Tai-Shan Schierenberg The Adoration of the Magi, 2012
Quite a bit, actually since we last corresponded. Community Day last week where all bets are off: events, dear boy, rather than the usual curriculum. Trips out (we are not afraid) theatre companies, Gangs Against Violence, debating, life at work, revision, yoga, spacehoppers, legacies and UCAS. Then a training day: curriculum, standardisation, Prevent, attendance. Business Manager goes to the y10 council and they collectively despair about the shape of the canteen again. A Public Intellectual comes into grill Oxbridge candidates who emerge a little charred round the edges. Undeterred, one offers the lower school a lecture on The Meaning of Life. Governors’ Learning and Achievement Committee hear six teachers talk about their areas of expertise. Parents' Evening is year 10, the crucible of adolescence. Three official visitors this week introduced at the staff briefing. One we know, one we're getting to know, one we didn't know at all before now. They point out things to us helpfully, usefully, sometimes irritatingly. 'Such and such is great, better than I thought it would be!' delivered cheerfully. Say what? Did you think us barbarians?
We lay on the full Monty for visitors – trips round the building, meetings, shadowing students, party bags to take home – including this time a vuist to my own classroom where the civil servant enjoyed cutting and sticking on comparative religion. (I still see Pritt as a classroom luxury : Gloy used to ruin exercise books.) ‘How studious the children are, how confident.’
More policy legs in discussion up in town next day, explaining how progress measures feel on the ground, how accountability bites. I’m working up a snake-in-the-grass image. How we prefer the predictable to the unfathomable, the stable to the whimsical. The legislators listened so were also issued with an open invitation to the good ship Tallis.
Both Deputies were out training, one on mental health and one on assessment, though a combined session might be very useful. Returning to the mothership, I received the command back from the unflappable F. He’d navigated smoothly through the morning, but the afternoon was all excitement. A lunchtime delegation to complain about a peer who’s become deranged with power since joining the Police Cadets. He’s been threatened with the removal of his hi-vis jacket. A welcome return of a colleague from illness. A training session on dyslexia. Preparation for a hearing. A brainstorming session, teachers and students, on branding Tallis character: we’ve no time to do it in and no money to do it with, but it’ll be great.
Downstairs, fever pitch. Hundreds auditioning for We Will Rock You prepare for stardom at the south end of the dining room. At the north end The Big Book Sale could take over Hay on Wye. The year 9s in charge have baked a sorting hat and made notices. One lurches towards me despairingly and takes his coat out of his mouth (we have rules about that sort of thing) to complain. ‘ I’ve been REALLY ill for THREE days but I’ve got 100% attendance for three YEARS so my mum won’t let me stay at home.’ I congratulate him on his persistence and advise him to drink more tea. He droops even further: ‘my Mum MADE me some tea in one of those hot coffee cups but I FORGOT it so I’ll have to drink it when I get home. ‘
At the end of the week, some hard decisions. Comes with the territory.
Best of all it’s red tags week now the trees are up. Everyone writes a message and the lunch time ladies kindly hang them on the trees. For the last two years some of them have had to be censored but this time there’s only one unsuitable joke. I read some as I pass. One is ‘I hope for good enough GCSEs to get into the sixth form and peace in Syria.’ Perfect, the personal and the global from a young person who values his own future in a safer world. Education to understand the world and change it for the better.