Tuesday 20 October 1987

..In Drama today we had to make up plays about chairs.
Also at school we had to do things about grid references, learn about rules of behaviour, a comprehension test involving filling in words, and a visit from a fireman who told us about the dangers of fire.
Well I never…

My secondary school had been opened just six years earlier and was proudly, even brazenly, forward-thinking.

It was built only on ground level, with everything fully accessible. Everyone had lockers, not pegs, for coats and bags. There was a profusion of toilets, plants, lights, notices, computers, textbooks, even comfy chairs and beanbags in the library. What there wasn’t, however, was a proper curriculum.

Instead, subjects were taught to us in a rather ramshackle fashion in part by specialists – for language and science – but in part by our own form tutor, who was meant to be a competent all-rounder and not a jack of all trades. There was no streaming; all the classes were mixed ability. There were no tests or examinations. There was no uniform policy. And perhaps most shockingly of all, the assembly hall had A CARPET.

While an awful lot of good intentions inspired these decisions, an awful lot of bad education was the result, as I discovered when I moved on after three years (as everyone in Leicestershire did) to a community college for my GCSEs and A-levels.

Here I found massive gaps in my knowledge of maths and French which put me far behind peers that had come from other schools. I also found flights of stairs, which I’d never had to climb before in an educational facility.

In retrospect better understanding of quadratic equations and greater experience of climbing steps with heavy bags are two things I’d have definitely prioritised over a visit from a fireman.

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