A Frightening Number

As far as documentaries go, John Humphrys' recent BBC2 film wasn't half bad. It reflected a genuine desire to grapple with a complex issue. It was relatively honest about the realities of the UK's class system. And it made the all-too-rare acknowledgement that sometimes, what we want for our own children isn't what we claim to want for society as a whole.

The one aspect of it which I did find disappointing was its willingness to go along quite happily with the idea that a child's education is provided solely by his or her school. As a nation, we seem to have forgotten that teachers are just one factor in the equation that forms a well-rounded individual. Granted, they may be the most formal factor, but the home has an immense role to play too... and I don't mean that in the sense of middle-class parents buying the services of private tutors.

Why do children from poorer backgrounds regress during the summer holidays while their wealthier counterparts continue to develop? Because the latter have parents or guardians who tend to fill July and August with all sorts of opportunities for meaningful interaction with the world, thereby providing real, constant education.

So yes, I applaud any programme that dares to suggest the closure of all independent schools as a means of solving the 'inequality problem'. But I do wish we could begin to admit that for a highly developed, affluent country, we've got a frightening number of awful parents.


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