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Friday, 9 May 2008

A Year Ago Today

A lot can happen in a year. If Derbyshire County Council had got their way, our youngest daughter would have been in her last term at the village school, the place would have been running down in front of our eyes, then dismantled and lost for ever. A piece of history and a slice of excellence in a mediocre world would have been thrown to the four winds with barely a backward glance from the perpetrators of the crime.

But we fought the good fight and we won. This is something to celebrate in a society increasingly crushed by senseless rules and petty bureaucracy, by small-minded people with limited vision and an eye to the main chance and self-aggrandissment. Instead of painfully counting the days till the end of the summer term and the end of an era, facing farewells that should never be and tears that needn’t have been cried, I was able to leave my five year old daughter in the playground this morning happily attempting to jump her spindly little legs over a rope in a brave attempt to learn the art of skipping. The air was soft and warm, the birds were singing, the children were laughing and the cress was bursting through the soil of the grow-bags which they had busily and messily planted last Friday afternoon.

Instead of a sense of heartache and loss, we are able to continue with a sense of well-being, growth and optimism for the future: these children are being given the very best of starts in a beautiful, healthy, sane environment.

I can assure you that the seedlings that come out of this particular grow-bag are strong and vigourous and will grow into beautiful mature plants. They have been given the best of starts in life and they will flourish. These young people are our future and if every child could be given the educational start in life that these children receive, then our world would be a much better place.

Coincidentally on the lunchtime news a youth worker and reformed gang member who was commenting on the brutal knife murder of 16 year old Kodjo Yenga in Hammersmith last year said the problems we are facing with this aggressive youth culture is all down to education. He said that he (as a gang member) was a product of this failure in education. If he can see it, why on earth can’t the people in charge? Why does this government (and others before it) continue to mess up our education system, swamping it with mindless health and safety rules, absurd levels of administration which take away from teaching time and, perhaps most significantly, insisting, in the vein of globalisation, that big is beautiful and that one size fits all? When will they learn that ultimately it is more economical to produce well-educated, well-rounded young people from smaller places of learning than to produce ill-educated dysfunctional people from large anonymous institutions where each child is barely no more than a statistic? This is not rocket science. This is just common sense.

Instead of taking money away from village schools, they should be investing in them. They are the heart of a community, they instill community spirit and a sense of belonging and society to the children whom they educate. It is not just about results and league tables. It is about appreciating what it is to be part of a family, it is about developing self-respect and self-confidence, and understanding what can be achieved by team effort and a positive, optimistic approach to life and learning.

The achievement of our small community in fighting the big boys and beating them at their own game is surely proof enough that small can be beautiful too. We pulled together, we worked as a team, we never gave up and we came out smiling. It can be done.

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