Friday, September 12, 2008

Andrew Adonis and Kingham Hill School

Having welcomed the idea a couple of years ago, I can only welcome the announcement that more children "in danger ... of being taken into care", as the BBC nicely puts it, will be offered places at boarding schools funded by the state.

Indeed, it is a shame to learn from The Times that only 15 children have been given places in those two years.

But what really interests me here is the career of the minister who made announcement, Andrew Adonis.

He is almost unique in the modern Labour Party in coming from a poor background (which does not stop him being a hate figure for many on the left). Even that tribune of the people John Spellar turns out to have been educated a leading public school - Dulwich College. (Something he shares with Raymond Chandler, P. G. Wodehouse and Bob Monkhouse.)

According to Wikipedia, Adonis (originally named Andreas) is the son of a Greek Cypriot father and an English mother. His mother left the family when he was a toddler and he was placed in care shortly afterwards and lived in a council children's home until the age of 11.

Aged 11, he was sent to Kingham Hill School in Oxfordshire. As he writes on the school's website (Plymouth is the name of a house at the school):

arrived at Plymouth in April 1974 after an extremely unsettled few years in a children's home. It was one of the first times I had seen the English countryside, and the first time in England I had been so far from London. It was also mid-way through the school year. So all in all, it was a shock to the system, and to begin with an unhappy experience.

But Plymouth and KHS soon came to supply all I lacked in life outside: stability, friends, values and a sense of self-worth and self-belief.

Looking at the accompanying photograph, Kingham has clear similarities with the Bonkers' Home for Well-Behaved Orphans, but Adonis goes on to say: "I could write so much more of these seven years, but suffice it to say that they pretty well made me what I am today."

I doubt that Adonis would be a minister today if he had continued living in Her Majesty's Children's Homes.

Another former pupil of Kingham Hill School is the Irish political journalist Bruce Arnold. He wrote a series of four novels in the 1970s and 1980s - the Coppinger novels - about the school, beginning with "A Singer at the Wedding". I read them many years ago and recall reading an extract from the first novel in The Times when I was at school myself.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

>>He is almost unique in the modern Labour Party in coming from a poor background <<

So the Lib Dems are more working class?

How many millionaires in the Con-Dem coalition? 18