Do not trample on dreams of the poor

13th November 1998 at 00:00
Bernard Barker's picture of the two communities with whom he spent his day of contrasts ("Strawberries for the cream". TES, October 30) made moving reading.

He finds, however, that his "afternoon and evening defy connection" - and there he is wrong. Unless the connection is made, and made positively, then the junior schoolchildren of his afternoon are indeed blighted in their prospects.

Unless we continue to applaud real success and progress towards it, then there is no moment of pride left for those who daily try to teach the disadvantaged how to overcome their disadvantage.

I have, in recent years, visited many developing countries, where the educational conditions, and the poverty of material, intellectual and social life faced by most children pains the heart of visiting westerners. In some of these countries, it is hard to see what hope can be offered to the young, since, unlike ourselves, they have almost no ladder of educational success available.

Even more, the economic prosperity which their countries need to develop public health and education eludes them, because they have no world-class universities where creative minds can develop the ideas and inventions which make our western countries rich.

We should work harder to provide the ladders, and support and praise those teachers who produce achievement and success.

But let us not suppose that we improve the chances of the deprived by tearing down the top rungs of the ladder, and sneering at the rewards of success which motivate the struggling child from the council estate Bernard Barker describes.

If we do, we risk a descent into universal failure, in which the dreams of the bright girl or boy from the poor or rich home will forever be unfulfilled.

Pauline Perry Lucy Cavendish College Madingley Road Cambridge

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