Since then, exam results have been distributed, training undertaken, testing trudged through, timetables issued and now, a full week completed. All’s well.
Or is it? Holidays are meant to help you cope by forgetting the things you were worried about. At my age I genuinely forget what I was worried about and so write myself notes in July to remember them, which then, during results weeks, I transcribe from old diary to new. Some are diverting: ‘Pie chrts sort out’, some worrying ‘Ofsted?!!!!’, some deeply mysterious ‘Top slice 9th won’t you?’. Pie charts are the concern of the top floor of block 3, and the 9th passed without slicing required. As for Ofsted? Death and taxes, I say to you.
Worry was encouraged, though, last term. Apart from the virus itself, all messages were tinted with doom. Teacher grades can’t be trusted. Everyone will be unhappy with grades. Appeals will be unmanageable. Universities won’t offer enough places. There’s no money for recovery. The Department should know better. No child will know anything in September. And what about the National Tutoring Programme?
When the so-called Recovery Czar resigned because government wouldn’t stump up the cash they denied ever promising, some educators became transfixed with horror. Without money, how could the compulsory holiday provisions and the lengthening of the school day needed until the end of time to address the loss be financed? What to do?
May I deal with these one by one? Exam grades were arrived at fairly and concerns could be counted on the fingers of one hand. Teachers are trusted – though some sectors have questions to answer. Universities offered places and what might have been a clearing-heavy year turned out to be nothing of the sort. Who expected money for recovery, really, or anything else? The department remains strangely led. Children know all sorts of things, perhaps not all of them useful. The National Tutor Programme? Pshaw.
Me, I always assume there’s no money for anything so trim my expectations accordingly. It seemed egregiously unfair to children and unreasonable to teachers to punish them for not being able to be at school last year by making them be there longer this year. That’s not how you develop a self-directed lifelong love of learning – though it is how you cram people for exams. It seemed to me that we would have to teach fewer things in greater depth and make sure that children understand the how as well as the what so they can pick up missed content as they grow.
Imagine my gratitude when Prof Oates of Cambridge threw himself into the debate. ‘Recovery’ is a ridiculous concept, he said. What we need is acceleration, in class, as usual. Find out how each child has been affected. Make sure reading, writing and number are solid. Reinforce core subject concepts and don’t panic. Use what you have wisely and don’t look for centralised support or guidance from soundbite politics. He might have added – especially from a man who can’t tell his blindside flanker from his attacking left-winger. Oh, what a message is there. More on this anon.
But on Planet Tallis we’ve been basking in the sun and getting used to one another again. That’s not always straightforward, especially for troubled children, so we try to make sure we remember the systems that protect everyone and have support at hand for the bewildered, agitated, confused, new and angry. Adolescence is tricky and, as Machiavelli said of the Romans, wisdom demands that difficult things aren’t made any harder if you want to get anything done.
We’ve even kept a few of the odder Covid habits. We’re still lining up year 7 and 8 four times a day and I’ve noted a common addition to the repertoire of teachers’ silent instructions. It’s a barely-perceptible twitch of the head, to left or right, that means ‘This line isn’t very straight and you, child, stick out messily. Align yourself with colleagues fore and aft so we may all depart in peace, if you’d be so good, pronto.’
We can be as cross as we like with government ministers and grade inflators but the day job returns like joy in the morning. I was trying to attach a mask without losing an ear while holding a cup of hot tea when year 13 Rose brisked past, clutching gladioli to gladden the heart of Dame Edna. She smiled pleasantly. ‘I want to give these to my tutor but she keeps changing rooms’ I’ll track her down, though’. Its good to have you back, possums.