming in the classics are no way to go.

    My point still stands, though, that youngsters bright enough to benefit from DT will probably benefit from at least an introduction to Latin and Greek – a bit of vocabulary and seeing how the language is structured. Maybe a term of a couple of hours a week???

    Odometer, graph, hoi polloi, oligarch, democracy, analysis, tyranny, anarchy, sarcasm, apoplexy, scholar, mathematics, comma, technician, dilemma, theory – all Greek.

    As for the the sexy stuff like codes, data compression, information entropy….another Greek word in the language of science… amazes me that these languages say in a single word (e.g. a verb stem and twiddling a couple of letters here and there) what it can take half a sentence to say in English.

    Good education for hoi polloi not hoi oligoi we share in common.

  • Ehtch

    Agreed Gilliebc, but that is me, but I do make some good points, I think, sometimes…

    But no recent resolution to my NS blacklisting problem with feedback, but maybe because I was sending emails in the wrong direction or height in the pyramid of NS. Just tried again, to the comments@ in their email address’. That might give me some sort of reply and feedback.
    As I said before, my comments do at times cross over to the bizarre and eccentric, but ah well, that’s me!
    I’ll keep you in touch with developments.

  • Ehtch

    And Gilliebc, furthermore, the DT homosexuality thing might be uncomfortable for them, since them remembering their boarding school sexuality choices that they had to do then. Just a thought.  : )

  • Ehtch

    Ozzy Gideon Osborne is ageist. It has now been confirned. Does he want to bring gas chambers in for old people in his deep thoughts, you should be asking yourself?

  • Gilliebc

    In view of your reply to MicheleB, I thought this little bit of info. may be of interest to you.
    President Obama has made a very strange appointment to the US administration team.  A man named John Holdren has been hired as a “Science and Technology Adviser”  John Holdren calls himself a neo-Malthusion and believes the human population is a cancer on the face of the earth and must be dramatically reduced to the optimum level of one billion!
    The appointment of such a person with the views he openly expresses surely gives concern to most right-thinking people.  It doesn’t take a genius to figure out what plans they have in store for the “surplus” 5 or 6 billion people.

  • Ehtch

    But NS is trying, and no doubt can be successful, in their new comment-free line of “star spanggled bloggers”, attractive to our east coast friends across the water, that tend to dump tea into the sea, no doubt. Think NS will make loads of coin on this move. Maybe that is why I was shoved out, me working for nothing, and not a wedge of money to shove to me for my efforts. NS, you heartless fucking bastards! Fascista!

  • Ehtch

    Rita Parvone the marvellous, with her pink brit e-type Jag. This girl still has balls, though might be worn out now, understandibly,

  • Ehtch

    Why say anything now, re. boarding schools’ sexuality, maybe(!) just the male variety, when it has been explained before by Lindsay Anderson in “If”?

  • Ehtch

    Somehow, even if it pains me, there is some sense in this one billion arguement.

    But do you know what, it should be the poorest one billion that should be left, that would be the most healthiest.

    Ok, me and Alastair are well above the cut off, I’ll end myself and my daughter out, with my hard steel alpine Opinel hunting knife, just like that, for the future good. As long as everyone else does at the same time – now that is the secret. Ah hah!

    Logan’s Run,

  • Ehtch

    Cornrows mun, as in hair, as umm!, Blackies and Bo Derek?
    Dudley looking bothered with corn rows on Bo, for some reason,

  • Ehtch

    Opinel alpine hunting knife being put to good use at the end of this video, which is based on the Red Riding Hood european tale – wolves? don’t give them the time of day!

  • Ehtch

    Randy Crawford and her cornrows here,

  • Ehtch

    Hi, Saturday afternoon, and just got banned from  too for some reason – not talking enough of coal, and collieries and shit and stuff enough, no doubt. They are out to get, whoever they are.

    Ah well, I have broad shoulders. Am just waiting for them to get at AC,,,,,,

    That is what is wrong when everyone is perfect, ones slightly less perfect gets slung out of speaking society. Do’;t I know it!

  • Ehtch

    There is that part in the marvellous Douglas Adams series of books on hitchiking around the galaxy, where estate agents and hairdressers and others were “conned” to jump on a space ship to leave, since they bought the arguement that the “Earth is going to end”, and were needed to set things up for when the rest of us arrived, which we didn’t of course.

    Well worth a read, or a re-read if you’ve read it, years ago or something.

  • Ehtch

    Got a pic of my daughter in cornrows when she was eight, when her, ummm!, mother took on holiday to Gambia on the west coast of Africa. Ok, fair enough to her mother, they walked a good couple of miles to the nearest village. Her mother said the haidressers hands were a blur, and did it in five minutes or so. It’s a beatiful photo – even have one of a school photo with her a few weeks later. It had to be relaxed, ahem!, because it started to smell, and it is hard to keep clean cornrows. The lastest facebook photo of said my daughter, now twenty – how time flies, when you get older!

  • Ehtch

    The above/below video was supplied by Greek ladies – make of that as you would. Keep thinking Greece has been capatalist victimised, but that might just be me. More from Marsheaux, removed their greek accountancy copmpatriates maybe, maybe yes,

  • Ehtch

    By the way 23 is a good age for a delectible female to be healthily to be married at, isn’t it, to start spouting out babies?

    Dowry required thought, in cash, and more from you north of the Rhine types. I pity their children though if so, as I count my wad!

    All that barking private shcool onto oxbridge shite, my grandcchildren will come and burn me eventually. Ah well, you have got to make a buck somewhere.

  • Ehtch
  • Ehtch
  • Ehtch

    Anway, young and old agree, me senile me and my beautiful daughter both agree, GaGa has something,

  • Ehtch

    Anyone remember The Seekers from Oz?

  • Ehtch

    Gerry Anderson’s Joe 90, now we are barking! Brilliant stuff from 1969.

  • Gilliebc

    Oh so “cornrows” is a hairdo!  What they used to call braids or plats.
    Thanks Ehtch

  • Ehtch

    I need to set up my own blog, so I can post my shit to my hearrts content. Bet is will get a well good following though. Obsure and bizzare sells, especially in Blighty. I will work on it.

  • Ehtch

    I am not getting into who has the most ultimate beautful daughter Alastair, since I will win hands down, just look at me for a start? But no doubt, yours has her qualities, that makes things up for a man.
    : )

  • Ehtch

    notice I asked my daughter on Saturday to post a blonde opposite, and she did! I love the human race me.

  • Ehtch

    Yes, bit like catholic ringlets on their “ahhh!” factor, riverdance or not, Always likes cormrows on a blonde. by the way.

  • Ehtch

    By the way, my daughter can do anything effing she wants, always said w ghen she was eighteen months old, since realiising then she had more sense than me.

  • Ehtch

    Randy Crawford, stop gaffling, iy is prostitutionn you are singing,m isn’t farcking it?

  • Ehtch