"Sir Brian had a battleaxe with great big knobs on" A. A. Milne
I like to keep abreast of the eduzeitgeist so I put myself about a bit to see what's what. Herewith an update on some obsessions, courtesy of the Annual Conference of the Association of School and College Leaders held in the marble halls of the Birmingham International Metropole. Regular readers recall that I don't dance, but I do chat and occasionally take a drink in order to gather news.
The Secretary of State was booked for 45 mins but didn’t speak for long. She answered questions pleasantly enough, but had nothing of substance to say. Perhaps she will soon. She wouldn't be drawn on the Ebacc, and hasn’t got a plan to find any more teachers for us except to perhaps make it cheaper to advertise for the ones who aren’t there.
We talked about curriculum and assessment change. When Balls steamrollered the impenetrable Diploma programme over us 10 years ago, it was fuelled by cash. Now that we're changing every grade every year for five years there's not a penny piece of publicity to help parents understand what's happening to their children. Why? Maybe the department don't understand it, or back it, or think democracy involves effort.
Her Majesty's Chief Inspector, on the other hand, was demob happy. He was semi-affable, alarming in itself. He warned schools against taking part in trash television or wasting money on charlatan consultants and mocksteds (huzzah!). He wouldn't be drawn on the Ebacc either, not even his own previous criticisms (boo!).
HMCI’s had quite the week. Wednesday was retro rant day: Heads are appeasers but should be Lone Warriors ‘fighting for righteousness’. Schools should be run by Teach Firsters full of vigour, not these lily-livered child-centred loons. We need ‘bruisers and battleaxes’. (I refer you to AA Milne’s matchless Bad Sir Brian Botany) Thursday he was berating academy chains whose CEOs earn public money beyond the dreams of avarice.
He knows how to get into print. Unfortunately, the truth is out there. There aren't enough people to fill posts at any level, including headship. The pipeline of vigorous young leaders provides cannon fodder for academy chains to swap Heads every two or three years so nothing gets built up, only brought down. Teach Firsters quit in droves when the rhetoric of the meteoric rise crashes into the long game of quotidian relationships and real school leadership. While quality people might be attracted to a considered, responsible, vital and challenging public sector role, what kind of people aspire to be bruisers and battleaxes, exactly? And do we want them looking after the nation’s young? Why don't parents rise up as one against this stuff? Then he started in on the private schools, so huzzah! again. Really, this is bad for my blood pressure. He is a bit right and very wrong, self-obsessed but fiercely independent. And yet, and yet – a Department yes-man to take over, or an elderly imported American? It could actually be worse.
Not that schools will notice. We really won't know what day it is until 2018, when it might be safe to emerge from the stock cupboards into which we've locked ourselves and the children until the grading settles down.
Year 10 aren't bothered by this kind of stuff. They're being trained to sort themselves for exams. We gather them in teaching groups, then they have to transform themselves into maths groups, then tutor groups. We did it in the dining room, using that comedy implement, the megaphone. Who's to say that its ear-splitting squawking was the Head of Year amusing herself at their expense?
We've got a theatre group and the Anne Frank exhibition. We had World Book Day, a brilliant transgender speaker and Severus Snape shouting ‘Hold My Wand’ to Tinkerbell as he broke up a skirmish. We had heats of the pi competition rewarded with pies. We're wrestling with the budget and the strangely short half term that the Archbishop's distraction-offer of sorting the date of Easter could really help. We're trying to balance every department's needs and probably failing. We're still a bit cold and the new bins haven't arrived yet. Year 12 are on Science boot camp and we’ve the MultiMedia Show to look forward to soon!
So that’s me. I went out into the world but came back gratefully. We're working towards summer, and the light, and changing the world for the better.