School Daze: Searching for a Decent State Education by Andrew Penman

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School Daze: Searching for a Decent State Education by Andrew Penman

Category: Politics and Society
Rating: 3.5/5
Reviewer: Robert James
Reviewed by Robert James
Summary: Andrew Penman, Daily Mirror journalist, has two children, with the older approaching secondary school age. He decided when trying to find a way to get a place at a good state secondary school to write a journal of his struggles to do so, which forms the basis of this rather interesting but sometimes annoying book.
Buy? Maybe Borrow? Maybe
Pages: 208 Date: September 2010
Publisher: Mogzilla Life
ISBN: 978-1906132972

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As a teacher myself, I'm naturally well aware of most of the aspects of education that Andrew Penman discusses here and some of the stories he repeats are well-known to me but may be of news to some readers. Yes, people will really do just about anything to try and get their children into the school of their choice – even commit fraud! But how well does this book work as an insight into the type of measures some people will go to for those readers unaware of the desperation that can set in at this time in a child’s life? It’s a good question…

My main issue with the book is that Penman seems incredibly focused, to the point of obsession, with the mystical 5 A*-C % pass rate of schools, which he degradingly describes as MOB, in his words Mediocre Or Better. In other words, the percentage of pupils who leave school with five or more grades of C or above - generally referred to as 'good' by other people in and out of education, by the way, not just mediocre. While it's foolish to suggest that this number isn't important - it's one of the statistics which forms the basis of league tables and is one of the easiest pieces of information to find out about a school, especially if you're not local - Penman pretty much completely disregards everything a secondary school can offer which isn't related to this figure for most of the book.

Yes, he occasionally mentions things such as happiness of pupils, extra-curricular activities, and the wealth of other measures by which a school could be judged rather than just looking at one particular figure, but these references tend to be fleeting asides as he fixates time after time on the MOB percentage. Having said that, you certainly don’t need to be of the same opinion as the author when it comes to the value or not of this percentage to take on board the problems involved with finding a school.

So, putting that concern to one side, it's in many ways an interesting book. Many parents who are or have been in similar positions to Penman will sympathise with him as he desperately searches for a school he's happy to send his daughter to, and despite being an atheist tries going to church regularly in the hope it will boost her chances of getting into a Church of England primary school. His willingness to scour different regions of the country for a decent school and undergo a commute to work can't be faulted, and these are all considerations which will perhaps open the eyes of some parents who hadn't previously realised what a massive job it can be to find a secondary school they're happy with today, in certain areas at least.

Grudging mild recommendation despite my own irritation at parts of it. I'd like to thank the publishers for sending a copy to The Bookbag.

Further reading recommendation: For another look at education, this time across the Channel, School Blues by Daniel Pennac comes highly recommended.

Buy School Daze: Searching for a Decent State Education by Andrew Penman at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy School Daze: Searching for a Decent State Education by Andrew Penman at Amazon.co.uk.


Buy School Daze: Searching for a Decent State Education by Andrew Penman at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy School Daze: Searching for a Decent State Education by Andrew Penman at Amazon.com.


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