Saturday, 8 June 2013

Genuine Education!

Founders Day George Heriot School Edinburgh
I have been been absent on family matters for a few days which is the reason this blog has been quiet of late.  Normal ranting will restart.  I was attending Founder's Day at the George Heriot School in Edinburgh and it opened my eyes.

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. 


bewick said...

I too have fond memories of my Grammar School in the 50s/60s.

A couple of weeks ago I was sorting an "all but stopped" computer for the 16 year old daughter of a friend.
She was/is undertaking her final exams for GCSE. Seems that the actual exam only accounts for 20% ? of the final mark. She already knew her likely grade - subject to this final exam. In fact if the final mark wasn't good enough she was able to quickly re-take the exam and already had done so on one subject at least - if I undestood correctly.
She also showed me the "revision books" with which she was issued. I was a little pre-occupied with the computer but a quick look showed that these seemed to summarise ALL that she needed to know for the exam. (+ some "political statements" at the foot of each page). No poring through self written subject notebooks - or only a little!!
Good luck to your granddaughter. I have an impression that Scottish Education hasn't yet been devalued + the Heriot School is in effect a public schoool.

bryboy said...

There is no doubt Bewick that the George Heriot school is a public school. I spoke at length to a former Headmaster who actually recruited my granddaughter in accordance with the George Heriot criteria. He assured me that if any of the fee paying parents objected to the 'foundation' children then their children were not admitted. The ethos is that strong! He was so impressive and enthusiastic that I almost wept! Later we went to pick up my granddaughter from a 'friends' house. When we arrived I met a collection of 'yummy mummies' from ...Argentina, Sri Lanka, Holland and India. Most of them were health professionals. I tell you what this city centre house was massive but the kids just loved it.
We are losing the war Bewick but then the competition is so delightful! Maybe we needed this multicultural invasion to wake the country up? Maybe they will eventually challenge our Political Class because we have failed to do it!