Holland Park: what's school got to do with it?: My daughter became a truant: Parent - Seventies

Click to follow
The Independent Online
Susan Crosland's two daughters, Sheila and Ellen, left private schools for Holland Park in the late Sixties. Their stepfather was the late Tony Crosland, a Labour education minister.

IF YOU regard education as I did before I met Tony - that its primary purpose is academic - then obviously St Paul's is the best school. But Tony believed that the middle classes would get a better education and understanding of the world in a comprehensive school. That seemed to me reasonable.

Ellen was top of her class in her first year - there were 12 streams. Then, when she was about 14, all changed. Eventually I discovered - this is the difficulty with such a big school - that although she departed and came home at the right time, she was actually playing truant from classes a fair bit, and lunchtime was a Seventies joy in Ladbroke Grove or Holland Park. That was no fault of the school. The academic opportunity was there for those who took it, and she didn't.

For anyone who had adolescent children in the Seventies, it was a perpetual effort to put the case to resist the things that some other middle-class parents felt was fine. I can remember being asked at a parents' meeting whether my objection to children smoking pot in our house was because my husband was a Cabinet minister.

The fact that some children smoked pot in the lavatory affected their attitude to afternoon classes - how could it do otherwise? It went on in every school but was controllable in the private ones because they're smaller and the children were expelled.

My daughter regrets not having had an academic education, but doesn't think that can be blamed on the school. However, she certainly had good friends. It started off being a mixture, then, of their own volition, the middle-class children and the working-class children went into their own groups.