Artist Ed Fairburn creates portraits on vintage maps. You can find out more about his work here.
Monday we have visitors from the Singapore Ministry of Education, to talk with us about citizenship. We discuss the state of the world then hand over to the Year 7 Council. These young citizens, beautifully trained in formal meeting structures, talk to our visitors about everything from lockers and zebra crossings to collaboration and persistence. Everything is of importance to them and nothing escapes their scrutiny. They are at ease with abstract virtues, lavatory behaviour and everything in between. Our guests love them, and no one mentions PISA. I discover two interesting facts: Singapore schools don’t have assemblies and Ministry officials are seconded from the ranks of Headteachers: the latter an unsung factor in their success, I’ll wager.
Tuesday year 10 are thinking about work experience. It’s not the work that worries them but how to get there, what to wear, what to call the people in charge, how they’ll find food. Things we make look so easy in our idiosyncratic communal home. Year 7 are encouraged to eat more fruit, a second batch of non-swimmers are signed up for sessions and are excitable about goggles. Governors consider their Public Sector Equality Duty and worry again about who supports children in need when school’s out: representatives of the biggest group of citizen volunteers in the country, scrutinising our work.
Thursday we review our new improved lunch queuing system, instigated by communal outrage from the small about pushing in from the large. We face the challenge of a dining room built without space to train The Great British Queue of the future. Young people simultaneously demand and resist change, and support and complain about decisions. They want to know why we decide as we do. We’ve brought the queue indoors and it’s quick but loud. A slow-loading computer poses problems for the year 9s presenting assembly: they react with aplomb. I read OFSTED’s latest guidance so to predict their scrutiny when it comes.
Friday is observing in history. Year 8 students tussle with the ending of the slave trade in Britain. Despite complexity, they articulate honourable and economic reasons. They understand pragmatism and moral imperatives and contort themselves across chairs the better to make their points in group debate. I talk to a man about door-stops who thinks children are much bigger than when he was at school. Are they? Everyone over 12 looks tall to me. I give the Director of Education a Thomas Tallis umbrella.
So ends a week that began on Sunday with teacher licensing on the news. I was irritated that politicians and press think this might annoy or challenge us. We are analysed and examined from every angle all the time and none of that as closely as we study ourselves. At least it’ll expose the old lie that there are thousands of incompetent teachers skulking in the staffrooms of the nation. I planned to mull it over in church, but the sermon was too interesting.
Monday of week 18 we start again. Notwithstanding alarums and excursions, about 3,500 lessons will be planned and taught, 40,000 pieces of work created and 8,000 or more lunches cooked. An inestimable number of pens will have run out and homework sheets been glued in upside down. We’ll have theatre trips, job interviews, residential visits and visitors from 6 countries.
Tallis spends another week fulfilling our responsibility to the community’s young under the public’s eye. Changing the world, one day at a time.