Tuesday, 23 August 2011

In praise of...Michael White

In case you missed it, his views on the London looting etc and the politicians prescription for dealing with it.  One thing I will say about Tony Blair, he never took his eye off the ball in office, it was Gordon Brown who dismantled the Respect Taskforce and did not replace it with an alternative, leaving the issue of the growing underclass, neglected during his 4 years in charge.

Saturday, 6 August 2011

Who owns feminism?

That's what occurred to me today when I read the piece written by Julia Raeside in today's Guide supplement, ostensibly reviewing TV shows by Cherry Healey and Dawn Porter (here I have to confess an interest as Dawn is a neighbour).  It was a very personal poisonous rant about 2 women who make shows of which she is contemptuous...on the basis that they are somehow false feminists.

I felt a bit angry for Dawn and also sad that in 2011 there are women who don't fully understand what seems to me to be self-evident - that the whole point of feminism is to be the kind of woman you want to be.

Not the sort of woman who is defined by men; or by intellectuals of either gender or just by poisonous TV reviewers.

Poison is an easy way to grab some attention I suppose and it certainly works at the Daily Mail (Jan Moir).  But I didn't think or expect to find it in the Guardian.  Perhaps it was a sort of job interview for the DM?  Let's hope so!

Tuesday, 2 August 2011

In praise of....Frank Field

 A couple of weeks ago, Frank Field MP set off a small firework on the Today programme by suggesting in a very honest way that some children reach Nursery School age at 3/4 unable to say or recognise their own name.    It seemed to shock John Humphries at the time and even led to a question on Any Questions last weekend.  No-one working in Early Years will have been surprised.  By the age of 5 it is possible to predict with chilling accuracy the life chances and future achievement of every single child.

You can predict the ones who will go to prison.
You can predict the ones who will never find a job.
You can predict the ones who will have mental health issues...at 5.

That's because the gap in achievement on entry to Primary school between those at the top and those at the bottom does not narrow as they progress through to Secondary school.   Even though children pick up basic skill sets along the way, that achievement gap remains broadly the same.  How depressing is that?

Well Surestart was meant to address that.  ' Narrowing the Gap' it's called in the jargon.  Except that it hasn't really worked.  The political view which is easily expressed was that professionals could work some magic and re-start those children's life chances with early intervention, if only there was more investment.  The alternate view which was held by many of those professionals and not so readily expressed by politicians (for obvious electoral reasons) was that actually parents are much more important and unless they are engaged with their children and have aspirations for them, nothing is likely to change.

Another jargon term:  'Hard to reach families' a euphemism for those parents.  Trouble is that they have more children than their better educated and more aspirational peers and their lack of engagement and aspiration is replicated in their own children.  So in very crude terms, the problem is growing.  How to break the cycle?  I'm not sure anyone has a magic solution but it starts with honesty and Frank Field has been telling it like it is for some time now.  And he does offer solutions but no easy magic formula; just better targeted engagement with those families using a whole range of measures adapted to individual circumstances.    Not sexy, not 'bite-size news' and therefore unable to be picked up by any ambitious politician...

BM is back... and not altogether optimistic about the world.