Monday, March 28, 2011


0 minutes ago

I'm the man Katharine met above.

By the way as a rule, I do not read the Guardian, or any other broadsheet or rag.

The account of our meeting is a fair enough reflection of what took place. I'm emotional. I welled up. Not because I'm so upset about my powerlessness to look after my family. No. I'm pretty confident my son will fare well no matter where he goes. What I'm scandalised by is the general situation where so many people are let down by the system. A system that creates a situation where 43 children in one borough are offered NO PLACE AT ALL and over 200 families no place from their list of priorities is not acceptable practice by any measure.

'There simply are not enough places, it will all resolve itself by September'. Not good enough. ONE child not being offered a place at any school whatsoever is totally unacceptable. A friend of my son simply did not get a place. The fact that he MAY get a place once all the frantic scrabbling and running around through a long Spring and a long. long Summer waiting, worrying, desperately trying to get kids placed in schools that won't mince them up does not excuse a system that is ultimately failing thousands of children, simply letting huge numbers of people down by denying them access to a decent, stimulating and rich education. It is plainly and simply WRONG.

And it's NOT Labour and it's NOT Conservative who are exactly responsible. It is all of us. Education for all is not a high enough priority and, decade after decade, this situation carried on because we do not deal with it as a society. We let it happen because perennially we allow education in this country to be a political football.

My child is going to be OK wherever he goes to school - his parents have a good understanding of our inner city London education lottery and he was as prepared, as any eleven year old can be, for the possibility that the roll of the dice would give him a bad deal. He's bright and well socialised, fairly streetwise and will get on, somehow, wherever the secondary school crap shoot takes him. That is just not good enough.

He didn't get a place at any of the six school 'choices' made after a lot of research and consideration was put into his future education. Along with most of the other kids in his class at an excellent inner city state primary school he visited all the schools with half decent results in south London that are within likely reach and got a place at a Roman Catholic boys' school - when we had specifically requested that, if no place were available at any of his six preferences, he would want to go to a non faith co-ed school because we are atheist and he gets on well in a mixed sex environment. Roman Catholic boys - what an Excellent Lottery Result that is. 'It's OK, it's just the rest of my life that is being ruined, I can handle it' is what he said. And: 'I'm NOT going to a Catholic school. No way'.

His classmate who didn't get a place at all feels he has been rejected. He cannot understand why he did not get a place at a school anywhere. And who could blame him? He's not stupid, far from it. He is eleven and can feel clearly that this situation is wrong. But because it makes no sense at all, while the other children in his class all have places, he feels singled out. He will not talk to his friends at school about this, he cannot, he's too embarrassed. He doesn't want them to know he hasn't got a place. He's ASHAMED. He is eleven.

What kind of system allows this to happen to even ONE child?

This situation HAS to change. It's been going on for decades, for ever, and never alters. WHY? Because WE do not care enough about our children to change it. 'Most of them get an OK education, this sort of thing doesn't happen to many people'. OH YES IT DOES.

Katharine Birbalsingh is doing something about it that is within her power.

Having waded through this stream of comments it's striking how many people are prepared to cynically carp on about her 'unemployed' status.

Well, it's a damned shame a lot more of you armchair critics and carpers cannot be bothered to get off your arses and make the effort to bring about the sort of change that Katharine wants and is determined to achieve. You should be praising people like her not shooting them down.

And by the way - clearly she IS unemployed - she's a passionate teacher and she lost her job. Give the woman a break!

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