What's luck got to do with it?;Opinion

7th May 1999 at 01:00
WE MET Peter, the unluckiest man in sport, after the Hibs game last week. He used to play in the Thursday night veterans' five-a-sides, and if ever a loose shoelace was to prove disastrous or a ball was seeking a head off which to deflect for a bizarre own goal, inevitably Peter was your man.

When Hibs' Franck Sauzee had scored the goal of the season with a 20-yard volley, Peter had been beneath the stand in the gents and missed the only highlight of a drab game. I dread to think how he copes on the golf course.

Earlier in the day I'd had cause to reflect on the more serious application of good fortune when my son took part in the Edinburgh primary school finals of the Burns Club competition. It was an inspiring occasion, with a large number of P4 to P7 youngsters singing, reciting and playing, in honour of the bard. The pupils on show were talented and confident; they had blossomed in the care and security provided by their teachers and parents.

Rabbie would have been pleased at the different ethnic backgrounds represented on that stage, but I suspect the author of "A Man's a Man" would have been less than sanguine about the narrow range of social backgrounds that seemed to be there.

You couldn't help feeling that these pupils were being given yet more opportunities to raise their self-esteem. They were what we, as teachers, would call "lovely kids", but they had profited from the luck of their background.

The gap between those who have these chances (and, vitally, the confidence to take them) and those the politicians refer to as "socially excluded" seems to be growing ever greater, to the detriment of our whole society.

Reflecting on Scottish education traditions, as shipbuilding totters on the edge of extinction on the Upper Clyde, it's not just nostalgia that reminds us that in former generations education was valued by all sections of society. Those in the older generations who "learnt" their way to success from humble beginnings, and those of my generation who were the first of their family to reach university, are a testament to that inclusive culture of opportunity. Nowadays, it seems you need the luck to be born into the right sort of background if disaffection and "exclusion" are not to blight your future.

As results are declared in the first election for a Scottish parliament in modern times, is it too much to hope that our new MSPs will focus more dynamically and effectively on the true provision of opportunities for all Jock Tamson's bairns, and the inclusion of all sections of society in their vision for Scottish education?

I wish them luck - it seems they'll need it.

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