Education's long term fear of failure

Alex Kane picks up on a conversation that stopped locally when all ministers packed up their briefs and ambled off into a long hiatus in October 2002. However education is still a touchstone for important ideological divisions. According to Kane, what he see as the liberal tendency to dampen competition is running riot through the educational establishment.

“Conference believes it is time to delete fail from the educational vocabulary, to be replaced with the concept of deferred success.” This is the wording of a motion which will be debated by the Professional Association of Teachers at the end of the month; and, according to the mover, Liz Beattie, “I would be surprised if we didn’t get the motion through.”

But why would a professional teacher, let alone a union representing 35,000 of them, want to endorse such a motion? Well, again according to the mover, “Some people find failure very hard to cope with and you should try not to face them with things they can’t do. It’s important to get them fired with enthusiasm for learning and not having them hanging their heads and feeling unhappy about their marks. I think it’s a good thing to get rid of total pass or total fail.”

Mind you, having dumbed down O and A levels, opened our universities to the barely literate and made it almost impossible to fail a degree, there is a kind of logic, albeit perverse, in doing away with the very idea of pass and fail. Indeed, why not go the whole hog and do away with examinations and tests of any variety? Why not adopt the sports day philosophy of so many schools, hand out medals to all of the contestants and declare everyone a winner?

As Sherlock Holmes so shrewdly observed, “Mediocrity recognizes nothing higher than itself.” And that is the real problem. We have become a society which celebrates the mediocre. The growth and ratings success of reality television is the clearest possible sign that we prefer to watch the antics of the idiot rather than marvel at genuine talent. Putting it bluntly, we don’t want heroes we can admire; we want mediocrities with whom we can identify.

Nature being what it is, most of us are fairly unexceptional; we generally fall somewhere between being neither particularly stupid nor particularly intelligent. Only a very few of us are extremely gifted. But it is those few whose efforts, gifts and genius have enriched our civilization and advanced humankind. Every generation produces a few hundred of these people, scattered across the world; and they make the world turn.

There was a time when we admired genius, a time when we sang the praises of inventors, explorers, scientists, artists, writers and yes, even statesmen. But not today. Today we remove Shakespeare from the curriculum because he is “too difficult to understand.” We don’t talk about Columbus and Magellan, because they, we are now informed, brought disease and destruction to the lands they discovered. And when biographers and broadcasters turn their attention to the likes of Newton and Edison it is simply to tarnish their reputations.

Dylan Evans, a senior lecturer in intelligent autonomous systems, made a very important point; “The just allocation of admiration is a virtue that requires judgment and integrity: judgment to distinguish genuine talent from mere showiness, and integrity in refusing to bestow praise on those who do not fully deserve it. Prizes are only valuable if they are restricted to the very few. Not winning a prize is not something to be seen as shameful—it should be the norm, something that happens to the overwhelming majority of people.”

In other words, we will only truly value genius and achievement when we end the culture of prizes for everyone. The combined efforts of successive post-war governments, and the delusional educational philosophies of teaching unions, have succeeded in creating a climate in which mediocrity is trumpeted. That probably suits the classroom teachers, many of whom hate their job, yet conspire to operate a treadmill which trundles far too many under-achievers into fifth rate universities. But let’s be honest, if educational standards really have risen so dramatically since the mid-1960s, then how do you explain the relentless onward march of tabloid tosh, soap opera, casual violence, substance abuse and book charts dominated by Dan Brown and celebrity chefs?

And the real reason why Mrs. Beattie wants to remove the word “fail”? “I’d rather tell kids that they have done jolly well, they worked really well, they have achieved that and that’s brilliant.” I wonder what her opinion will be in twenty years time, when, following the adoption of her proposals, we have produced a generation requiring psychiatric help when someone is brave enough to be critical?

The important thing about life is learning to live within your own limitations. There are certain things I was never good at, but I accepted that I wasn’t good at them. I didn’t take it badly when people pointed out my inadequacies. I don’t want a society dependent upon false praise and worthless prizes. Cocooning children from harsh reality is simply storing up trouble for later life. You cannot “defer success” if the talent isn’t there in the first place. So how much longer do we wait until governments and teaching unions come to their senses, and stop trying to make silk purses out of sows’ ears?

First published in the Newsletter on Saturday 23rd July 2005

  • Mick Hall

    Alex Kane’s article is typical of those who are appalled the offspring of the unwashed now have the right to attend University along side their own children. What really makes them rage, is these days middle class kids no longer have an automatic right to enter a profession, they have to earn there place at the top table and may well be elbowed aside by a youngster from the working classes. He could not have highlighted this fact better than in his last paragraph when he wrote,
    “The important thing about life is learning to live within your own limitations.”

    In other words know your place, i e class, some are destined to lead others follow, do not get above yourself. This final statement turns the whole article on its head for the one thing genius have in common, is they refuse to accept any limitations placed upon them by the society they live in. As too is his silly claim that exams are easier to pass today and the same with gaining degrees. What arrogant nonsense, as to is his description of our youngsters as silk purses and sows ears. The next time Mr Kane needs a plumber because his central heating system has frozen up and has burst, we should send an honors graduate in Ancient Greece, (the type of people who so successfully man our security services 😉 he will then find out there is little difference between a silk purse and a sows ear, for what you need at the sharp end of life is horses for course.

  • Alex. Kane

    Hi Mick,

    As someone who has just spent £35,000 for plumbers, electricians, plasterers and painters to gut and fancify my house—and been pleased with the job—I can confirm they are worth their weight in gold. That wasn’t the point of the article at all.

    I don’t want universities reserved for middle class kids, either. I want them reserved for the brightest and best, and I want structures for both testing and promoting them.

    And how do you reach the conclusion that I want people to know their place and that this is all a class thing? I don’t even mention class!!

    Best wishes,


  • slug

    One of the effects of a move away from the 11+ is a move towards more private education. I expect that many of our older Voluntary Grammars will start charging, and that people with money will pay to keep their kids away from the low income kids.

  • slug9987

    People don’t look at whether you went to university anymore, they look at which university.

  • DCB


    Do you think the idea of “deferred success”, of never telling a child that they’ve failed is good? Surely one of the most important things you can learn in school is how to fail and how to recover from it.

    I think Alex over does it a wee bit to the extent that it’s very possible to appreciate both Big Brother and Shakespeare. Dan Brown and Harry Potter may not be the finest achievements of English literature but at least both works have both dramatically increased the no of people reading books. It’s a glass half full/half empty argument.

    There’s no question that in the sciences, where you can measure these things more objectively, they have dumped down A-levels.

  • beano;

    It all seems so blindingly obvious! Could it be that many teachers are bitter regarding past failures in their own lives and rather than confront these they want to live through their pupils instead?

  • Wichser

    What a lot of teachers are resistant to is being tested and found out as themselves ‘in need of significant, immediate and sustained development’.

  • slackjaw

    The important thing about life is learning to live within your own limitations.

    That is indeed true. However, in my brief experience of teaching, I found that parents are quite unable to live with the limitations of their own children.

    In a market economy, notions of success are mainly derived from how much income you can generate for yourself or your employer. In this environment, empty aphorisms such as ‘the sky’s the limit’ and ‘you can do anything if you set your mind to it’ sometimes seem to be literally true.

    Parents (and maybe others looking back on their schooldays) are led to believe that this also applies to academic talent. When confronted with reality that it doesn’t, they are unable to accept it and prefer to blame the teachers.

  • George

    Agree with Slug,
    In the Irish Republic, where there never was state streamlining (that is what 11+ is isn’t it), the middle-class parents ended up doing it for themselves, sending their children to high achieving fee schools or gaelscoileanna to keep their offspring away from immigrants as well as working class children.

    As for deferred success, it seems raising primadonnas, who think they are God’s gift to humanity and therefore look down on others, is the order of the day.

    I put a lot of blame on the parents, who today seem to take anything that may show their child as being behind others as a personal slight rather than what it is, a statement of the situation.

    If you come home with an F on your report, a good parent will know it’s because you’re a lazy bugger and will chastise you accordingly or that you aren’t cut out for Latin, or whatever, and suggest alternatives.

    Why defer the truth to a child? It is the most important thing to the young. If you can’t face it at that age, you never will.

    In my singing class, the daws, as our teacher called we who hadn’t a note in our head, were put up the front of the class choir.

    We were still allowed participate fully, no solos though, but nobody told us we’d wake up one day and sing like larks.

  • slug

    Yes, George. And in NI it is well worth forking out an extra £6000 per year just to keep the child in good company, away from the paramilitary influences that you might get at non-fee paying state schools. I can see the private schools thriving – most large towns should be able to sustain one.

  • Occasional Commentator

    There are so many things to comment on in the article and in the comments. I doin’t know where to start!

    1. Failure is good. In fact, most boys can only be motivated by a fear of failure. And when you get used to it, it doesn’t even feel particularly negative. A competitive streak is usually a healthy thing. The trick is to work out how to instill this in every child, in particular when the parents are unable to do so.
    2. Mick Hall, you obviously never had a leg to stand on in your assumptions about Alex’s intentions. And even if you could prove that Alex, or any of us, are classist (or whatever the word is) it wouldn’t be relevant to the issues raised in Alex’s article. You just decided to throw mud because you were faced with a well written article that made some good points.
    3. Alex, the success of so-called low-brow culture is not related to decreasing educational standards. It’s because the lower classes are better off than they used to be relatively speaking, and therefore become more valuable as advertising targets. Advertisers want programs that pull in people with some money, not just large numbers of people.

    In an ideal world everyone would get as much education as would be appropriate to their abilities and needs, and I think we’re close to being able to afford that now. But the current system is failing everyone, no matter what their level of ability. We don’t have to choose between basic literacy courses for adults and well funded advanced university degrees – we can afford both. The current system, that of deliberately botching state education for the brightest pupils, will not create a level playing field – instead it will mean that only the well-off can get a decent education for their kids. Why do the “Left” rush to do everything they can to block the egalitarian utopia they dream of?

    Education is the best way to alleviate poverty and get whole communities out of a cycle of despair and failure. For those that can’t find work in our new-fangled knowledge economy, the politicians need to look at other policies, such as trade or the economy or whatever. Fiddling about with the the difficulty of exams won’t change anything (which is why I don’t see much point in anyone arguing that exams are not getting easier). If employers give up on exams, they just use your accent or your address to work out how good you are. Surely this is not what the Left want?

  • slug9987

    Some of the problems in the loyalist community that we see right now are surely to do with poor education? Can those people who daub the church in Harryville with “Fuck the Pope” be well educated?

    I doubt it.

    There is a real problem with education in NI and it is not that too many people are getting A*s in their GCSEs.

  • bertie

    There is probably enough in this post to annoy everyone from the trendies to the educational reactionaries.

    I could not agree more that the educational system is geared to mediocracy and brings the average down. So is the employment sphere. (this should annoy the trendies.)

    I actually beleive that most people have the potential to be much more than mediocre in their particular strength. However children in education and adults in the workplace do not get the chance to focus enough on their strengths. The system is trying to turn out a set of medicocre accross the board clones.
    I quote from a peice that I read recently. It is an adeptation from “The Animal School” by George H Reavis

    “Once upon a time, the animals decided that they must do something heroic to meet the problems of “a new world”. So they organised a school.

    They adopted an activity cirriculum consisting of running climbing, swimming and flying. To make it easier to administer the cirriculum, all the animals took all the subjects.

    The duck was excellent at swimming, in fact better than his instructor, but he only made passing grades in flying and was very poor in running. Since he was slow at running he had to stay after school and also drop swimming in order to practice running. This was kept up until
    his webbed feet were badly worn and he was only average in swimming. But average was acceptable in school so nobody worried about that except the duck.”

    How many ducks feet are we destroying?

    Why is acedemic acheivement the only one we accept. It is much easier for children and indeed adults to fail in some areas if they are given the chance to suceed where they have potential and that sucess is recognised. Failing an exam is not failing at life. Some times it is the exam that has failed because it is not a true indicator of what it proports to measure. The child may not be able to dumb down to suit the assumtions that the test is based on.

    The education system has to be flexible enough to look at individual needs and strengths. Does the duck really need to run?

    Yes I think that there should be “prizes for all” (this should annoy the reactionaries) but they don’t have to be the same ruddy prize for everyone.

    The children who are most disadvantaged (and this is by no means new) are those who are gifted in ways that the teachers may not be able to pick up.

    I can imagine that some parents want all their children to be Einsteins. We seem to have a particular prejudice in favour of intellect. I have to admit I am no different. I would rather be thought of as sinister than thick. This goes against my moral code but I can’t shake myself out of it. On the other hand parents may also be able to see something in a child that the teacher, who is having to apply a one size fits all methodology on 30 odd personalities.

    Lets celebrate that one person is a brilliant electrican, without worrying whether or not he can quote Wordsworth. The poet may be crap with his hands.

    My favourite joke at the moment was from Steve Coogan in his Paul Calf personna – “I get fed up hearing people say that David Beckham isn’t very bright. Why should he be? No one says ‘Stephen Hawkings – shite at football!'”

  • slug

    Todays Times weighs in with a defence of NIs 11+ system.

    With thanks to the Young Unionists where I saw the link.

  • Mick Hall


    Prior to the resolution to the Teaching Union’s conference I have never heard of deferred success and I doubt I will hear much of it again. Of course a child should be told when they get some thing wrong, the teacher should then help them to see why the got it wrong and hopefully by so doing will have provided the child with the means not to make the same mistake again. Whether by getting some thing wrong they have failed, im not sure.

    I take your word if you tell me A levels have been dummed down, however I have noticed with my grand-daughter they still seem pretty tough and im sure only hard work will get the average kid good results. As to the rest of you post I agree with you.

    OC posted
    Education is the best way to alleviate poverty and get whole communities out of a cycle of despair and failure. For those that can’t find work in our newfangled knowledge economy, the politicians need to look at other policies, such as trade or the economy or whatever. Fiddling about with the the difficulty of exams won’t change anything (which is why I don’t see much point in anyone arguing that exams are not getting easier). If employers give up on exams, they just use your accent or your address to work out how good you are. Surely this is not what the Left want?
    I refute that I was throwing mud at Alex, debating forcefully yes, as like you education is something I feel passionate about, due to having attended what today is called a sink school. As the socialist paradise you referred to is no where on the immediate horizon, I could not have put my views on the vital importance of education better than you have above. Whilst I can understand the temptation of private education for some parents, 6K per year is an impossible sum to raise for most families in Ireland/UK, making it of vital importance that the standard of our State schools are raised. There are some wonderful state schools, with real heros and role models working within them. Sadly there are also far to many sink schools. When middle class people send their kids to the local state school, in my view both the school and their children benefit. The school because the middle class parent understands the importance of education and can play an important role within their child’s school, whereas due to our own poor educations many of us working class people still do not value highly enough education, for historical reasons this is especially true of working class unionist areas in the north. Middle class children benefit because they meet kids increasingly from all races and walks of life, which not only broadens their outlook, but reduces the prejudices they may have in latter life.
    As to the Protestant working class in-areas like the Shankill, as I aforementioned there are historical reasons why children from these areas are under achieving. However this problem is not insurmountable and it is vital when the devolved government is up and running they get to grips with it for the very reason OC gives in my Quote.
    All the best

  • aquifer

    In America kids get Kudos and confidence from sports and extra-curricular activities within essentially comprehensive high schools, and get a wider choice of subjects later, right through college. In Germany there are three types of school at secondary level, with academic, trade, and general emphases, and surprise surprise, Germany ends up with one of the best workforces in the world. Too many kids leave school here with nothing more than a bad attitude, though probably more leave with not enough confidence. I was shocked at the low expectations teachers in a low achieving secondary school had for their students, making me suspect they were part of the problem. And parents who will not even enter their kids for the eleven plus I worry about, when attendance at a grammar school boosts the life chances of those attending so much, even for the only averagely intelligent.

    The system here, especially given the bloated public sector, provides meal (and plane) tickets for the middle classes.

  • barnshee


    “Middle class kids no longer have an automatic right to enter a profession, they have to earn there place at the top table and may well be elbowed aside by a youngster from the working classes”

    What exactly do you mean by “profession”

    NO classes never had an “automatic right” to “enter a profession” Law, Accountancy, Medicine, Paramedical professions all have rigorous examination /experience thresholds to entry- if you can`t cross these barriers then you don`t get in-whatever you “class”.

    Teaching “profession” -well try to get a teaching post without a 2.1 and a PGCE

    As a child of the working class did the 11+ provide me with the entry to the system and is there someone who was “elbowed aside by a youngster from the working classes” ? ie me


    “What a lot of teachers are resistant to is being tested and found out as themselves ‘in need of significant, immediate and sustained development'”

    Teachers have no problems being tested- many are in fact “tested” each year (in a lottery) as the results for GCSE and A levels produce are compared and contrasted on a class by class school by school basis.

    Teachers do not make wigets from standard blanks.

    Pupils vary in:-

    1 Cognitive ability(the ability to retain and reuse the information and skills teachers try to transfer)-sorry some pupils are just better. Better to explore the reasons for this and try to establish strategies for dealing with it.

    Family support/backup. Parental participation homework practice etc. Children of professionals can have the additional often academic background of their family as a furthersupport and resource. (A maths teacher as parent can be a big help)

    3 Pupils personal attitude and person confidence levels (in certainly the later stages in school) including simply how hard do the buggers work?

    Complaints about teachers can normally be refuted quite simply.

    How many pupils are there in the class?

    How did they do in the exams?

    Some passed well?
    Some passed reasonably?
    Some failed?

    The same teacher taught them? could the answer to the variation in pupil performance be related to the variations in cognitive ability, family backup and pupil attitude?

    Teachers do not make wigets from standard blanks. Teachers are not social workers, security guards or policemen they should not be expected to be.

    Selection least provided an opportunity for the bright child of whatever background to access an education less disrupted by the mindlessness of some the secondary system. Make no mistake the changes proposed will produce selection by postcode. The theory that “forcing” the middle classes to send their children to a local school will ensure their involvement and thus raise standards is doomed. Parents will use the sibling/other connection to ensure entry to “their” school, creating an “inheritance pattern” or move to catchment areas of “good” schools or simply pay to go private to avoid undesirable schools.

  • Occasional Commentator

    Teachers don’t like being tested, and in reality they are not tested. Until I see large numbers of teachers being sacked for incompetence, the fact remains that teachers refuse to be made accountable for their results. You make a good point about how difficult it could be to measure a teacher’s performance fairly, but at the very least I don’t see anything wrong with expecting them to sit their student’s exams every few years and expecting them to do well in them.

    However, as time goes by, I have come to realise that most people in most jobs are incompetent, i.e. the whole human race! So I know we can’t be too tough.

    I’ve heard people say (not on this thread) that teachers don’t actually have to know the subject, they just need to facilitate teaching or something. That’s outright nonsense.

  • Moderate Unionist

    A wonderful post – Couldn’t agree more. The answer is greater specialism not less, but 25% of the adult population of Northern Ireland are to all intents and purposes illiterate. How can this happen in a modern society?

    People must realise that being ignorant is not cool or macho. Education is the only competitive edge in a feriously competitive global economy.

    We must refocus and reinvigourate our educational system to give people the skills to thrive in the modern world.

    We must demand more of the pupils, teachers and the system. If you expect little of people you are rarely dissappointed.

    It should be sociably acceptable that anybody cannot read and write.

    We need centres of excellence, not a one size fits all approach and yes this means that there will be selection. Selection should be on merit, not postcode, not distance from the school, not the old boys network. If it isn’t the 11+ come up with an alternative.

    The world is and always has been a very competitive place. Our young people, our education professionals and society as a whole needs to recognise this.

    mick hall
    Your initial post did not appear to understand the point that Alex Kane made and contrary to your posting of 07:10 your response was not just “debating forcefully”. (IMHO)

  • Moderate Unionist

    That should read

    It should be sociably unacceptable for anybody to be unable to read and write.

  • slackjaw

    Moderate Unionist

    The world is and always has been a very competitive place.


  • Occasional Commentator

    Allowing large scale illiteracy is downright dangerous as well. I recently helped an elderly lady open up one of those child-proof medicine bottles. She then practically poured the stuff down the child’s mouth (I’m guessing it was her grandchild). And, while I forget what she was saying to the child about the reason for this yucky medicine, I get the impression she didn’t know what was wrong with the child or what should be done to cure it. I’m guessing she was unable to read the label on the bottle.

    Perhaps illiterates shouldn’t be allowed to have children? Before the PC lobby jump at that statement, they should remember that political correctness is the cause of much illiteracy in the first place. If literacy was compulsory for those who are capable of if, which is 99%+ of the population, then we wouldn’t have this problem.

  • slackjaw

    Perhaps illiterates shouldn’t be allowed to have children? Before the PC lobby jump at that statement, they should remember that political correctness is the cause of much illiteracy in the first place.

    To address the root cause, perhaps the ‘PC lobby’ shouldn’t be allowed to have children, then?

  • barnshee

    “Teachers don’t like being tested, and in reality they are not tested. Until I see large numbers of teachers being sacked for incompetence, the fact remains that teachers refuse to be made accountable for their results.”

    For “large numbers of teachers being sacked for incompetence” they would have to be proved incompetent. – pupils are tested ad nauseum the results are kept (crafty teacher will slip in the odd IQ test I was badly shaken to find that my records are still kept at my old school some 30 years later.)

    The GSCE /A level process is used to measure success ( schools consistently boast of their grades in good years and can be remarkably silent in bad years).. Schools and Teachers are inspected– where are then the incompetent teachers?

    I am sure most appropriately qualified teachers would have no objection to sitting their o/A level subject paper again- after all they have been preparing for it all year. (I would love to see todays pupils also sit a 50`s A level maths paper -did it –shocked them badly)

    Teachers who are not appropriately qualified ?
    well whose fault is that. Schools have to teach the curriculum. Can`t get a Maths or Science teacher (oohh too hard) well somebody has to teach it.

    Teachers have been abused and derided by politicans to obscure and divert attention from the damage done to the education system by politican initiatives and pay policies.

    Now safely removed for the process I can say that people get the education they earn. Sean and Sammy, Majella and Victoria are at the mercy of the worst behaviour in their cohort, that is if they are not the instigator. A substantial amount of time outside slected schooled is spent on “crowd control” or “baby sitting”

    Many pupils come from disadvantaged families. This howevermuch society would like to make, is not the teachers problem. Who said life was fair?

  • slightly nauseous

    What happened to you people? Fear permeates this thread like a poison. Fear of young people, their possibilities, their shared human gift of intelligence and new life. Where is the idealism? the hope? not in heroes and winners but in humanity.I feel sick. What happened to you?

  • slackjaw

    slightly nauseous

    Alas, children these days are little more than production and consumption units. Their capacity to do both must be optimised, otherwise there is no point to their education. Get with the programme, as they say here in rehab.

  • slightly less nauseous

    slackjaw, your ill disguised irony has helped with my condition. Regards to bernie and mick hall as well.

  • Occasional Commentator

    Why do some people assume that those of us who wish to improve the education system also think of children as mere production and consumption units? As ‘slightly nauseous’ said, fear does indeed permeate this thread, but it’s the defenders of the status quo that are in fear that they might have to think of what they’ve done to education and account for the problems within it.

    How is teaching a parent how to read medicine labels going to help the economy? It’s not, it’s simply going to mean parents don’t poison their own children.
    How is controlling discipline going to help the economy? It’s not, instead it’ll end the fear that teachers and many students feel.

    And calling for the level of education to be more tailored to the ability of the child isn’t a bad thing. Keeping the more able kids interested in education is good for them and good for society. It could keep them away from a life of crime for one. And of course, the less bright children aren’t going to be helped by the “standard”-level education because it’ll be beyond them.

    ‘slightly nauseous’ referred to young people’s possibilities and presumably doesn’t want to stifle them. But it looks like all we’re doing is refusing encouraging the possibility that they will be stuck in a life of crime, poverty, ignorance or despair. That’s one possibility I’m not afraid to stifle.

  • bertie

    Cheers MU

    I have been looking back at old posts as a contrast to the latest “seismic shift” and spotted your post. Maybe we should have another campaign. as well as the one we spoke of before, this time to unlock the potential of the next generation of schoolchildren so that they can play to their strengths.
    It has got me thinking and I have channelled one sense of grievance into another.

    It has just struck me that I was deprived of my liberty for 12 years, from the age of 4. (After 16 it was voluntary). OK it was day prison with weekends and holidays off, but I had done nothing to deserve it. There is a human right involved and it is a massive responsibility to deprive anyone of their freedom and I wonder if the education system realises this.

    I spent much of my time day dreaming, alternatively bored and terrified of the teachers some of whom were psychopaths and over fond of the cane. They also seemed to equate intelligence with speed and tidyness of copying down form the board, personal neatness and of course spelling. None of which I was (or am) any good at.

    I am quite sure that I could have learned everything I did at primary school in two years, if I had been taught in a way that suited my needs, or even if I had been given the books and taught myself. I could always have asked my parents. I remember when I was three, and had not heard of “division”, amusing myself by working out how many 1’s, 2’s, 3’s, 4’s and 6’s were in 12, using a ruler and being fascinated by the fact that it didn’t “work” for 5.

    Grammar School was much the same, except that with the fear of physical assault (no cane) lifted, I played the clown a bit. I got into grammar school because, although pretty crap at “normal” exams, the 11 plus had a significant part that was an intelligence test which got me in.

    I wonder could I sue for unjustified imprisonment. Anyone else feel that they were robbed of a significant part of their childhood.

  • Moderate Unionist

    LOL I had a similar experience of school. Managed to pass through without really touching the sides. Good grades but nobody knew I was there.

    With the benefit of life’s experience, I believe whole heartedly in education. I would give my eye teeth to have the opportunity to study full time again. Education should be at the very top of priorities for the people of Northern Ireland.

    …but if a large proportion of our young people can spend 12 years at school and come out with no qualifications and without even basic literacy skills then we must be doing something wrong (at least for this section of society).

    Consider it added to the list of campaigns we must set up.

  • bertie


    I feel that most of my grammar school teachers remember me all to well ;o) not that I was disruptive by todays standards anyway.

    I beleive that good education is very very important but bad education is abuse, not just in terms of it failing to educate but in restricting freedom, including the freedon to do a better job on your own.

    I too would love the chance to study again, ie without the necessity to earn my living, to have the space to learn what interests me and enable me to make a better contribution in the workplace and outside.

    We’re going to be busy