Linda Colling: Children like boundaries

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IN Victorian times more than half of children grew up unable to read or write because they never went to school.

That was a privilege poor children were denied. What a contrast to today with one in five leaving primary school unable to read or write.

Now, on average, a staggering 20 per cent who start secondary school are barely literate – and that figure rises to 33 per cent in poorer youngsters.

That stark Ofsted report warns that Britain is falling behind other countries and that there has been no improvement since 2008.

Shocking to think that schools are turning out pupils handicapped in the basics.

I’d say much of that comes down to the calibre of the teachers and teaching methods.

While we don’t want to go back to the fear that filled the Victorian classroom, the work ethic meant that no child would leave without knowing the Three Rs.

Interestingly, the majority of children from Valley Road Juniors, featured on this page today, who visited the old Donnison School, said they liked the strict, no-nonsense teaching.

Whether they would like it day in and day out is another matter. What it showed was that children like boundaries.

They like to know where they are and it also means the jokers don’t get a chance to act themselves.

In classrooms today, teaching methods are such poles apart from the Victorian era, to be on another planet.

Learning by rote, even in my day, meant you knew your tables, you could do mental arithmetic and not only have a grasp of the written word but write it.

Many kids these days would be lost off at joined up writing, because it is text they see on computers, whiteboards and in books.

Once the basics were drummed in to us all, just like manners and listening.

Standards have fallen as too many teachers have become too lax. The emphasis now is to make learning fun.

And it can be, but first and foremost it has to be understood that school is where you go to work and learn.

When the Donnison School opened its doors to 36 poor girls in the 18th century between the ages of seven and sixteen, every one of them knew how highly prized a place there was and especially for a girl.

What a visionary Elizabeth Donnison was to create a school for girls who were then treat as second class citizens.

And the poorer you were the less chance you had of learning anything other than how to scrub floors and skivvy.

And once education was all and rich and poor aspired to attaining knowledge.

Now you don’t have to know very much at all to get by. Google is God.

Meanwhile Sir Michael Wilshaw, Ofsted chief inspector is preparing a 10-point plan to drive up standards of reading and writing to stop the rot.

For some it’s all too late. School’s out and they know nowt.