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School Daze: My Search for a Decent State Secondary School [Paperback]

Andrew Penman
2.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (18 customer reviews)
RRP: 9.99
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Book Description

1 Sep 2010
It should be simple. When your children reach the age of 11 they go to the comprehensive down the road. The one funded by those taxes that you've been paying all these years. But what happens if the local comp is an academic black hole - there are hundreds of them - where the majority of children cannot achieve the undemanding task of getting five GCCEs with a grade of C or better? What do you do if the next alternative gets great results, but it's a faith school and you don't go to church? What then? Fake religion? Move house? Hire a tutor to try to cram your children into a Grammar? Become a professional fraudster to fund private school fees (for one couple featured in this book, that was the preferred option)? One thing is certain. You'll panic. It won't be the sort of brief panic you get when you think you're about to crash the car, but the long-term kind of stress that goes on for years. Andrew Penman knows. He started panicking about his children's secondary education around 2007 and hasn't stopped.

Product details

  • Paperback: 208 pages
  • Publisher: Mogzilla Life (1 Sep 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1906132976
  • ISBN-13: 978-1906132972
  • Product Dimensions: 13.7 x 21.4 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 2.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (18 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,145,172 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Review

Andrew Penman’s book is an eye-opener about the traumas parents can face when choosing a school for their children. It makes me glad I’ve only got a dog to look after! (Richard Garner, Education Editor Independent)

Written in diary style, this is an incredibly useful personal journey through the confusing and frustrating maze that is finding a school for your 11 year old child if you don’t want to pay for it. After all, we all pay our taxes and much of that goes into the education pot so for most it seems madness to pay for it even if one could afford it. The author is an award-winning investigative journalist who through his personal experiences of finding a school that would get the results he was seeking and in his local catchment area. Taking a sideways look at our increasingly complex education system School Daze is packed with up-to-date information on the coalition’s latest education plans. It’s a must-read for all parents of children about to make the move to secondary school. (Lovereading)

About the Author

Andrew Penman has been a journalist since starting on the weekly West Sussex County Times in 1984. Since 1997 he has been writing an investigations column for the Daily Mirror that exposes crooks and conmen. He is married with two children. He'd quite like them to get a decent education.

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A sad indictment of the system 3 Mar 2011
By Mr. T. Ralph VINE VOICE
Format:Paperback|Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
The book serves as a diary of Penman's attempts to secure preferred school places for his children. He laments the effectiveness of modern state schools, the lack of common sense, and the amount of work that he sees as necessary for parents to engage in. The public/state school divide widens by the day.

Penman does fall into some traps and digressions, in particular an excessive amount of diary entries about his troubles moving house, and these are somewhat tiresome.

Perhaps we may disagree with his criteria (such as "MOB", mediocre or better GCSE results) and beliefs, but the book is entertaining and, if you are either far-enough removed or relaxed enough not to get into a tizzy of "will this happen to my children!?!!?" I expect you will find it as interesting as I did.
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12 of 14 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars It's the children I feel sorry for 27 Nov 2010
By Lulu VINE VOICE
Format:Paperback|Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
I have seldom taken such an instant dislike to a book as I did to this one, but I persevered; by the time I had finished it I liked it slightly less than I did when I started.

In the first place, what does Andrew Penman define as a decent standard of education? He spends the first 160 pages of this book using the single criterion (or rather criteria, as he keeps, maddeningly, calling it) of the percentage of pupils passing 5 GCSEs at A*-C grades. Anything less than 30% is defined as a failure; he will only consider a school as suitable if it achieves more than 60%, and envies the fee-paying schools' average of over 80%. He resents the existence of faith schools, or rather their preference for admitting children of their own congregations, asserting that as we all pay for them they should be open equally to all, and on the same principle opposes charitable status for private schools. Both of these are reasonable arguments, but he rather undermines his own position by taking every advantage available to him by way of fake religious belief and moving house to a more prosperous catchment area (the amount he spent on buying a more expensive house purely to qualify for a particularly good school could have paid for years of fees). He has the usual attitude of the ambitious yet politically-correct parent, that things would be much better if only other middle-class people sent their kids to struggling local schools and used their professional and social skills to work for the weal of all, but that his own children, mysteriously, should not have to suffer the consequences of such altruism.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars A modern Pardoner's Tale 13 Mar 2011
By T. Burkard VINE VOICE
Format:Paperback|Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
Andrew Penman, a Daily Mirror reporter, doesn't believe that schools should be selective: as a self-described "pinko", he hates elitism. He says that middle-class parents would never tolerate the standards at our sink schools--if their kids were sent there, they would see to it that standards were raised. Yet at the same time, he is fully aware that parents have almost no power to change things. Even heads and teachers are powerless in the face of official directives that prevent them from teaching effectively, and from discipling truculent pupils.

But since this utopia has not yet arrived, he argues that people like him have to game the system to get a decent education for their children. Penman, an atheist, hates faith schools and loses no opportunity to tell us how much he hates them. Indeed, so much of this book is given over to his rants about the injustice of faith schools' admissions policies that I eventually just passed them over. He has nothing new to say on this subject (or indeed on any other). Nonetheless, he had his children baptised in the CofE to get them into the 'right' primary schools in Merton, and seriously contemplated re-baptising them as Catholics to get into a top comprehensive in Woking.

At the end of this over-long and repetitive diary, Penman demands the right to send his kids to a school with other kids who come from a similar background--no immigrants or yobs, thank you. But he won't send them to an independent school, oh no! Much easier on the conscience to spend a fortune moving house and disrupting his children's lives.

Chaucer's Pardoner at least was graced with self-awareness, and made no bones about his venality. Penman's hypocrisy is not mitigated by any such humanity or humility.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
Format:Paperback
Andrew Penman's painstakingly researched book has pinpointed a dilemna causing completely unnecessary anguish to caring parents the length and breadth of Britain. The measures he and his family have to take just to find a decent secondary education are typical of many, but this is the first time such a troubling journey has been narrated in such detail. How absurd it is that two happy primary pupils have to be wrenched from their surroundings and their friends just because the system offers no appealing school options for their parents. That is what happened to Mr Penman when he started looking into schools in the area of South London he was living in. Faced with the equally dispiriting options of paying for private education, hypocritically posing as a Catholic, or sending his kids to a sub-standard school, Mr Penman makes the honourable decision to move house. As the father of a primary school boy myself this book sent a shudder of fear down my spine. And with education budgets shrinking further as academy schools grow more widespread, this book is likely to become even more relevant. Every parent should read it.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars Easy to read, entertaining - if a bit depressing....
Looking at the other reviews, I can see this book might be the publishing equivalent of Marmite!

The issues Penman considers make for uncomfortable reading, but I... Read more
Published on 7 Jan 2012 by F Chapman
2.0 out of 5 stars head in the sand
The author undestandably bemoans the problems of finding a suitable school for his kids, but shies away from the contribution his own politics have made to creating this... Read more
Published on 26 Aug 2011 by Andrew
1.0 out of 5 stars A good newspaper article stretched to the length of a book
It's hard to have sympathy for a tabloid journalist and even harder when he manages to write 204 pages about choosing the right school for his son, without ever mentioning that he... Read more
Published on 27 Mar 2011 by A. Chell
3.0 out of 5 stars Not what I was expecting
I'll preface this by admitting that I attended private school my whole life - and that I'm not married and don't have an children, so perhaps this wasn't the book for me. Read more
Published on 23 Mar 2011 by Catriona Reid
4.0 out of 5 stars Parental Choice - or lack of it
School Daze is a diary of events leading up to the eventual allocation of a secondary school place for the author's child. Read more
Published on 18 Mar 2011 by Peter J Godliman
2.0 out of 5 stars Not sure who the book is aimed at?
I picked up the book expecting either: some useful information for parents looking at secondary schools, or an entertaining read, or maybe even both.
It is neither. Read more
Published on 13 Mar 2011 by JoMaynard
5.0 out of 5 stars surprisingly good
I had low expectations of this book ... a mass market newspaper journalist attempting to win against a school system deliberately designed to prevent education taking place ... Read more
Published on 25 Feb 2011 by Mr. R. G. A. Thomas
5.0 out of 5 stars Amusing yet informative look at state school choices
As a journalist, Andrew Penman has a writing style that keeps this book pacy and is fact-filled. He presents it in diary form as he decides whether or not to move from a London... Read more
Published on 23 Jan 2011 by Ms. Sophy Friend
1.0 out of 5 stars Petulant, hand-wringing garbage.
Perhaps it was meant as a joke, but this book is just going to stoke the fears of many other well-off, right-on, suburban parents. Read more
Published on 17 Jan 2011 by Black Mask
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