Icon in Gold by Charlotte Williams, Year 13
We finish teacher interviews at Tallis with ‘What are you reading?’ It's sometimes a bit embarrassing, especially when a candidate gives the impression that they haven't read a book this century and hope fervently never to see one again. Worse when he or she tries to convince me that they live and die for the latest assessment controversy in the twittersphere or that their every waking thought is Algebra For The Reluctant. Teachers should be interesting people so that young people are keen to learn. It helps the world go round.
My own reading is aided by electronics. As far as I'm concerned mobile phones exist to make sure I'm never without a book. If I was sufficiently coordinated to read while walking along the street without presenting a hazard to shipping I would do it. I try to have an educational book in my bag on work days so that the shining hour may be improved, though that rather depends on the quality of the book.
Barber was Blair’s deliverer. He set and monitored targets so that public services could be improved in a principled, systematic way based on serious and sensible aims to improve everyone's lot. I'm entirely in favour of accountability, targets and planning. You'd imagine I'd enjoy the book.
Barber’s a brilliant man by his own admission, and I don't necessarily object to that. He often has exactly the right question to unblock a problem and the leadership to solve it. He recognises brilliance in others. His examples from world public service and history are diverting. He quotes Ontario and Adonis on making changes for the long run and seeing things through, on irreversibility, so that good change stays put and can't be unpicked. But I read his chapter on leadership with one eye while looking at another announcement about coasting schools with another (and poking myself in both in preference to either).
Deliverology (yes!) should build up our public services and reassure the taxpayer. However, I searched in vain for an analysis of Campbell's Law (the target is skewed by the pressure exerted on it). There was little on perverse incentives. Barber reflects on the success of the literacy strategy but doesn't consider the longer supply-side issue of de-professionalising teachers when they became regurgitators of processed materials. He doesn’t address and didn’t predict the current chaos over the mysterious number of teachers in training (we don't really know how many there are) and the huge issue with headteacher recruitment as football manager syndrome decimates our numbers.
Barber tells the bible story of Joseph to illustrate proper financial planning but the dichotomy between determining to achieve a thing and giving it time to happen remains. And don't tell me that children only have one chance at education. Do you think we don't know that? The Joseph story takes at least 14 years: it’s about violence, loss, reconciliation, faithfulness and joy in the beauty and gifts of a child. It might be about deliverance in the older sense and it’s just not that easy.
I stood in the drama studio on Friday morning and looked at 18-year-old Charlotte personally painted in gold leaf. She took my breath away. The installation - for A level art, about purity and decay - is as good a piece as you'd see in the galleries of the world, as I told year 9 waiting to go in. Celia, giving out the information, is a writer of similar brilliance. Together they'll change the world. But it is their own determination and the depth of care their teachers have taken, over the years spent with these children and thousands of others that brought this wonderful moment. Deliverology stops you squandering public money, but it doesn't bring you a golden girl.
What am I reading? Barber and the Old Testament, Charlotte and Celia.