Education books

19th December 2003 at 00:00
Missing out on Education: children and young people speak out. Save the Children pound;6.95. Order on www.savethechildren.org.uk

A worrying number of young people spend long periods out of school. More than 125,000 need hospital tuition, for example, and 25,000 a year spend some time in a women's refuge.

This report from Save the Children - based on lengthy interviews and focus groups - concludes that, as a society, we aren't very good at looking after these marginalised youngsters. The failure is at all levels - too few schools keep in touch and provide work, some education authorities seem unable to live up to their responsibility to provide home tuition. As a consequence, parents who are already under pressure face the additional hassle of trying to catch the attention of professionals and administrators.

Particularly shaming are the accounts of asylum-seeking and refugee children who go to school eager to learn and are met by bullying, name-calling and the often new experience of being in an ill-disciplined class.

Only the kindness of individual teachers softens the experience - "In my first year they were very helpful, pushing me to learn and teaching me to learn English," says a teenage asylum-seeker.

This ought to be a wake-up call, but all the evidence is that disenfranchised, disempowered people fare badly in today's Britain.

Memories of a Mossley Childhood By Lydia Hoare with Carolyn O'Grady Published by Michael Marland pound;4.50 including postage from 22 Compton Terrace, London N1 2UN

How many of us wish we had properly listened to, and somehow recorded, the memories of our older relatives? There are so many unanswered questions, half-forgotten stories and puzzling breaks in the chronology.

This book is an example of how to do it - first you become aware that an elderly relative has lovely and loving memories of childhood and family life. Then you ask a writer (in this case Carolyn O'Grady) to interview her and produce a connected account. Finally - and this is an excellent touch - you let the subject read the account and make additional comments, which you include in her own words.

Lydia Hoare, now aged 83, lost her father when she was four weeks old and her mother when she was six. She was brought up by her older sisters, and had a happy and loving childhood.

Her stories of school life are particularly vivid. What's happened to all the games she describes? "We played ball games, skipping, tag, hopscotch and marbles. We also played with diabolos, shuttlecocks and bats, and hoops which we bowled along with a stick."

Blue remembered hills, indeed.

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