David Miliband, the schools standard minister, is struggling
again. A recent Ofsted report cast doubt on the adequacy of
numeracy and literacy teaching to many 11 to 14 year olds.
It is not just teachers who are at fault. Too many schools are
constrained by the corset of the national curriculum and find it
difficult to ignite interest, never mind a passion, in their
Miliband has also announced that gifted children will be funded
to attend music and dance classes in Leeds, London and Gateshead.
Twenty, selected by audition, will receive a maximum grant of
£3,000, if their families earn under £25,000.
The minister has been clobbered by some commentators for
“talking showbiz” instead of concentrating on improving the
delivery of mainstream subjects – as if the two tasks can’t
work in tandem.
We need still more imaginative projects to develop talents among
the less affluent, or we will continue to lose opportunities to
improve confidence, self-esteem, behaviour and, possibly, earning
Another scheme, for instance, is TVYP – Television and Young
People. It gives 18 to 21 year olds who want to work in television
a chance to place their foot in the door. Dislocated education, so
often the experience of looked-after children, need not be a
One hundred and fifty delegates are selected (last year from
1,000 applicants) to spend five days at the Edinburgh Television
Festival at the end of August. They attend workshops, career
surgeries, social events and master classes. The top 20 applicants
are found six-month paid placements, which could lead to a
permanent job in areas such as production, presenting and
No qualifications are required – only the ability to give
succinct answers to four simple questions. For instance, “Which
programmed has had the most impact on you in the past 12 months and
The five-day course is free but travelling and accommodation
costs have to be found. It’s shameful that the television
industry, which relentlessly milks the stories of those on
life’s battlefront for its own profit, doesn’t fork out
However, if anyone from a disadvantaged background is selected
(the closing date is 14 May), there’s a strong chance that a
little pressure on production companies might lead them to pay
Of course reading and writing matter. But there are many routes
to a livelihood and, as Miliband has acknowledged, not all of them
are found on the map of orthodox education.