Class in the classroom


Labour’s new education boss, Derek Pickup, has broken cover and given a keynote interview to The Evening Cancer’s so-called Education Correspondent Linda Tanner.

Tanner is happy to play pat ball with Pickup, lobbing him daft brown-nosing questions to provide him with a nice little platform to showcase his stupid, embarrassing and, frankly, quite weird views. The text of the whole shambles is here.

“He is a strong believer in learning through play,” Linda gushes outlining Derek’s philosophy for us and “he has managed adventure playgrounds and children’s centres”. Well whoopee-fucking-doo. How fay is that? You’d never know Derek’s spent his life wanking about ineffectually in the Bristol Voluntary Sector would you now?

For what it’s worth, The Blogger’s a strong believer that Pickup should get a small piece of paper, write ‘WANKER’ on it, stick it to his forehead and leave it there for the foreseeable future.

Pickup’s “philosophy” no doubt comes as really good news to South Bristol’s long-suffering residents too.

The new education boss believes in “learning through play”. Fancy that…. Poncey, bland, middle class bollocks straight out of Rudolph Steiner… That’ll sort out the shite that passes for an education system up there won’t it? And it’ll produce the “better school” to replace Merrywood the Labour Party promised that’s never materialised.

There’s plenty more gems where that came too. Try this from Pickup:

“Go into one of the new schools in Bristol and compare it with the school it replaced. It’s like watching a 1960s episode of Dr Who compared with one of the new ones,” he said.

Where do you start with this bollocks? Well first, those of us who aren’t saddo, middle-aged, sci-fi, Dr Who nuts might ask what is the fucking difference Derek?

Answer: fuck-all beyond colour TV and a few sophisticated digital effects.

How apt for some local New Labour dalek to highlight superior presentation over anything of substance. Indeed some people might say that the original Dr Who was superior to today’s. They were at least original, thoughtful and highly successful rather than a modern reworking of former glories that tinkers at the edges with the help of a large budget…

Then of course there’s the small matter of the spectre of the 1960s, the Attlee consensus and the kind of education working class kids could get then. The Blogger’s parents – from working class backgrounds – got a decent schooling and a free college education and now enjoy a rather nice lifestyle. How many kids in South Bristol is Pickup’s Dr Who-style special effects education gonna deliver that to then?

And I see that Dr Who began in 1963. That’s the year a sadly deceased mate of The Blogger’s – who was brought up on the third floor of a North London council block – left one of the best redbrick universities in the country and fucked off to Canada “because of the Oxbridge stitch-up in Britain” and became a Professor of Urban Sociology where he worked extensively with Jane Jacobs (look it up).

Neither were these isolated cases. Britain’s education system delivered these kind of results regularly to sections of the working classes.

Now The Blogger doesn’t want to get misty eyed over the past but the sheer effrontery of Pickup and his Labour pals who personally created the city’s current education shambles is unbelievable.

Comparing what we have now favourably with the 1960s is a total joke. That was the time when Hengrove was a top comp and Merrywood a decent grammar. What can they offer now in comparison?

And are Pickup and Co likely to deliver anything like these schools in South Bristol any time soon? Are they fuck. They’re too busy carving up the system to favour themselves and the rest of the wealthy middle classes by building nice schools in Redland and promoting a “choice agenda” among themselves.

Happily The Blogger is no longer alone in bringing class into Bristol’s classrooms. Here’s a piece written by South Bristol regeneration worker, Keren Suchecki, for New Start magazine – usually full of virtually unreadable tripe for community development types – that takes a similar tack:

The University of the West of England has just produced some interesting research* into why fewer young people from South Bristol go to university than just about anywhere else in the country. Let’s not forget that this is in a city with a population of 400,000 that caters for around 47,000 students between its two universities.

Essentially the research reveals that that these schools don’t expect their pupils to amount to much and that the parents are regarded with the same lack of respect. A view that’s been held by parents and rejected by teachers for generations.

I recall one head teacher yelling with rage at me when I said as much to a group who’d requested a talk about the role of education in regeneration – as if I couldn’t possibly know this, despite my being taught in the worst school in the area, fighting my own route through education later in life, and struggling to limit the damage to my kids as they experienced their own version of a South Bristol education.

The research calls for “respectful and relational practises for enhancing the education engagement of young people in Bristol South” and I believe that begins with understanding that working class culture is not inferior to middle-class culture, but separate and different. It might be useful for schools to remember Stokely Carmichael’s original definition of institutional racism “the collective failure of an organisation to provide an appropriate and professional service to people because of their colour, culture or ethnic origin”.

The research describes the way in which working-class culture isn’t respected by teachers and how pupils come to feel ashamed inside the education system; illustrated by quotes from teachers such as, “What can you expect? They come from a limited gene pool on this estate.” it’s not difficult to understand why. Is there any doubt that same teacher would be sacked if they said this about an ethnic group?

* Lynn Raphael Reed. Young Participation in Higher Education: A Sociocultural Study of Educational Engagement in Bristol South Parliamentary Constituency

And now even Venue’s getting in on the act. In the past the magazine has been less than generous towards working class Bristolians, preferring to focus their efforts on the important issues like the quality of line-caught sea bass available to Southville liberals recovering from a hard day condemning Bristol’s kids as feral, no-hoper racists.

However this week saw Eugene Byrne in thunderous form on the state of Bristol’s schools and the self-interested middle class mediocrities like Pickup that have run them for decades. He argues the middle classes have effectively pulled up the ladder behind them in Bristol condemning generation after generation of talented working class kids to misery.

Unfortunately I can’t link to the article as Venue doesn’t publish its editorial online – sort it out!!!

In the meantime, perhaps the Venue office rebel – if there is such a thing allowed – could cut and paste the article into the comments section for us?

This entry was posted in Bristol, Education, Hartcliffe, Labour Party, Local government, Middle class wankers. Bookmark the permalink.

7 Responses to Class in the classroom

  1. eugenebyrne says:

    Hmmm … Lukewarm praise larded with backhand swipes from Bristol’s most reckless sociopath. Marvellous.

    I’m freelance. Copyright’s mine. No need for a Venue “office rebel”, whatever that means.

    When the howls of complaint about the schools article started coming in, I decided to put in on my rubbish and infrequently-updated website at: – top of the homepage until I can be arsed to add anything else.

    As regular readers of my stuff in Venue (Sid & Doris Bonkers) will know, I’ve been banging on about this educational apartheid for years. It’s just taken a major turn for the worse.

    One day I’ll get round to doing the piece subtitled: Redland Green – The State School With A More Exclusive Middle Class Intake Than Fee-Paying Colston’s Girls School. Place a regular order for Venue with your newsagent now.

  2. Chris Millman says:

    Is BB advocating the return of grammer schools?

  3. old misery guts says:

    Once again the Blogger hits the nail on the head. As the distraught parent of two kids currently experiencing the dubious joys of secondary education in South Bristol I am constantly amazed by the sheer crapness of it all. Teachers who hate the kids and treat them all like the lowest common denominator (calling them individually and collectively “morons” is a favourite of one of the science teachers apparently), headteacher who is a strange combination of double glazing salesman and crypto-fascist (to kids and teaching staff), library housing fewer books than we have in our house and most of which date from the 1970s – just some of the living nightmare. As a sad old socialists who refuse to sink to the new labour level of moving house to get them in to a better school, it feels like we are instead subjecting our kids to a vile experiment that could very well end in McJobs all round. And don’t get me started on the joys of being a parent governor – listening to the self interested polemic of a gang of has-beens and misfits, fucking bizarre.

  4. Keren says:

    Oi! That’s my fucking column you’ve just reproduced wholesale. You could at least credit me, you bastard.

  5. thebristolblogger says:

    Blame your PR. She supplied it without a credit. You can’t get the staff these days can you?

  6. Keren says:

    Ooh now credited – cheers mate.

    I’m going to sack the PR by the way – break it to her gently for me.

  7. Pingback: Half our pupils are missing « The Bristol Blogger

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