Success is seen as failure of others

2nd February 1996 at 00:00
The political row over Harriet Harman's decision to send her son to a selective grammar school should not obscure the real problem underlying the situation: why have we not been able to devise an educational system which recognises high achievement in some without at the same time creating a sense of failure in the rest?

This applies to the national system as well as in schools. As the former headteacher of a grammar school, I am only too well aware that the lowest stream was not regarded as very able by many staff, even though these pupils were in the top 25 per cent academically of the population.

We have certainly tried, but to no avail. The 1994 Act could have gone some way, but the spirit of it was ignored and it, in fact, intensified the problem; the comprehensive system has created as many problems as it has solved; the GCE was changed from a passfail exam to a graded system, but we still talk of A-C passes; the original TGAT proposals might have helped but they were never tried and the first national curriculum assessments, which could also have helped, were immediately dropped and the test results are used as the main indication of a school's worth.

This cannot be attributed wholly to a society founded on class distinction.

Go to any football match and you will hear the winning side's supporters, not celebrating their success, but taunting and mocking the losers. Is there something in the British psyche which makes us see success for some only in terms of failure for the rest?

Whoever said the British love a gallant loser was not thinking about education.

T MCSWEENEY 2 Mayville Drive Manchester

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