My son is nearly eight years old. Over the past four years (nursery and infants school), the small circle of his friends have had a variety of extra lessons outside school, including pre-school maths, French, Greek, music, dancing, swimming and tennis. Some of these children have lessons after school on three afternoons every week. They also have access to a variety of the latest educational software on their parents' PCs.
Although I am unable to afford my son more than one extra lesson per week and a basic word-processor, he is relatively fortunate. As a graduate, I am perfectly capable of teaching primary school maths and French myself. I have no problem providing him with a supply of up-to-date educational books - our local library is steadily reducing its stocks. I can afford to take him on educational visits to museums, castles, the Tower of London etc. Many of these places now charge quite heavily, which with the addition of train fares places it quite out of reach of those on pounds 77 per week income support or pounds 3.50 per hour wages.
My son attends a (state) school which lies mid-way between a council estate and a middle-class residential area. There is a pool of well educated mothers who do not have to work and are therefore available to act as free high-quality classroom assistants, thus mitigating the effects of rising class sizes. The work of these better-off families through the PTA has provided the school with many extra facilities.
This is in stark contrast to a local school in a different area of town where I recently did some volunteer work. The staff are expert and dedicated, but there are not nearly enough of them, and the parents appear largely unable to help. Many of the mothers speak little or no English, and many are forced to work.
The parents of today's 11-year-olds were educated during the Sixties, when there was generous state provision for education, altruism rather than selfishness was fashionable, and it was considered both a moral duty and an investment in the future for people on good salaries to contribute generously through taxation to the education of all the nation's children.
St Albans, HertfordshireReuse content