Rock Road Library in Cambridge is a beautiful thirties building, recently updated and with a lovely garden, recently restored by its friends group.
Last week the library hosted over twenty different friends groups at an annual briefing by the library service, whose achievements are a credit to the Conservative local authority. They include over £2m in savings without any closures, a fully automated issue and reservation system, slimmed down management, more books, and improved co-operation with neighbouring libraries to extend the range of books available.
Library visits and issues are up by three per cent on last year, with loans to children up by ten per cent. Lots of periodicals, e-books and reference materials are free online. Our library, in Linton, has had an increase in its hours to take account of population growth, and last week I sat in on its regular, wonderful, story-telling session for young children. Congratulations to Christine May, head of the service, were endorsed at the meeting by a Labour councillor.
Cambridgeshire has one of the most difficult budgets in the country, and if it can do as well as this with its libraries, there is no excuse for others to close them. Congratulations also to our retiring MP, Sir Jim Paice, and to our candidate, Lucy Frazer, on securing improved funding for Cambridgeshire schools, after decades of unfair treatment by Labour.
The election debate is showing signs of life, but not too many. Tristram Hunt scored a point with his friends in the Guardian by promising to abolish the A level reform and start again with new programmes of study designed by universities. The current new programmes of study have, of course, been designed by universities at considerable public expense, but don’t let that hold you back. The real problem is that he has promised to recouple AS to A level, a decision that will leave sixth formers’ fate to continue to be decided half-way through their course. Once again, I don’t think he believes this is a good, or fair idea.
In the same set of question and answer with readers, he showed that he understands Gramsci better than some of Gramsci’s leftist admirers, who see him as a progressive, which he certainly was not. I’m obliged to Nick Gibb for putting me right on that one, after I’d believed some leftist propaganda to the effect that he was only pretending to be a traditionalist to appease his gaolers. Tristram Hunt also appears to have accepted our reforms to the National Curriculum, at least to the extent of letting it bed in.
However, I had further evidence last week of the folly of Tristram Hunt’s omission of knowledge from the goals of education.
The pupil I’ve been teaching locally came to me at nine not knowing his 2x table or any addition facts and was around two years behind in his reading. Teaching him his tables and basic number facts – eg that half of a hundred was 50, a quarter 25, so three-quarters 75 – and practising applying these points has, according to his school, brought him well up to the nationally expected standard in maths – old Level 4a – and, more to my surprise, enabled him to reach it in English. Reading the encyclopaedia each day has clearly helped, as has the application of grammar in writing sentences.
It is clear to anyone who gives it a moment’s thought that you can’t develop skills and understanding without knowledge. I’m sure it’s equally clear to Tristram Hunt.