One of the many things that currently keeps me cheerful is the unswerving committment of so many thousands of parents to their local state school and the hard work that they put in to support and extend the work that the school does. These efforts are largely unsung and often wrongly pigeonholed as a form of charity. In fact, these same parents are on the whole subscribing, without undue fuss and fanfare, to a clear set of values, quite at odds with the values that underlie, and underline, private and highly selective education. They passionately support the need for high quality education in their own and every area; they know the importance this holds not just for their own child but for the children of families who cannot support them, for whatever reason, usually economic. Contrary to so much media reporting and gross distortion of the situation in education, they do not see their local school as second best or a den of iniquity and ill discipline but a community in which it is possible, with thoughtful application and hard work, to support those with the greatest advantage, the keenest gifts or indeed the greatest problems.
As firefighter, trade union activist and talented photographer Tim Hoy observes, in a lovely blog on his daughter Cydney’s education at Queens Park Community School in north west London, where our daughters also go, today’s state schools are, on the whole, far more disciplined and the children better supported and hard working than in years past. We need to build on this, and the values that underlie the comprehensive idea. Failure to do this amounts to tacit acceptance that only the rich deserve a good education, an idea I find absolutely extraordinary in the 21st century.