Francis Beckett

Yesterday I saw the shiny new privatised schools which politicians of both main parties envisage for the next generation, and I wondered why we hate our children so much.

First I went to hear Tory education spokesman Michael Gove and his New Schools Network. Gove explained how wonderful the KIP – Knowledge Is Power – schools are in the USA, and how, if only we can get rid of the dead hand of local authorities, we can have private education providers doing the same terrific things here. You can tell how good KIP is, he told us, from the hours children work in their schools. It’s 7.30 in the morning until five at night, Monday to Friday, and four hours on Saturday. There’s strict discipline, teachers are on call 24/7 and all pupils have all teachers’ mobile numbers. Children must wear uniforms, and the uniform code is strict. (Neo-liberals are terribly keen on forcing children into uniforms.)

Soon after he became Labour leader, Michael Foot travelled to St Albans for an open air meeting for the agricultural workers’ trade union. I was its head of communications, and we knew there was to be a demonstration by the left against Foot’s Northern Ireland policy.