Luigi Russolo with his noise machines, 1913
Tallis starts up again after half term in countless pointless conversations. ‘Have you seen Joe’s hair?’ ‘What sort of a sandwich is that?’ ‘Hello, look, its Ellie’s sister’. These last two chaps potter off wittering like old codgers at a drinks do. ‘She was at my primary school but now I can’t remember her name and I started to say hello and it was so embarrassing’. I’m pottering in Science and apprehend a youth I know to be well-meaning. He’s defeated by a task and presents me with Viktor. ‘There’s no science on his timetable so I don’t know where to take him’. I rescue Viktor and ask him which school he’s joined us from. ‘Bulgaria’. He seems happy enough with the class I find him. I pass through the languages day celebration: Viktor will know a bit about that, I think. Didn’t we need a Bulgarian speaker a couple of weeks ago?
There’s an extra assembly for year 11 girls to discuss the sending of photos on phones. We are brisk with them. Don’t be stupid. Nothing in cyberspace is ever lost. Take yourselves seriously. One offers a view: ‘You don’t need to tell us. Girls who do this, they know it’s dangerous. Maybe they don’t care?’ Or maybe they make a mistake that they can’t undo. In the old days, you could act unadvisedly and it would be forgotten. Nothing’s forgotten in the ether, a problem for teenagers who’re growing their brains and can’t think straight. Planning ahead is hard, the long game too long by half. ‘Those going on the Oxford visit stay behind’: we need you to think about the future tomorrow.
Just before half term was sixth form open evening, a triumph with 1200 visitors. Outstanding results and a huge range of courses make us attractive and everyone who visits seems to love us. We forget this as we return to the perennial problem of hooking the sixth form out of the café at the end of break. They’re like all the others, except that the future is nearly upon them so they have to walk really slowly in case they get there too quickly. One with green hair and a woolly hat reads an essay as she walks along, another wears vintage driving goggles on the head, all the time, protection against speed.
Tallis was on tour this week. We do The Tempest in the Shakespeare Schools Festival and despite Prospero’s cloak clasp acquit ourselves beautifully. Six of us go to visit a school in Kent to help our thinking. It’s very different, fascinating. Will it transfer? The children look so different but you grow used to your own. Are we as strange to them? I talk to a colleague who fancies doing a senior placement with us and we watch the hordes at lesson change. She’s impressed by how smooth and orderly it is and I have a smug attack. An hour later the very same spot grinds to a halt through foolishness and has to be unblocked with whistles and wild gesturing.
In the outside world, the curriculum decision looks as though it’s finally been made. 90% EBacc so we start thinking about options to judge how far our staffing’s adrift. The advantage of children is that each batch is new and though we think they’ll expect what’s gone before, most of them are oblivious to it. They have nothing to which to compare their education, except the parents and any siblings hanging around the house. Their trust and their needs are terrifying: we have to get it right, for the future we can’t predict and they can’t see.
We have a handful of little ones who need to be escorted from place to place. If they break free they run after the seagulls and pigeons, laughing and clapping, their chirping and hooting part of the sound of Tallis. We start up again to chat, chuckles, bins, whistles, questioning, fidgeting, hassling and listening for the sound of the future.