When did we condemn our kids to mediocrity?

The second of three thought-provoking articles by former Queen s School governor MIKE STALLARD, following the school s spectacular crash into special measures and the major plans to reconstitute it and give it a new name. Think back to your own school

The second of three thought-provoking articles by former Queen's School governor MIKE STALLARD, following the school's spectacular crash into 'special measures' and the major plans to reconstitute it and give it a new name.

Think back to your own school days.

Once there were several secondary schools here in Wisbech. There was a network of rural schools throughout Fenland, plus the Convent for Catholics. There was a Grammar School. Boys and Girls could be educated separately or together. There were state schools and church schools. The Queen's School was one among many. Parents had a real choice.

Because the schools were smaller, teachers knew their pupils well. They could sort out the sad cases and cherish them. They could oversee discipline and look out for trouble. They could encourage any academic minds. They knew everyone in the school and their parents.

Many teachers devoted their entire lives to the same school. Many were spurred on by their Christian faith.

Education mattered enough for teachers to be quite violent. Knuckles were rapped hard with a ruler. Bottoms were beaten with a cane. Outside the classrooms, the deputy head stalked, listening for teachers who could not keep order. Books were marked every day and spellings written out three times neatly. Then there was detention . . .

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By the age of 14, then 15, then, finally 16, children entered the workplace. There was always a job on the land. Some worked as secretaries or in shops.

Those who wanted promotion went into an apprenticeship where they wore a boiler suit and smoked cigarettes. Their pay was considerably higher than most teachers' salaries.

They had entered the world of grown ups. The school, in other words, was there for the local community.

Girls quite often became mothers and devoted their lives to looking after their families. Their husbands (how quaint) supported them in their house (which was, in those days, affordable). There was no shame in this.

Meanwhile, a few boys and girls went on from the (free) Grammar School to become academics or professionals in other places.

Today there are two possibilities in Wisbech for your children - the Grammar School or the Queen's School.

In the Grammar School old fashioned values are kept up. Books are marked. Teachers make every effort to know their children well. They stay put.

Pupils hold their heads high and are proud to attend. They get somewhere. And it costs an arm and a leg.

Otherwise, there is the Queen's School.

Have things improved since you left school? Here are some ways to judge for yourself.

Take a look at how your children dress to go to the Queen's School. What are they trying to tell you? Would you go to work dressed like that?

Where do people go after leaving the Queen's School? Do you know any who are actually in paid employment?

Some people will want to become academic successes, but that means sacrifice. You have to stay in at night doing homework.

You cannot really start a home and family before you are in your thirties.

You have to shoulder a heavy debt.

Should we assume that everyone wants to make this sacrifice?

Does your child need to? Has anyone ever mentioned any alternatives?

How can pupils learn if their work is not corrected? When was the last time you looked in your child's notebook?

How does it compare with what you distantly remember about those far off days?

Are there any spellings, corrections or comments?

Have a look.

When did your son last get a detention? Did you ever get one yourself?

Please answer all the questions in black ball point pen . . .