Spectator Life

Spectator Life

An intelligent mix of culture, style, travel, food and property, as well as where to go and what to see.

Freddy Gray

Why I betrayed my friend over a bottle of rum

There are moments in a boy’s adolescence when he catches a glimpse of the man he will become. Faced with adversity, is he the brave sort – or the sort who runs away and lets others suffer? Aged 13, on a school trip to Portsmouth, I discovered I was the latter. Tom insisted he’d found

Toby Young

The true cost of Labour’s war on private schools

In a newspaper article five years ago, Michael Gove singled out the tax exemptions enjoyed by private schools thanks to their charitable status as one of the ‘burning injustices’ of our time. He took it for granted that scrapping these benefits would raise money and proposed spending it on children in care instead. ‘How can

Bring back the handwritten school report

The end of term is here and parents up and down the country will be awaiting the arrival of their child’s end-of-term report. But I hope they won’t be expecting too many pearls of wisdom from the impersonal emails that will ping into their inboxes shortly.   Ten or a dozen years ago (the exact date

What teachers really want for Christmas

As the end of term approaches parents may be wondering what to buy their child’s teacher for Christmas. It’s the season of goodwill, after all. It’s also a golden opportunity to win a way to Sir or Miss’s heart, so they’ll continue to take good care of little Olivia or Oliver in the new year.

James Heale

Carol Vorderman: My maths manifesto for the nation

A glittering TV career, an MBE, various honorary degrees, tens of thousands of TikTok followers and the only person to win the (now cancelled) Rear of the Year award multiple times. There are many accolades that Carol Vorderman has been afforded during her 40-year career, yet few mean more to her than her claim to

The long game: independent schools are coming round to football

Until recently, football was viewed with suspicion in independent schools – the poor relation to its big-hitting step-brother, rugby. That well known saying about football being ‘a game for gentlemen played by hooligans’ seemed to sum up independent schools’ attitudes perfectly. Well into the new millennium, promising young players would be cajoled into playing rugby

Why I’ve quit teaching

For the past four years I have worked at an academy in Hackney. I was deputy head of maths for three of those years, and head of maths for the final term, managing 16 staff. After nearly a decade teaching in the state sector, I’d finally worked my way up to a well paid and

How a skiing trip turned me into a megalomaniac

In the instant I first became aware of the unpleasant nature of the cosmos we all infest, my megalomaniac nature and a desire to marry Rupert Murdoch, I was on a school trip to Gstaad. Now and then the night train stopped at snow-capped stations, which I could see from my lower bunk. My teenage

How to get through a school reunion

T here’s no need for a mirror at school reunions. Just look all around you to see the cruel effects of anno domini on your old contemporaries – and don’t fool yourself that you alone have miraculously dodged the hair-thinning, waist-expanding horrors of middle age. Is that really the semi-divine girl who scored a modelling contract

The struggle of summer with a disabled child

Day one of the school holidays this year set the tone for the sprawling six weeks ahead. My teenage son rolled out of bed at a leisurely 1.05 p.m., by which time my daughter had smashed her head repeatedly against the kitchen wall, bitten my leg and trashed our living room. And so began a

Gift of the gab: all children should learn public speaking

What is the secret to a billionaire’s success? When Warren Buffet was asked how young people could mimic his wealth, he said: ‘Hone your communication skills, both written and verbal… You can have all the brainpower in the world, but you have to be able to transmit it, and the transmission is communication.’ Buffet knows

The truth about getting into Oxbridge

Liz Truss suggests that all students who score straight A*s at A-level should be interviewed by Oxford or Cambridge. They, and their parents, might well wonder why they would not be summoned for an interview if they can achieve such impressive results. But it’s not that simple. Post-A-level candidates are much fewer in number than

The Oxbridge Files: which schools get the most pupils in?

Oxford and Cambridge have released figures showing how many offers they gave to pupils from schools in the 2021 Ucas application cycle. We have combined the figures in this table. It shows how well state grammars and sixth-form colleges compete with independent schools. Over the years, both universities have increased the proportion of acceptances from

The dos and don’ts of school tours

There are moments in life that serve as a wake-up call to adulthood. Perhaps, the first was sitting in the beige office of a mortgage broker, wondering how my soon-to-be-husband and I had made the leap from meeting on a sweaty Durham dance floor to this airless room in Holborn. More recently, it was looking

Lara Prendergast

The enduring appeal of school name tapes

I hadn’t thought about Cash’s name tapes for many years. My mother used to sew them into clothes I planned to take to school. Occasionally I find one in a sock or a threadbare T-shirt and feel wistful for the years past. My name tapes were white, with a navy, serif typeface. The other day,

Why handwriting still matters

I work in learning support at a prep school in the South-East and have started teaching my pupils handwriting. It seems that the future of education, especially for children with special needs, is digital. But why should those who struggle to write legibly be given a laptop instead of extra lessons in handwriting? Faced with

School trip: My déjeuner sur l’herbe

In 1966 we were 17 and about to do A-levels and leave our convent school for ever at the end of that summer term. Two girls were having a lesbian affair, another had been tempted to sleep with a boy, dramatically confessing this to our head nun, Mother Benedicta, in Mother B’s terrifying private room

James Kirkup

The march of the middle-class apprentices

Tony Blair used to joke that he could announce the start of a war during a speech on skills policy and no one would notice. Like all the best jokes, it contained more than a grain of truth. Britain — or rather educated Britain — has never been interested in the parts of our education

We need more technology in classrooms – not less

The government has rightly identified that improving education will help ‘level up’ Britain. Higher-quality teaching is one tool to get there, but with roughly a third of teachers leaving the profession within five years of qualifying, better teacher training won’t be a quick enough fix to turn things around within its eight-year target. What’s needed

The confused language of gender identity ideology

‘I think I might be transgender!’ How should schools react to such revelations? By the time they find out, the child may already be convinced that their identity lies on the LGBTQIA+ spectrum. Probably with its own multi-coloured flag. But while social media influencers are quick to dispense answers, schools are left to cope with

Max Jeffery

The dark art of ‘off-rolling’ unwanted pupils

Sometimes a school wants to exclude a child but can’t. The student might have difficult needs that are costing money or taking too much time to deal with. Or their exam results might be looking likely to damage the school’s standing. But children can’t lawfully be excluded for getting bad grades or for needing more

The case for state boarding schools

My philosophy of education has always been simple and I believe it unites right and left: namely, what wise parents would wish for their child, so the community should wish for all children. It’s a paraphrase of R.H. Tawney, who — being a socialist — said ‘state’ rather than ‘community’. I much prefer ‘community’ since