|Founders Day George Heriot School Edinburgh|
I have been a stern critic of education in the UK because, once the politicians abandoned the 'Grammar School', there have been few opportunities for kids from a poor background to escape their circumstances of birth. When I attended a grammar school (in the fifities) any pupil from a council house estate could, through academic achievement, rise to the top and benefit from a university education.
I also believe that education is not purely about passing examinations but it is also to teach good behaviour by example. It is about developing loyalty, team spirit and a sense of pride in achievement. When the national education system began tampering with the marking of exam papers that sense of achievement disappeared. Kids know who the bright students are so when they gain a false mark they are aware that the marking has been manipulated. If the whole marking system has been corrupted then where is the pride in achievement?
My granddaughter gained admittance to George Heriot's following the death of my son in a road traffic accident. Way back in 1628 the goldsmith George Heriot bequeathed money to form a school in Edinburgh and insisted that any child who lost a parent at an early age should be considered for a place at the school. It was and is an astonishing act of philanthropy! These 'foundation' students are treated equally with the children of fee paying families.
Last Monday I watched as 1600 children from ages 5-18 paraded before the school authorities to watch them pay respect to the founder. We then attended a service in the Greyfriars Kirk and finally a buffet lunch in the quadrangle.
All the time I was reminded of a real sense of history and I observed as decent young people mixed easily with staff and visitors. The organisation was impressive but above all these children are being taught to become good citizens and support each other. They wear their uniform with pride. I got the feeling that it would almost be an act of treachery to let that uniform down.
The format that makes this school so successful could be replicated everywhere if there was political will. I suspect that the teaching unions do not have too firm a grip on this school so that the ethos dictated by George Heriot so long ago has continued through the years without political manipulation to such an extent that today it is almost a modern miracle.