“The majority of teachers are disillusioned by the way the Conservative Party has approached education in the United Kingdom,” declares Brittany Wright, a teacher of English in the Midlands who is also her school’s G&T coordinator (ie of students deemed to be ‘gifted’ and/or ‘talented’). Continue reading →
1551. That was the last year – give or take – when there was a grammar school in every town. I know that because Chris Skidmore told me, and he’s a historian.
It’s fairly straightforward. Edward VI was on the throne, and there had been a few tussles between Church and State for the control of young minds. The Church wanted Latin used for chanting; the State for logic and grammar. So free schools were established (Michael Gove was not the first) to liberate the curriculum in order to inculcate the Liberal Arts and raise standards of attainment. Continue reading →
I’ve noticed over many years in the classroom that when students enter the physics or chemistry lab, they expect to be taught facts, and the teachers duly oblige by providing copious evidence from textbooks. But when those same students come to me to consider matters of theology, politics and philosophy, they generally take the view that they can choose what they like best, because just about everything that Hilton goes on about is mere opinion or speculation, if not total fabrication. If it feels good and brings serenity, it must be good and serene. Whatever they choose to believe is true, and truth is consecrated in the mind, just above freedom. Continue reading →
In the wake of Ofsted’s alleged (and vehemently contested) ‘Trojan Horse’ plot by certain zealous Muslims to infiltrate and take over a number of schools in Birmingham, Michael Gove has insisted that all educational establishments must ‘actively promote British values’. In a rather ungracious response, Shadow Education Secretary Tristram Hunt told BBC2’s Newsnight: “I’m not sure Michael Gove would know if British values came and bit him on the bum.” Continue reading →
The wide-eyed wait is over, anticipation satisfied and rumours confirmed or quashed. (Actually, they’re invariably confirmed, simply because any orchestra, conductor or classical artist that publicises a scheduled appearance at a “major British/London summer festival” has invariably been booked for the Proms but simply isn’t allowed to say so, which, in this day and age, is a bit silly really). But it all kicks off on 18th July, and there are proms for families, proms for poets, proms for singers and proms for children; there are midnight proms, chamber proms, proms in the park and proms for stage and screen. If none of this creeps into your ears, you have no soul. Continue reading →
“Fascinating Twitter exchange between @MoAnsar and @Adrian_Hilton on education,” tweeted the BBC’s Nicky Campbell during a rather disheartening dialogue I was having with everyone’s favourite Muslim social commentator.
And fascinating entertainment it may very well have been for the steadily-swelling Twitter crowds who were gathering to RT, ‘favourite’ and butt in on the commotion. But educationally enlightening it was not. And I wouldn’t be writing about it now but for the peculiar fact that Mo Ansar hastily deleted a whole string of his tweets when he realised that he was being monitored not only by his adoring fans, but also by the eminent historian and author Tom Holland. Continue reading →
The world has lost one of the greatest musical virtuosos of our time. The renowned and charismatic conductor Claudio Abbado died on Monday. You only have to contemplate his Mahler 9, Bruckner 9 or his Brahms 3 to appreciate the breadth of his interpretative capacity and the profound grasp he had of musical form. Listen intently to the pulse of his sound: the silences have a cavernous depth; crescendos soar in emotional ecstasy; and his adagios creep toward heaven almost in communion with the divine. He was as serene on the podium as he was silent in life: music was his worship, and that was the gateway to freedom – spiritual and political. For him, no movement should distract and no words deflect from the sanctity of sublime orchestral harmony. Continue reading →
Teaching is a hard job – a very hard job. In the never-ending quest to increase GDP and propagate the nation’s culture, teachers swim in a very deep ocean every day; sometimes drowning. The commentators and critics who carp from the shore have absolutely no idea what it’s like to face a class of 27 agitated minds and fidgety bodies at 8.30 in a morning and still be marking at midnight (or having to get up at 5am the next day to finish the job). They can have absolutely no idea how tough and taxing it is to have to hold an adolescent crowd’s attention for hours on end, day after day, month after month, trying to devise new strategies for engaging and inspiring them through concentric circles of enlightenment. Continue reading →
“You haven’t even got a degree, you’ve got the shakes, and you think you’re God’s gift to teaching,” grunts Algy Herries, Headmaster of Bamfylde Boys’ School, in the TV adaptation of RF Delderfield’s First World War novel To Serve Them All My Days. “I take my hat off to you, I really do. You’ve got your work cut out, but there’s nothing like starting with ambition,” he reassures.
I watched this TV series while I was taking my O-levels, and read the book soon afterwards. It is, to my mind, one of greatest novels of the 20th century. The aspiring teacher is Second Lieutenant David Powlett-Jones, a nervy coalminer’s son from South Wales who has been invalided out of the army with shell-shock. His passion is history; his vocation – he eventually discovers – is pedagogy. Continue reading →
A free main-evening Prom in the Royal Albert Hall. What a great idea. And before anyone bleats about the outrageous cost of elite arts subsidy to the poor BBC licence fee payer, no musicians were paid in the making of this Prom. In fact, I am assured that no money exchanged hands at all. Tickets were allocated on a first-come-first-served basis, and they flew out of the box office faster than semi quavers in an allegro. This was real orchestral outreach – making music available to anyone and everyone. Sir Henry would have been proud. Continue reading →