The evening under advisement is the product of a week at the Arvon Centre in Shropshire for our young people who are keen to write and willing to have it scrutinised and criticised by peers, teachers and a poet in residence. It’s a wonderful thing and we try to make it affordable for all who qualify, but each place works out a bit pricey and cake sales don’t quite bring home the bacon. We subsidise some through the School Fund, but that’s not exactly brimming with moolah in these straitened times. Anyway, the poetry was wonderful and the confidence of the young writers (and teachers who submit to the same discipline) impressive. What a memory.
So I mused on school and memory as I trotted from place to place this week. A colleague asked : ‘what should we do about the EU vote?’ and I had to think. Not too much. Help the children to understand the enormity of what’s happened, and what the future might hold, but keep everything else normal so that there’s a backdrop for their interest and fears. London voted pretty solidly, so there’s no need to frighten them with the idea that all of a sudden people are less keen on diversity than they were a week ago. That being said, they should be able to look back and say ‘I remember when the vote happened. We did such-and-such and Mr X explained what had happened. He was so right/wrong.’ That’s about as far as I get with a Brexit comment. The rest is silence.
So back to the memories. I was watching year 10 being summoned, corralled and sorted for exams. Girls cling to one another, boys thump each other companionably or mumble to themselves until they’re up against the piece of paper alone. We make them practice in year 10 in the hope that they remember it in year 11 and don’t waste time gazing about themselves. Everything’s easier in school if you have a fixed routine and the young people have something simultaneously to batter and shelter against. Then when they meet up in later life, or meet another former inmate, they can reminisce about how utterly wonderful and unreasonable school was and how it set them up for life.
HMCI’s been at it again: still people left to annoy but so little time. Children’s Social Care departments are useless: weak leadership and high caseloads. Weak leadership is a shame, though with the constant carping it’s a blessed miracle there are any at all. High caseloads? It’s like complaining about big classes in schools and I’m lost for another way to explain it: if there isn’t a sensible high-profile training route to respected and reasonably paid jobs in local authorities with the money to support a decent staffing establishment then exactly how is the service to improve and the caseloads to reduce? Shall we just shout at people until they give up? Is that going well so far?
Which takes me back to the little chap and his carrier bag. His life was better because of a social worker who stayed long enough to see him into a better place. She was an unusual woman, determined and exacting. She kept structures tight and reliable enough so that he had a ghost of a chance at life. And it takes me on to a whole new annoyance about inequality and our current leaders who change their minds about how schools should run and what they’re for almost monthly so we don’t know how to safeguard our ethos and traditions. I assume that if you’re educated expensively and privately you go to schools with long histories and very clear routines. They’re exceptionally secure institutions, so if your life is a bit ropey you’ll be protected by them. If you’re not expected to live for most of the year with people who don’t want you, perhaps the pain is lessened and the school experience gives you happyish memories where otherwise there might be nothing but sadness. Call it resilience if you like, but its really just luck and money.