Several times a year, the Times arts commentator Richard Morrison writes a cliche-ridden piece that proclaims our schools to be Gradgrind institutions without sport, arts or a hinterland. Morrison repeats this canard today in his tirade against homework. As someone who has visited scores of schools and has been a school governor on a good but not atypical comprehensive for some years, I know this to be wide of the mark.
School sport has been revived, with lots of new competitions under way, thanks to the brilliant work of the Youth Sports Trust and specialist sports colleges. The sale of school playing fields - except to provide brand new sports facilities - has been halted for some years. Lottery funding has transformed many facilities. There are more active trips abroad than in the past. Music has been supported by hundreds of millions of new money. There is lots of great drama in our schools. Debating is seeing a return in many state schools. Some have their own radio stations, run by pupils. Most have seen a revival of after-school activities in the last decade, with lots of sports and hobby clubs, often supported by dedicated teachers. And cooking is being put back on the curriculum, thanks in part to Jamie Oliver.
Of course, schools want their pupils to get good qualifications, but most schools also place a lot more emphasis on pupils discovering new things for themselves than they did in the past, and on developing independent learners. The idea that good results are only being achieved at the expense of a 'hinterland' or creativity could only be written by someone who doesn't see enough of what really happens now in our state schools.