Dick Whittington's turn again

30th January 1998 at 00:00
I was a teacher for two years and loved it. In those days teachers had a great deal of freedom to run their classes the way they thought best. Nowadays, though, someone on the outside is always trying to get more control over what teachers do.

The new mayor for London will have no control over schools - but that doesn't mean he won't have something to say on the subject. There's a danger here: politicians are always tempted to make a big noise about education, whether or not they have something to offer.

I believe that unless the mayor can deliver real practical help to London schools, he or she should keep entirely out of education. The last thing we need is another politician strutting about denouncing teachers. Nor do we need yet another "high-level task force" on standards. My own experience tells me that the more politicians and bureaucrats stick their noses into education, the worse it gets. Schools have been political footballs for the past 40 years, and it's time that it stopped.

However, I believe that a mayor could offer practical help, for example by co-ordinating efforts to get more support for schools from business. Some countries have well-developed mentoring schemes, where people from local businesses give individual support to individual pupils. It is happening a little in London too, but it needs to be given a great deal more encouragement. This is exactly the sort of school project in which a mayor could take a positive lead.

The way forward, I believe, is for all those who care about our children's education to offer specific and practical support for schools.

Lord Archer is a Conservative peer and best-selling novelist

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