This Times article was so well written by comedienne Natalie Haynes that we just had to … well, steal it, actually …
I have to tell you, it was a close-run thing. My favourite money story this week, I mean. You'd think the Budget would have been a shoo-in, and normally it would, except it was kind of boring if you don't drive much. And I know wine is going up by 14 pence a bottle on Sunday night, but I'm pretty confident that on Monday morning, in my local supermarket, there'll still be loads of it for £3.99.
The John Lewis list was a late entry, obviously, and for any MPs wondering, it will be the fact that you could spend £200 of my money on a blender which will make you the first against the wall when the revolution comes. Really, it will. At the next election, when someone asks you about voter turnout, don't blame the apathy of youth, because apathy doesn't quite do justice to the emotion most of us feel on discovering that you could each spend £250 on a coffee machine. I know, I know, it's essential. Or at least it would be, if Man hadn't invented the kettle. An example of which can be bought at Tesco for £4.60.
But even that was beaten into second place by Ed Balls's astonishing revelation, based on unverified research (ooh, my favourite kind) that some state schools are charging parents admission fees. The good ones, obviously, where the children come out the other end largely uninjured. Not the ones where the body-piercing is done with scissors. One school in North London admitted that it was asking for £50 to fund extracurricular activities. It gives you the money back if your kid doesn't get in, though, sadly missing the opportunity to almost define the notion of adding insult to injury.
The schools admissions procedure is mesmerising, even to the childless. Every part of it seems designed to induce the worst aspects of humanity. Some schools are brilliant, some are dreadful, and your child could end up in either. It's like the scene in Flash Gordon where Peter Duncan has to shut his eyes and put his arm in a tree stump to see if he gets bitten by a lethal space-crab.
Not liking their odds in many parts of the country (and let's not forget that Duncan gets the venom), parents play the system - moving house, finding God, assassinating the children next door. O'Brien has to hold a cage of rats over Winston's eyes to make him shriek "Do it to Julia." We just have to offer a schools lottery.
I think the new-found religion one is the most chilling, though. If I'd seen my parents acquire a sudden and unexpected fondness for the Pope, I would have thought they'd gone quite mad. And that was before the Vatican issued a new list of seven deadly sins this week, which puts contraception on a par with murder, and prohibits "morally debatable scientific experiments". I was going to pack up my laboratory and stop trying to build that robot boy, but as an ardent fan of the contraceptive Pill, I guess I'm going to hell already.
But after all the mud slung at pushy parents, now it turns out that the schools themselves may not be without corruption. Some apparently ask for an admission fee, others for compulsory donations. Which, to anyone but an accountant, sounds a lot like a fee. Actually, my accountant thinks it's a fee too. There's something rather brilliant about most of the schools that stand accused of these practices being faith schools. With the faith in Arthur Daley, rather than an omnipotent being, I suppose. Perhaps they could specialise in teaching bribery, and add blackmail, extortion and fraud to the curriculum too. When Ronald Searle invented St Trinian's, he can't have imagined that its moral values would one day seem perfectly reasonable.
The admissions code for schools is a baffling mishmash - you can admit children for aptitude, but not for ability. You can let them in if they have a sibling at the school, but not if it's a cousin. Children in care take precedence and special needs children must be given priority. In other words, the best thing you can do for your children's future is to abandon them, after making sure they have a dyslexic older brother.
But why should schools be the only ones to make money in this whole grotty business? Parents of children who are already at desirable schools should start auctioning off the right to adopt them, thus providing next year's intake with a handy set of older siblings in situ. And why just auction them off once? Each child could sustain at least five new brothers and sisters, surely. And if it's a Roman Catholic school you're trying to get into, that would probably earn you double points.
The GOS says: Well said.
But let it not be forgotten that the school concerned was Jewish. What business has the state to be funding even ordinary lessons at a Jewish school, let alone their extra-curricular activities? Or an Islamic school, come to that, or a Hare Krishna school, or a Catholic school, or indeed any kind of school dedicated to any kind of primitive superstition? How long do we have to wait before someone starts the first Voluntary Aided Primary School for People Who Believe in Fairies? What's wrong with fairies, anyway, that this society discriminates against them so consistently?
I also have to dispute the belief, so prevalent in the country today, that some schools are excellent and some are absolutely dreadful. Over most of the country, this just isn't true. All right, there are some schools that are a little better than others, but really in most places the difference is not so great that it's worth getting your knickers in a twist over.
I stress, this is the case for MOST of the country. On the other hand if you lived in Newham or Beswick or Salford or Winson Green you'd probably kill your kids and feed them to the pit bull rather than send them to any of the local schools.
Interesting to hear that the Pope has made it a deadly sin to engage in "morally debatable scientific experiments". Does that include the vast (only slightly) scientific experiment of postulating an absurd theory that man's activities are causing the earth to implode and then seeing how much money you can make out of the ensuing hysteria?
Now that's what I call a sin.
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