Channing School

Went to a local Independent School Founders Day service – Channing. Going through the entrance which fronts Highgate Hill was a bit like Disney as you came out the other side into a secret world full of women and girls, with lovely landscaping and clean spaces between the school buildings. Channing has a new Head, Ms Elliott, who gave a very good speech/report at the end of her first year. What struck me was that at A-level they had the best results in the whole of the UK – because in the days when I was at school (and I went to South Hampstead on a scholarship some decades ago), Channing was for nice girls but was not in the real academic race. They seem to be well up there now in terms of academic effort – but still combine a sort of ‘nice’ girl approach.

Sitting listening to the choir sing songs took me back to my school days – as it was formal in a way that you rarely see now in schools. As if tradition can somehow ensure rectitude. Maybe it can. Half of top jobs were found by a recent report to go to those who have been to independent schools, despite them only forming 5% of the school population. No surprise there. There is still, in my view, often no comparison between private and state education and that is the scandal that goes on untrammelled – particularly in London. If you live near a good comprehensive – then you are lucky.

The Charities Bill wending its way through Parliament at the moment tinkers with the charitable status enjoyed by Independent Schools in so much as it commands such schools to demonstrate that they have and maintain a public interest strand. For most this seems to mean that they are willing to do a few joint projects with the state schools locally and/or rent out their facilities to the local community (at a price!).

My solution is more radical, and as I submitted it in my draft chapter for the next so-called Orange Book – which isn’t an Orange Book – and is to be called Britain after Blair. However, the editors so far have rejected my solutions as being too interventionist. I will have a go at it again – but if not – I will publish it on my blog!

Anyway – Channing visited – I rush back to catch the end of the women’s singles. It’s a long time since I was tennis-mad – and used to ball boy at Queens just before Wimbledon. In fact, I did it three years running, to my mother’s dismay, right through both my O and A levels. And because the players knew me – they gave me a free pass to Wimbledon and the Players Lounge for those years. So – I retain a fondness for the game – although I haven’t put racket to ball for some years now.