I stand to be corrected
(and will happily publish such a correction here) but I think I am right in
saying no national newspaper editor sends their children to State schools. This
is worth bearing in mind when you read the relentless diet of negativity
against State schools in our national media. The same applies to hospitals.
Never underestimate the ability of millionaire editors to dress up their own
prejudices and anxieties in stories posing as being worthy, objective and in
the national interest. How marvellous it must be for them to read day after day
that State schools are all failing. Then they can feel so much better about
themselves as the office driver takes the little darlings off to school.

To be frank, I would have far more respect for people who send their kids to
private schools if they said they believed wealth entitled you to buy better
services wherever you can find them, and/or that they would rather their kids
avoided children of asylum seekers, the under educated, the unemployed, benefit
cheats and any others who might risk the de-middleclassification of their

What I can’t stand is all the self-serving mythologising that goes on when
middle class media types share with us their heart-rending agonising over the
decision to go private. There are plenty of examples of people left and right
on the political spectrum who do so. So when the writer Will Self took up space
(and presumably with it a healthy cheque to help with the school fees) from the
pro-private education Evening Standard to say ‘I’m a diehard leftie but my son
is going to a private school
,’ (note ‘is going’ rather than ‘I am sending’) and
then asks his readers to judge whether they believe him to be a hypocrite ….
er, enough said.

To be honest, the so-called left-wing ones make me vomit even
more than the right-wingers. At least the right-wingers never make any claim to
believe in equality of opportunity, unless they’re trying to become Prime
Minister that is. But still, right-wing private school choosers also
 feel, like Self, that they have to tell us all about how their kids
weren’t learning to read properly, and they  got bullied, and how this
doesn’t make them hypocritical, it makes them angry that schools are getting
worse. Well no, schools are not getting worse. They are getting better. There
are more of them. There are more teachers in them. There are higher standards
coming from them. But that does not fit the world view of those who
 devote so much ink in the justification of their own bias and prejudices.

Today’s Sunday Times News Review throws up (to continue with the vomit theme)
the latest in a long line of these ‘why oh why have I had to send my lovely
little boy to a private school?’ pieces
. The article takes up the front cover,
and most of pages 2 and 3. The main illustration is of a healthy blonde boy in
a running vest smiling a victory smile as his chest breaches the tape. The
headline is ‘WHAT’S WRONG WITH WINNING?’ The blurb says ‘home from the front
line, Christina Lamb, the award-winning war correspondent, takes aim at her
son’s state education. What’s all this nonsense about ‘every child has a

I’m glad they used the word nonsense. Because that is what it is. Nonsense. I
suppose the reference to Lamb’s awards and war reporting are designed to make
us feel admiration and respect, plus the sense that British schools are scarier
than Bosnia, Iraq or Afghanistan. Then we read of how poor award-winning Mummy
Lamb was sitting in a freezing school sharing her son’s nerves as he went off
to sit his private school entrance exams. Then she has a wonderful moment where
she sees a slide show of boys winning things in competitive sport. Because as
readers of most of our national papers must surely know, (if they inhale the
bilge in our papers) there is no competitive sport in state schools.

I won’t
bore you further with her tortuous explanations of how she came to make this
terrible decision for Lourenco (apologies for not being able to put a cedilla
under the c, my computer is clearly not as advanced as the ones at the Sunday Times) but
suffice to say it includes discarded needles, sexual abuse, excrement, death
threats, a whack at Tony Blair and a ‘mwah’ for Barack Obama, a move from
Islington to Richmond, children who were rude and boorish at parties, her son
seemingly forgetting who Jesus was blahdiblahdiblah, I was losing the will to
live by then. But the big thing – hence the big headline – seemed to be about
sport, wrapped around with the kind of rubbish we’ve been hearing from Chris
about ‘the state promotion of mediocrity’ for years. And oh, who is
that on page 3, writing a piece in support of brave award-winning Mummy Lamb.
It’s Chrissy!!!

I wonder if the Sunday Times would take a piece on my experience of inner city
State schools. We have three children. All three went to the local State
primary school in Camden, North London. When we had a poor head teacher, and a
poor Ofsted report, parents got involved to such an extent the head departed
(to run a private school by the way). The current head is superb. So, despite
facing all the problems and pressures of inner city London, is the school as a
whole. Our two sons in particular are sports-mad. They played competitive
football thanks to the school caretaker, a teacher and parents, myself
included, starting a football club. All three have also gone to local State
comprehensives. One has gone to Oxford and will graduate this year. One has
gone to Manchester. Our daughter is still at school. Along the way they have
collected a drawerful of medals from sporting events. Our eldest, supported and
encouraged by the school, ran in national championships for several years.

I do not pretend that any State school is perfect, or that all State schools
are good. But they are far, far better than the national media portrays them,
and that is because the coverage is so much driven by the personal choices
leading journalists make, not by the reality of the schools the bulk of their
readers use.