I was out last night raising cash for Leukaemia and Lymphoma Research at the Midtown Business Club dinner, to whom thanks for your cash and your support.
In my speech, I talked a bit about the Boris phenomenon and said his appeal was rooted in his positivity, which is why it was odd that he was such a cheerleader for maintaining the status quo for a media which is responsible for much of the negativity which holds Britain back.
As we were in Camden, I predicted for example that there would be very little coverage anywhere of the report by Ofsted showing that Camden has the best primary schools in the country. Ripple of applause led by the Camden councillor at the top table, exhortation from me not to believe the relentless propaganda against State education from both the media and, more alarmingly, senior members of the current government.
However, I was wrong about one thing – by the time I had sat down, around half ten, I was getting messages that the story of Camden’s success was featured on the national news, and the school they chose to film was the one round the corner from our house, where our three children were all educated, Gospel Oak primary school.
It is almost twenty years since the school had a dreadful Ofsted report, which led to an exodus of some parents out of the area or to local private schools. My lifelong loathing of private education as one of the great dividers of our time, which has also held Britain back, hardened. Those who stayed, led for most of the last 20 years by my partner Fiona, decided the only way to turn the school around was to get more involved.
The resulting turnaround has a lot to do with Labour investment and Labour reforms, to continuing support from the council, above all to the dedication and professionalism of the teaching staff once we finally found the brilliant head the school needed. But Fiona’s passion for State education in general, and that school in particular, cannot be underestimated either. Being a Governor or chair of Governors requires commitment, understanding, political nous and drive. Being a Governor who can actually make a difference requires all that and more.
Camden is a huge mix of both affluent and disadvantaged, with some of the wealthiest people in the country alongside some of the toughest estates, and every nationality you care to think of. If the schools there can do well, and give every child the chance of a decent start in life, the same can happen anywhere.
The problem today is that doesn’t fit with the government/media narrative that says Michael Gove has to bring in all his reforms because State schools are all failing. They are not. And with proper support from Government, and more involvement of parents, those schools which are failing could be turned around.
It is really odd that we have a Secretary of State who prefers to highlight all that is bad in our schools because he knows that most of the good has very little to do with the policies he has introduced. Bizarre. But of course the leading lights of the media, most of whom use private schools and so attack State schools to justify their decision, love him for it, and that I fear is what really matters to him.