With Christmas upon us and the New Year in sight I look back upon a year of change and challenges near and far.
As I've just managed to sneak in before the end of January, I can still wish regular visitors here the very best for 2016.
This past weekend a group of more than 150 parents, friends and supporters of Eastside witnessed the passage of a group of thirty-one young people into the next phase of their Scholars experience. Over the next week they will attend their new schools. For some, this will mark the beginning of their secondary education; for others, the commencement of their run-up to GCSE exams. A third group will begin their post-16 education. All are now in the midst of elite education, attending some of the finest schools in the country.
In the last couple of weeks we have had news of the achievements of hundreds of thousands of young people through A-level and GCSE exams.
Political heavyweights, Messrs Gove and Johnson touched the national nerve with recent speeches on educational matters. Gove in particular raised the hackles of many when he suggested that state schools could do as well as schools in the independent sector. Indeed there is an increasing number of independent schools looking to set up Academies and Free Schools, presumably in their own image but Gove argues that this imago could be used even by the hoi polloi.
The subject of dreams has occupied these pages on previous occasions but I am mindful to return to it not least because we have just passed the 50th anniversary of MLK's "I have a dream" speech. Further one of our Eastside Scholars described his journey to boarding school as a "dream come true".
There is much talk about just who is winning the race to the bottom of the educational attainment ladder. According to the loudest voices it is now white working class boys. This cohort, it is claimed, have outstripped their darker skinned contemporaries. The question of 'what this now means' is a debate still to be aired in the public space. What remains troubling, for an organisation like Eastside, still focused on supporting Black boys, is the high exclusion rates, the poverty of ambition toward tertiary education and of course the high rates of incarceration.
Like so many others I was transfixed by the BBC3 docudrama My Murder, part of the BBC British crime season. For the sake of the uninitiated, it was focused on the true story of Shakilus Townsend who was caught in a ‘honey trap’ concocted by Samantha Joseph aged just 15. Ms Joseph arranged for Townsend to travel with her to a location where he was ambushed and killed. My fascination was not in the story per se but more the way these young people conduct their daily lives and make choices; the way in which the social jigsaw forms that so often results in death and destruction.
In the last six weeks I have been to two awards ceremonies and in each case I came away with a sense of ‘awards inflation’.
As the New Year dawns we are conscious of the fact that 50% of Black children are being raised by 'mum alone'. This tragedy is decimating Black and Brown communities. While we honour and celebrate the millions of great fathers in this country, a staggering number of children go to bed at night without the practical presence of a sober and responsible father in their lives.