Tuesday, June 06, 2006

David Lammy goes to school

There is a piece in the Guardian's Education supplement today on the Into University project. This is a scheme to encourage children from disadvantaged backgrounds to think of going to university and sounds wholly admirable.

Rachel Carr, one of the organisers says of it: "The idea was always to provide the sort of support structures that middle-class families take for granted."

She adds:
"When children are living in cramped accommodation with a lot of noise going on, it's hard for them to concentrate properly on their homework - especially if they are not getting a great deal of help or encouragement from their parents."
Which is a valid point and makes you wonder why the sort of people who write on education for the Guardian spent decades demanding that continuous assessment should play a greater role in deciding examination grades.

What really interests me, however, is the way the article presents the black government minister David Lammy. It describes the way two pupils from Into University interview and makes him out to be the star of the show:
Lammy is almost everything you hope he will be. He's charming, attentive and unpatronising. Most important, from the students' point of view, he's not white, middle-class and middle-aged like every other politician they've ever seen or heard. He may not talk street - though he says he can - but he's still recognisably one of them.
Reading this you might think that Lammy went to a London comprehensive himself, but his educational background is rather different.

Yes, he was born in a working-class area of North London, and brought up by his mother after his father left the family. But he won an Inner London Educational Authority choral scholarship to The King's School, Peterborough, and was a chorister in the cathedral choir there.

This is not quite as grand as it sounds, in that The King's School is not a private school but a Church of England comprehensive. (Peterborough and Southwell are the only cathedral choirs not attached to a private school.) But it is a long way from Tottenham in more ways than one. If Lammy can still "talk street", he must have a good memory.

You might think this interesting educational background would have been worth a mention in the article, but there is not a hint of it. Perhaps it would point a moral that Guardian readers would not appreciate?

1 comment:

Tom Barney said...

Just what is the moral? I think you have put your finger on it in using the word "interesting", although it is rather a feeble one. What strikes me is not that Lammy was elevated from his Tottenham background - it is not a matter of better or worse exactly - but the sheer quirkiness of the experience, and one hopes the result. But you don't need to go away to do that, or to have a scholarship system. For example I learnt the cello on Saturday mornings at a music centre provided by my own LEA; I still play it. The centre was just another free service. And have you ever read "Rushavenn Time"?