Young people should play rugby, football, go for a music lesson or go dancing or singing on a Saturday, and not go for extra classes. I run Saturday Schools in London and the Home Counties, and I think this sort of provision shouldn’t really exist. However, the reality is that, sadly, the education system is letting our young people down. For many students throughout the country, Saturdays are now spent catching up with the basics, which should have been covered in regular weekday classes. I was speaking to a parent whose two children attend grammar schools in Kent a few days ago; according to her, the competition is so intense that when she asked other parents where their children get extra tuition from, they were very cagey about divulging the truth to her. It seems that politicians cannot be truthful with people, so parents have every reason to be concerned and find extra provision.
Yes, the last government spent a lot of money on computers, new and fancy school buildings and paying teachers a little more. While I welcome paying teachers more, to a certain extent anyway, there is no evidence to suggest that state of the art buildings and the most sophisticated computer software improve children’s mastering of the three R’s.
The alternative to a Saturday school is an intensive revision course, such as the Easter Revision that I run. In my view, these work better for bright young people who need to reinforce their knowledge in certain areas, or who have missed aspects of the material that was covered in school for one reason or the other. One way in which it can also help is for examination technique. One advantage of Saturday classes is that, as opposed to the Easter Revision in which students may have to absorb a lot of information in a relatively short time, there is an opportunity for the student to build up a rapport with the subject teacher and to bring problems from school to the teacher on a weekly basis. The teacher is then able to find out the strengths and weaknesses of the student and prepare material for them in order to address the real issues that need addressing. The reality is that many of the students who attend Easter or Half-Term Revision courses also attend a weekend tuition course or have a private tutor.