Small Axe – S01E05 – Education – Transcript

Education is the coming of age story of 12-year-old Kingsley (Kenyah Sandy), who has a fascination for astronauts and rockets. When Kingsley is pulled to the headmaster's office for being disruptive in class, he discovers he's being sent to a school for those with "special needs."
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Small Axe - S01E05 - Education

Education is the coming of age story of 12-year-old Kingsley (Kenyah Sandy), who has a fascination for astronauts and rockets. When Kingsley is pulled to the headmaster’s office for being disruptive in class, he discovers he’s being sent to a school for those with “special needs.” Distracted by working two jobs, his parents (Sharlene Whyte, Daniel Francis) are unaware of the unofficial segregation policy at play, preventing many Black children from receiving the education they deserve, until a group of West Indian women take matters into their own hands.

These are the stars of Andromeda, our home. Places made familiar through centuries of galactic travel. But this is no ordinary journey, because we are heading out of charted territory, through vast clouds of hydrogen, to the very limits of our galaxy…

[GASPS, WHISPERS]

Look at that one.

…and there, as we emerge, are the galaxies of our neighbours beyond. And now we’re out far enough to see in perspective the place we’ve just left, the beautiful spiral formation of Andromeda. Goodbye, Andromeda. We’ll be gone a long time, for our voyage will carry us through two-and-a-half million light years of intergalactic void. Activating the onboard replay scanner, we’re able to compress time and watch a stellar birth. A nuclear heart is beginning to beat.

RADIO:25 minutes now to eight, and I’ve got four big stars on the programme today, and first off is Libra. And Librans are going to find… They’re going to find people charming to chat to today, and if you’re a Libra, you’ll have no trouble in collecting followers or admirers, and I hope that you’re putting your street in for our new contest…

WATER RUNS

..which is called Keep the Capital Clean. We’re not really looking for a complete face-lift, just some indications that you care about the street that you live in. So why don’t you enter? And send your nomination to Keep Britain Tidy…

You want tea?

Mm-hm.

..that’s Box 194 in London, here at Capital Radio. And the Keep Britain Tidy people at Capital Radio are going to be doing the judging, and the prize will be a street party with Capital’s DJs attending…

KINGSLEY: You always take so long. It’s not fair!

Blahdy-blahdy-blah!

KINGSLEY: I just need to wash and brush my teeth.

Kingsley, go away!

KINGSLEY: I’m telling Mum.

[DOOR OPENS]

Bathroom’s free!

KINGSLEY: Finally!

[LAUGHS]

RADIO: To music, and Love Is The Drug. It’s 21 minutes now before eight o’clock, and if you’re going off to school, and maybe you’ve got a few minutes before you have to catch the bus, well, hang on just a moment, because what I’d like to know is, of any special events that’s being organised at your school this week that may be open to members of the public, such as a school play or maybe a sports event. Now, if there is one at your school and you know about it and you’d like everybody else to know about it, then call me at Capital Radio right now, and we may give you the chance to tell London what’s going on at your school. The number – 388 1295. Call now.

[HORN TOOTS ON RADIO]

Call us now. With the latest traffic news…

Eat breakfast.

No time. Bye!

All right, I’m going.

RADIO CONTINUES INDISTINCTLY

KINGSLEY: See you later, Dad!

See you.

KINGSLEY: I’m late!

Eat breakfast!


Morning.

Morning.

There is a path through the willows and among the sycamores, a path beaten hard by boys coming down from the highway in the evening to jungle-up near water.

In front of the low horizontal limb of a giant sycamore, there is an ash pile made by many fires. The limb is worn smooth by men who have sat on it.

Evening of a hot day started the little winds to moving among the leaves. The shade climbed up the hills towards the top. On the sandbanks, the rabbits sat as quietly as little grey…scup…scuptured stones.

Sculptured, not scuptured, Sajid.

..sculptured stones.

[GIGGLING]

You big blockhead, Kingsley.

PUPIL:Blockhead!

[GIGGLING]

It’s page…page two. Second paragraph down.

KINGSLEY: [HALTINGLY] And then…

PUPIL:Blockhead!

[GIGGLING]

KINGSLEY: And then… And then fro… Then… …f-fro…f-fro… And then…

TEACHER: Samantha, please continue.

And then from the direction of the state highway came the sound of footsteps on crisp sycamore leaves. The rabbits hurried noiselessly for cover. A stilted heron laboured up into the air and pounded downriver. For a moment, the place was lifeless.


[SCHOOL BELL RINGS]

So, guys, what do you want to do when you grow up?

I don’t know. What about you, Kingsley?

KINGSLEY: I want to be an astronaut.

You can’t have a black man in space! Who told you that?

Calm down.

Lads, all right?

Yeah. Yeah.

KINGSLEY: I mean, I’ve got a lot of science homework to do.


Ready?

One, two…

[PIANO PLAYS]

♫ London’s burning

♫ London’s burning

♫ Fetch the engines

♫ Fetch the engines

♫ Fire, fire!

♫ Fire, fire!

♫ Pour on water

♫ Pour on water

KINGSLEY: ♫ My dictionary

♫ Will you suck my dictionary? ♫

I beg your pardon?

[PIANO AND SINGING STOP ABRUPTLY]

Repeat what you just said. Go on, Smith, I dare you!

KINGSLEY: Nothing, Mr Hamley.

[LAUGHS]

You lying little bugger. I heard what you just said, and it’s disgusting and it’s unacceptable, and it has no place in this classroom! Come with me! Get out! Go on, get out! Right, continue. From the top.

[PIANO PLAYS]

♫ London’s burning

♫ London’s burning

♫ Fetch the engines

♫ Fetch the engines… ♫


[SNORES GENTLY]

[ALARM CLOCK RINGS]

KINGSLEY: Father God, thank you for today. Thank you for blessing us. Please send your angels to watch over our bed, doors and windows. Protect us and keep us safe. Help us to have sweet dreams. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen. Dear God, I’m sorry I was naughty today, but if I’m a good boy, can I please be an astronaut like Neil Armstrong, and also play for Tottenham? Amen.


GIRL: Dear God, thank you for today. I thank you that I got good marks in the test. Please can you help me to keep getting good marks so that I can get into Chelsea School of Art? Please, please, please! Then I can work my way up in the fashion world and then I can go to Paris, to one of the fashion houses, like Yves Saint Laurent, and travel the world looking for fabrics. Then I can design my own range and become world renowned and rich and famous, but not arrogant. And please can you bless Mummy and Daddy and Kingsley, too? In Jesus’ name I pray. Amen.


[SCHOOL BELL RINGS]

[SNORES SOFTLY]

[DOOR OPENS]

Mrs Smith. The headmaster is ready for you now.

Mrs Smith, I don’t believe we’ve met. Unfortunately, I’ve met you a great many more times than I should have, haven’t I, young man?

I came as soon as was possible. The lady on the phone spoke of an emergency.

Now, I’m a fair man, Mrs Smith. A Christian man. I’m sure we can understand each other on that account. So, whilst we could make this all about your son’s behaviour, the many complaints I receive about his disruptive influence on the classroom, I’m pleased, instead, to talk about second chances. Mrs Smith, I can see that Kingsley is not a bad child. He’s, er, a bit lively, perhaps. But, you see, our school participates in all manner of tests, including intelligence tests. Now, Kingsley’s IQ results suggest that his particular needs are going to be better served by a school specifically established to meet his requirements. A special school.

KINGSLEY: I don’t want to go to a special school. I’ll work hard, Mummy, I promise.

Kingsley!

A special school is called special for a very good reason. Smaller classes. More focused teaching.

What was this test you mentioned?

The IQ test is an intelligence test designed… Well, designed to test the general intelligence of, er, any age group across the population. Now, I’m afraid Kingsley, er… Kingsley scored well below average.

My son sometimes doesn’t get things right the first time. Can’t he take the test again?

No, it doesn’t work like that. No, it’s a one-off exam, but adjudicated independently so we know it’s fair. Now, it’s in Kingsley’s best interest that he be transferred to another school. Fortunately, we can do this straight away.

Who… Who decided this? Can I speak to them?

I am the messenger of good news here, Mrs Smith. I shouldn’t have to remind you of that. Please… take a look.

How’s he supposed to get to Barnet and back every day?

Nothing like that to worry about, Mrs Smith, no. A bus leaves from outside the school here, brings him back at the end of every day. This is a great opportunity for you, young man.


I don’t know what they call me down here for! Emergency for good news? Don’t make no sense.

KINGSLEY: You can’t let them, Mum…

Don’t even! When are you going to grow up and be more like your sister, hmm? Nothing but a heap of trouble!

KINGSLEY: But it wasn’t only me. The teachers just pick on me.

Take this and go straight home. I ain’t got time for any of this. I got to go to work.

KINGSLEY: It’s true, Mummy.

Give me the ball, man!


Hello, Mrs Jones. How are you doing today? OK? I’ll just check your pulse for you.


[DOOR SLAMS]

KINGSLEY: Stephanie!

Why are you making so much noise? You’re going to wake Mummy.

KINGSLEY: Mummy’s at work. I’ve been kicked out of school.

What? Be quiet, Kingsley. That’s not funny. Mummy’s sleeping.

KINGSLEY: Mummy’s not here. She had to meet the headmaster, and it’s really shit. They’re sending me to a stupid school.

Stop swearing in the house. You’re going to get us both killed.

KINGSLEY: I don’t care! Mummy’s not here.

Oh, my God.

[FOOTSTEPS RUN UP STAIRS]

[FOOTSTEPS RUN DOWN STAIRS]

What’s going on?

KINGSLEY: I’m trying to tell you. They’re sending me to a stupid school. They gave me this.

Two kids from my school got sent to a school like this.

KINGSLEY: What does it say?

What, you want me to read it for you?

KINGSLEY: I have read it. I want to hear it.

You don’t fool me. Erm. “There is a school in Durrants catering for kids with special “educational needs,” like not being able to read, Kingsley, “since 1922.”

KINGSLEY: I don’t have special needs. I can read when I know the word. It’s a school for idiots, isn’t it?

Hmm. There’s a swimming pool.

KINGSLEY: I hate swimming.

Wait, wait, wait. “After 60 years, suspicion and ignorance has given way to enlightenment and acceptance that Durrants is first and foremost a school.” What does that even mean? First and foremost a school? Why would you only put “school” in capital letters?

[FOOTSTEPS THUMP ON STAIRS]

[SIGHS]


[DOOR CLOSES]

[FOOTSTEPS]

[DOOR OPENS]

Boy… Why you not in bed? I’m tired, tired, tired, and I have to work to my other job just to put the shoes on your feet and pay for this house! I’m not doing this for you to make a fool of me now.

[SLAPS LAND]

Go to bed! Go to bed!

[DOOR SLAMS]

[FOOTSTEPS ON STAIRS]

Nothing but a heap of trouble!

[DOOR SLAMS]

KINGSLEY: Fine.

[SOBS]

[SOBS INTENSIFY]


What do we have first, maths or English?

Guess we’ll be late to both.

[BOTH LAUGH]

SAJID: Hey, look who’s here. Kingsley, Kingsley, over here!

That’s so unfair. You don’t have to wear a school uniform any more!

We’re here to say good luck.

KINGSLEY: Shut up.

I mean it. Yeah.

By the look of your new friends, you’re going to need it.

Young man, you going to Durrants?

KINGSLEY: Yeah.

SAJID AND JOSEPH: See you.

[JOSEPH LAUGHS]

Shut up.

See you.

[CHILDREN CHAT AND LAUGH]


Good morning, everyone, and welcome to your new school, Durrants. Is everyone excited? My name’s Mr Block, and I’m in charge of all you new pupils here, and we’ll be sending you to your classrooms a bit later, but now, and this is nothing for you to worry about, but we’re going to start the day with a few exercises in order to understand you better. That sound all right? Let’s start, then, shall we? Hands up if you can tell me what this says.

Woof. Woof. Woof. Woof.

What does it say?

Meow.

Ambulance.

Very good. Ambulance.

Woof. Woof.

Ambulances take people to hospital in an emergency. Now, what about you, Kingsley?

Baa.

Can you tell me what this one says?

Baa. Baa. Baa.

Moo.

Do you know which letters they are?

Moo!

What is this first one?

Moo!

It says exit.

I wasn’t asking you, Nina. I was asking Kingsley. What’s this first letter here?

KINGSLEY: It says exit. I knew that.

But I want to know what this first letter is now.

Meow.

Meow.

If you knew what it said, why didn’t you say?

Woof. Woof.


I walked and walked, and what did I see?

I saw John, and John saw me.

“Come and play,” he said.

“Come and play with me.”

I walked and walked, and what did I see?

I saw Mother, and Mother saw me.

“Come home,” she said.

“Come home with me.”

[PAGE TURNS]

John said, “I like big trains.

“I like little trains.”

[SCHOOL BELL RINGS]

Right, everyone. That’s lunch.

I’m starving.

Woof. Woof. Woof. Woof. Woof. Woof. Woof. Woof.

Yay!

[CHILDREN LAUGH AND CHAT]

[WHISTLE LAUGHTER AND CHATTER CEASES]

I catch anyone climbing that fence, there’ll be hell to pay. Do you understand?

CHILDREN: Yes, miss.

When you hear a loud whistle like this… you come back here. Got it?

CHILDREN: Yeah.

Get on with it, then.

[CHILDREN CHEER]

KINGSLEY: But what are we supposed to do?

Do what you want. Go and swing from the trees like you’re back home in the jungle, for all I care. Just don’t break any bones.

Kingsley! Kingsley, we know you’re in there.

I hope he’s all right. My brother says once you’re in them schools, that’s it. Your whole life’s finished.

What are you talking about?

That you can’t get a job, or nothing. No-one ever takes you seriously, cos they always know inside that you’re thick. You can’t get married, or nothing.

Who wants to get married? Shut up.

DRIVER: What are you lot still hanging about for? Get lost, the pair of you! You heard, scram.

Scram yourself, you fat git.

You had to say it. You had to say it.

All right, son, coast is clear. Go on, off you get. I want to go home. They’ll get bored soon enough.


KINGSLEY: On Friday, we didn’t do anything all day. Nothing. The teacher came into the classroom after assembly for about ten seconds. We just sat all morning doing nothing.

Well, come on, it can’t be that bad. What about the other children?

KINGSLEY: They make animal noises. It’s so boring.

Well, you used to say your last school was boring.

KINGSLEY: Yeah, but this isn’t even a school. It’s not a school if the teachers don’t teach you anything.

What are you two chatting about? Why haven’t you laid the table? Kingsley, go upstairs and finish tidying your room. I tell you before.

Mummy… I’m really worried about Kingsley’s new school.

What you know about Kingsley’s new school? What you should be worried about is taking down the hem of that skirt and making it the right length. And before you go to bed tonight, bring down that skirt, let me see it.


But I decided to do it on fashion. You know, like my kind of fashion. But they said I had to team up with someone, so I had to do it with Beverley, even though she’s not interested in fashion design, but she doesn’t argue with me.

Fashion?

Kingsley, I’m arranging for you to come with me on Thursday. Meet Charlie. I’m going to bring you over to him, and he’s going to teach you. Why you twist up your face so? Carpentry’s a good trade. Good money.

But, Daddy, don’t you think it’s good to maybe stay in school and go to college?

School is very important. But it’s Sunday, and we’re at the table.

Well, what do you think, Kingsley?

KINGSLEY: What do you think about Nathan Matthews?

Who’s Nathan Matthews?

What did I just say? I’ve had enough of… Stephie, go get the mauby from the fridge.

[CLEARS HER THROAT]

[CHILDREN SHOUT]


Super bad!

[DOOR BANGS]

Hello! I’m sorry if I gave you a shock. I’ve been waiting here for five minutes for someone to let me in. Wait a minute, where are you off to? I’m not a teacher. Don’t worry, I won’t tell anyone if you can help me. What’s your name?

KINGSLEY: Kingsley.

Kingsley, what’s your surname?

KINGSLEY: Why?

I’m interested in names, I suppose. But you are right to ask. Shall we go back inside?

What school were you at before?

KINGSLEY: Bygate Hill.

I know it. That’s a long way away.

KINGSLEY: Yeah, it’s rubbish. But I don’t mind. What’s your name again?

Hazel Lewis. Now, I better find the headmaster.

KINGSLEY: He isn’t in today. He wasn’t in assembly either.

I see. Can you help me find the staffroom?

[BANGING AND SHOUTING]

Where you been?

KINGSLEY: The toilet. Everybody shut up.

No, you didn’t. I checked in the toilet, and you weren’t there.

Where is your teacher?

[BANGING AND SHOUTING STOPS]

He never comes to class no more. Sometimes he does.

Only sometimes. Dear, oh, dear. I think everyone should sit back down now, please.

Are you a teacher?

I was a teacher, yes. Not here, but back home in British Guiana, I was. I’m a psychologist now. Can anyone tell me what a psychologist is?

I hate psychologists.

So do I.

[SIGHS] I am disappointed. What about teachers? Do you hate them, too?

Yeah, they suck.

They’re the worst.

And what is your name?

Nina Edmunds, miss. Who are you?

Call me Hazel. Do I know your mummy? What’s her name?

Jemima.

Jemima Edmunds. Yes.

Are you black?

Of course I am.

KINGSLEY: She’s definitely black. Like I am and you are as well.

I’m not.

KINGSLEY: You are.

Nina… I can’t speak for you… but I do know that I am definitely black. I am black and I love being black. But first, I need to know… I need everybody to tell me your names. Your full names and your old schools and…

KINGSLEY: And everybody’s parents’ names.

And, yes, Kingsley Smith, that too.

Suspiciously quiet in here. What are you doing here? We’ve been round the houses looking for you. You were supposed to come to the staffroom, not speak to the bloody children.

Excuse me, Mr…?

That’s Mr Baines.

Mr Baines. Of course it is. I was looking for the staffroom when I found, instead, a room full of unsupervised children. Shall we go, then?

[SUCKS TEETH]

[SHOUTING AND BANGING RESUMES]


Kingsley? What are you doing?

KINGSLEY: Ruff!

Excuse me?

KINGSLEY: Drawing.

Drawing what?

KINGSLEY: Drawing, Mummy.

You can watch television until Stephanie come home. I have to go.


MUSIC: Lazy Sunday by Small Faces

[KIDS SHOUT AND CHEER]

[SHOUTING CONTINUES]


Mrs Smith? I’m sorry if I disturbed you. Do you remember me? Lydia Thomas. Last time I saw you, I think, was at my cousin’s wedding in Shepherd’s Bush.

I’m sorry to keep you.

That’s all right.

I don’t have any biscuits.

Oh, biscuits don’t last a minute in my home. I don’t know if you remember… but I used to be involved in politics.

I remember.

Yes, well, now, because of my children, more than anything, I’ve become more and more concerned with matters educational. I’m sorry to have to tell you that some schools in London are saying that their academic standards are being eroded by the West Indian children in their classes. You see, the system is already stacked against them.

I always tell my children they have to work harder to overcome such things.

Mm. But when the system is designed to go against them, sometimes it doesn’t matter how hard they try, the system wants them to fail. The organisation I work for is trying to do something about these extra challenges that our children face.

That’s very good for you, Mrs Thomas, but I don’t see what that’s got to do with me.

Oh, I beg your pardon. Um, it’s just that we understand that your son Kingsley now attends Durrants School.

How do you know that?

We’ve set up a small organisation to try and find out the names of the children who’ve been sent to these schools. Sometimes, some of us go into the schools to try and get this information, Mrs Smith, so that we can come and speak directly to the parents. Like my colleague, Hazel Lewis, who met Kingsley.

Kingsley has settled in just fine. I don’t remember the last time I hear him complain about school.

Well, that can be quite common in Kingsley’s age group, especially under such difficult circumstances…

Kingsley don’t know about difficult. He’s a child. He’s just at school.

But that’s just it. It’s not a school. Or at least not one any of us would recognise… as this book by Bernard Coard, a Grenadian, will explain better than me. The Inner London Education Authority has a policy of targeting our children.

What is this all about? Why are you here?

We are here to try and get Kingsley back into the regular school system. Now, you might be able to appeal…

This is what I am trying to tell you. Kingsley do have some issue, but it’s a special school.

I don’t mean to upset you, Agnes, but there’s nothing special about his school.

I can take a look at this after you’ve left, but if you’ll excuse me, Mrs Thomas, I have to get ready for work.

Please know my intentions are not to… Look, I’ll leave this here for you and also a note about a meeting at the town hall for parents of children sent to educationally subnormal schools.

Educationally what?

That’s what they’re called, Agnes. Schools for the educationally subnormal.

If you’ll excuse me, Mrs Thomas, I’m running late.

We have a network of Saturday schools all over the borough which your son could attend. I’ve written down my details.

Thank you.

[DOOR SLAMS]


HE PLAYS A CHORD

♫ There is a house in New Orleans

♫ They call the Rising Sun

♫ And it’s been the ruin

♫ Of many a poor boy

♫ And, God, I know I’m one

♫ Oh, mo…my mother was a tailor

♫ She sewed my…

♫ She sewed my new blue jeans

♫ My father was a gambling man

♫ Down in New Orleans

♫ Now, the only thing a gambler needs

♫ Is a suitcase and a trunk

♫ And the only time he’s satisfied

♫ Is when he’s all drunk

♫ Now, Mother, tell your children

♫ Not to do what I have done

♫ Spend your lives in sin and misery

♫ In the House of the Rising Sun

♫ I got one foot on the platform

♫ The other foot on the train

♫ Cos I’m going back to New Orleans

♫ To wear that ball and chain… ♫

[STRUMMING STOPS]

[STRUMMING RESTARTS]

♫ Well, there is a house

♫ In New Orleans

♫ They call the Rising Sun

♫ And it’s been the ruin of many a poor boy

♫ And, God, I know I’m one

♫ There is a house in New Orleans

♫ They call the Rising Sun

♫ And it’s been the ruin of many a poor boy

♫ And, God, I know I’m one. ♫

OK, who wrote that? It’s the Animals, boys and girls. The Animals.


Kingsley. Tell me what’s really going on at that school. You learning anything? You like it? Did you meet a woman called Hazel at your school? Did you meet her?

KINGSLEY: Yes, Mummy.

She’s saying that the school is not treating you children right. Is that true?

KINGSLEY: Yes, Mummy.

You know what? I’ll cook you some roti tonight. You like that?

KINGSLEY: Yes, Mummy.

TV: Recently, Roobarb was sitting in the garden, thinking how nice it was not having Custard grinning over the fence for once, and the birds scratching noises into the summer air with their silly beaks, and how nice it was having nothing happening, apart from wondering what would happen next. When it did… HICCUP “Oh,” cringed Roobarb. HICCUP “One minute all’s well, and the very next minute all’s…” HICCUP “There it is again.” HICCUP “What are you rambling on about now?” enquired Custard, without even bothering to look over the fence. “Earthquakes…” HICCUP ..announced Roobarb. “That’s what I’m rambling about. “Earthquakes, and lots of them.” HICCUP “Whatever you do, don’t panic,” shouted Roobarb as he careered round the garden, warning everyone about the dangers of earthquakes, and in the event of one, the dangers of wearing damp socks… HICCUP ..whatever that meant. Custard dragged…


One of the ways in which the school system thinks they can treat us is that they genuinely believe we are all a bunch of… I don’t know… cowhands. They never assumed that the same spread of intelligence, professional careers, white-collar jobs, blue-collar jobs that you have in this country, we would have had where we came from.

I feel nothing but let down by the system. And not just the school system, this whole… blasted country system!

[MURMURS OF AGREEMENT]

I came here with a dream for my family. And I’m ashamed to admit it… but when my children bring it home… I find myself hating them for it.

[MURMURS OF AGREEMENT]

My own children. And that just make me hate this place all the more. I don’t have no dream to pass on.

I feel the sacrifice that you have made, Mrs Morrison. But I have to believe that it is never, ever too late for a child.

We know there are far too many of our children trapped in these schools for the educationally subnormal. I refuse to call them special. Don’t make me laugh! They say our children are there because they are too loud. Too slow. Too unmanageable. Or too lively. What a complete and utter nonsense! Low expectations from primary and secondary school teachers, which I have seen with my own eyes in regards to my own children, are part of the problem. But as the Doulton Report, a confidential government paper which has been leaked, proves, there is a deeply rooted cultural bias in these IQ tests. As individuals, we face an impossible battle, but we have strength in numbers. As a collective, we stand a chance, so we need your help. Without the support of the parents, our campaign will fail.

I am the mother of three boys, growing them up in London. I was horrified to learn them call my eldest, who have a strong West Indian accent, them call him slow as a slowcoach when him first arrive at the school.

[MURMURS OF DISAPPROVAL]

That what them call him. Now, this boy could read and write and do some basic arithmetic when him three year old, because I make sure him could. If a teacher think a child’s stupid, him start to act stupid. That a bare fact. I give up hope for him, my eldest, but I won’t make it happen to my other two. Will give up my job if I have to. So, tell me, what me can do for them.

Send them to one of our supplementary Saturday schools. That’s the first thing you can do now. And they are free for all your children for a £1 membership fee.

I make no lie about this. But I can’t read nor write. Not more than my name. It’s too late for me now, but hear an old man out. I am very concerned with these educationally subnormal schools. But I’m concerned more with the truth that the majority of our youngsters going to these so-called normal schools are coming out achieving as little as the children going to these ESN schools. Me grandchild, he just turned 16, and I discovered the boy can’t read or write good. Now, I did never go to school. Not for a single day. But this pickney spent 12 damn years in one!

That’s why we’re here today. To bring awareness to this and hear your voices and concerns. We are here to solve this. Our future depends on it.

[MURMURS OF AGREEMENT]

[APPLAUSE]

Next, we’re taking names of people that you know are at these ESN schools.


TV: The world will shrink for a new…

Excuse me, we were watching that.

I want you to be quiet. I need to talk to Kingsley.

Oh, what’s he done now?

Stephanie, please! He’s done nothing wrong.

KINGSLEY: What’s the matter, then, Mummy?

I just want to… I just want to hear you read, that’s all.

KINGSLEY: We’re watching TV.

Kingsley, read this for me.

Just read it.

That’s all I’m asking you do.

We were in the middle of something, Mummy. Can you not do it later?

Kingsley, read what it says. Read it.

Just leave him alone, Mummy.

Excuse me? No, not any more. Kingsley, you’re going to stay here until you try, you understand me? No more hiding. Not me, not you. I won’t hide in my own home! Uh…

KINGSLEY: [HE STUTTERS] Uh… Uh…

[HE SOBS]

All right. All right, baby.

[SOBS INTENSIFY]

All right.

SOFTLY: All right, baby. OK. Ssh…

OK, baby. All right. All right. All right, baby. All right, baby.

OK?

Hey, you all right?

You OK, baby?


[FOOTSTEPS]

Esmond…

Mm.

We need to talk. I’m doing some sleeping. It’s Kingsley. His school. A lady come round the other day, her name is Lydia Thomas. You know her. From Grenville.

Mm.

She says she know all about Kingsley’s new school. There’s nothing special about this school. It’s a school for children they call subnormal.

What do you mean?

She left me a book that explains all of that. Kingsley is not stupid, Esmond, but he cannot read.

The boy needs to learn a trade. Let him alone till then.

I went to a meeting at the town hall for children like Kingsley.

I said let him alone, woman.

Listen to me, Esmond! They are failing our son. The room was full of people…

[SHOUTING] I said let it alone, woman!

I won’t let nothing alone! Nothing!

[SOFTLY] My boy. My… [SHE SIGHS]


I want answers first, before you take action. Why did you send him there?

I’m very sorry, Mrs Smith…

Sorry? What are you sorry for?

Well, I’m sorry you’ve missed the deadline for an appeal.

Deadline? You never told me we had a right of appeal in the first place.

It’s in your son’s interests.

Don’t lie to me! You call yourself a Christian man? You never told me the school was for the educationally subnormal nonsense.

It’s an official term.

Official term? Kingsley may have trouble reading, but make no mistake, he’s a darn sight more intelligent than you. This will not be the last time we meet, let me tell you now!


Read me the thing. I don’t know if I trust this fellow Coard. Make all sort of noise back home.

Daddy…just listen, all right? “The implications for a large number of West Indian children who get placed in ESN schools and who can never escape back to normal schools are far reaching and permanent. As demonstrated above, the West Indian child’s educational level on leaving school will be very low. He will be eligible, by reason of his lack of qualifications and his assessment as being ESN, only for the jobs which really ESN pupils are able to perform, namely, simple, repetitive jobs of a menial kind which involve little use of intelligence.”

Well, Kingsley can come and work with me. Can learn him a trade and…

Daddy, Kingsley is very bright. Just listen, all right? “This is what he or she can look forward to as a career. In turn, through getting his poor wages, poor housing and having no motivation to better himself, his children can look forward to a similar educational experience and similar career prospects.”

Read me the rest.


Are you some sort of undercover spy?

[LAUGHTER]

I couldn’t do what she does.

I think at Durrants I was pretending to be a journalist interested in the good work of the school for a newspaper article. I wanted to meet the headmaster and trick him into giving me the names of the students. Unfortunately, he wasn’t so forthcoming. But I was lucky to meet Kingsley,

who, I must say, I was very taken with. He’s very tenacious.

I have to say thank you. To you both. I am forever grateful. I’ve read this book now, cover to cover, at least twice, because the first time I was very upset. But as I told Lydia, his old school say I have no right of appeal left, that too much time has passed, but this book mentioned that I now have to write to the Secretary of State for Education, or something?

That’s correct, yes. A woman named Margaret Thatcher. She’s only just been appointed, so maybe we will have a chance.

I have to write to the Secretary of State. Goodness me.

We will advise you what to write. I must say, Mrs Smith, I wish more parents were like you. If we do nothing, nothing will change.

I am prepared to fight this with every breath in my body.


School on a weekend is so unfair.

Yeah, life is unfair.

Good morning.

Morning!  Hi, this is my brother, Kingsley.

Hello, Kingsley. You’re just in time for breakfast.

Mm! Go on, then. Mwah. See you later.

Ah, what about you, big sister? What’s your name? Stephanie.

So, you don’t want to come in?

Oh, no, I don’t…

You don’t want to learn about Claudia Jones?

Who’s Claudia Jones?

I don’t believe you. It is for young people like you why we have our black history discussion group. Come and have some breakfast, man. Come in. You can leave any time.

Right, I am Mrs Bartholomew, but you can call me Tabitha. Now, I can promise you both you have never been to a school anything like mine.

60!

72!

84!

96!

108!

120!

132!

144!

It’s a draw!

[SHE LAUGHS]

You’re both excellent at your times tables. Good for you.

I know my 13s. Do you know 13s?

Yes. 13!

26.

36…

No, 39. Huh, I win. 39, 52, 65.

But times tables only goes up to 12. Isn’t it, Mrs Bartholomew?

No, it don’t. It goes all the way up to 20.

Actually, Baz… Thank you. ..it goes up and up and up and just keeps going until only the finest brains in the land can keep up.

KINGSLEY: Like a rocket out of our solar system. All the way to infinity?

Now, there’s a clever young man, Hey? To infinity. Imagine that. I’m very impressed, Kingsley. And, Ashley, the school syllabus only goes up to 12, which is what we concentrate on here so that you can do well in school and come out with the best grades you can. Right, before we start, I have three sausages left. Who’s still hungry? Uh-uh. I’ll have to get more sausages next week. Now, if I cut them in half, how many will that make?

Six!

Good. Into quarters?

KINGSLEY: 12?

Correct! But who wants a quarter of a sausage?

[THEY LAUGH]

I don’t think so.

Is everybody ready?

CHILDREN: Yes.

Good. Well, I want to start with a little story before we begin. Now, I went to school in Grenada, but I didn’t learn very much about Africa or its history. What do you all know about our ancestors? Yes?

That we were slaves.

[MRS BARTHOLOMEW CHUCKLES] That is what they want us to know. Did they teach you anything else? What about the Nubians? The Maasai? The Kingdom of Kush? Mn-mn. So you know nothing about the people or the richness of the cultures or the fact that we existed long before anybody else. [SHE CHUCKLES] Well… this is where we begin. Stephanie, read for me, please.

Open your book.

“Queen Amina of Zaria. Amina lived over 400 years ago in a place called Zaria, which we now know as Nigeria.”

Mm-hm!

“Although she was a princess, she was brought up to be a warrior because her tribe were always at war with their neighbours. She was born in the 16th century and her parents were king and queen. She had brothers and a younger sister, Zaria. Amina was the favourite child of their grandfather, who was a very wise and powerful king, and when she was little, he would talk to her about how to be a strong military leader.

KINGSLEY: Sh-She never ex…expected to be queen, but her…older brother died un…une… une…

WHISPERS: Unexpectedly.

KINGSLEY: …unexpectedly, and so she became queen and had to lead her tribe into war… a war which la… lasted nearly 35 years… and during which… stories about this wonderf… won… wonderful girl, who was a leader of men, were told far and wide. All the young men in the surrounding tribes wanted to marry her, but she turned them and all their fine offers of wedding gifts down, as she did not need them. Amina built walls around the territories.”

[GENTLE LAUGHTER]

KINGSLEY: “She owned a map of Ancient Africa. 1685. These walls, which were intended to protect all that she won in battle – territories, places and people – were made of earth, and it took slaves many years to build them. Some of these walls still survive… in modern-days Nigeria are known as Amina’s Walls. They are a lasting legacy of a queen who was feared.”

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