A whistle makes shouting unnecessary. In a particular context and time, the whistle means: do the next thing, reset your expectations, desist. I happen to know there’s a nautical signal flag that means ‘stop carrying out your intentions and follow my instruction immediately’ but a whistle is much quicker than that.
Long before the end of lunch one wet day this week I wandered into the canteen in search of hot food and found two sirs chuckling to themselves. A child had been running (indoors! near cutlery!) so a desist and reset whistle was sounded. Upon which 200 children gathered their affairs, put their hoods up and went tidily out into the rain, which wasn’t really the intention at all but made life a lot simpler, if wetter. An old grey whistle trick.
On the other side of the freezing yard, this penguin weather has made the year 11 study hall suddenly more popular - or it may just be the ides of May. So, I write in the silent company of 28 boys and 1 girl, all allegedly working. 9 have headphones in - could be GCSE Pod, could be Tassomai, could be Shostakovich for all I know. 17 have eaten sandwiches, one a large bar of Fruit and Nut. As it's spring and the heating’s off, 20 of us are wearing coats. Two are trying to discuss the work silently because I won’t let them speak, one has been gazing at a strand of his hair for 10 minutes as if all the knowledge in the world was written on it in very small print. They’re a rainbow nation, fidgeting through revision, silently. Borrowing a pen silently, reading poetry silently, sharing revision cards silently, not-before-time silently, satisfaction-of-a-job-well-done silently, 2-weeks-to-go-panicking silently. Blowing a whistle would be cruel at the end so I tell them the time quietly and they too gather their affairs, put their hoods up and move tidily into the rain. They’re still working as they go: It’s hydrogen, man; there’s a gothic theme to Jekyll and Hyde; these equations don’t stay still; I’ve done the reading for next lesson, have you? She’s setting us a twelve-mark question. I’m going Library after school.
It makes a change. On another matter, during the morning I’ve been involved in a phone discussion about why we don’t have a schools ombudsman. Did you know that? The Office of the Schools Adjudicator just looks at admissions, we have tribunals galore, but no ombuds. Because of a deal done in 1972 we can’t even complain about that to the Local Government Ombudsman. There’s no importuning route for schools about local government or about schools for anyone.
It’s not as if we don’t need it. The new landscape of schools is, to put it politely, disparate. One might even say fragmented, confusing, chaotic, perhaps unplanned. It’s hard to know where the gatekeepers are when it’s not obvious where the gate is. Or if there is one. Either way, in the ungated field of a thousand blooms who’ll hear a whistle when it’s blown? Where does the frustrated taxpayer get justice or just a hearing?
Whistleblowing is real whistling. It needs people to stop, consider their actions, desist, reset and do the next thing right. It searches for shared and valued norms and expectations and a common language. It longs for quality in consistency, predictability, effectiveness and diligence. That’s not to say a whistle can’t be blown in anger, malice or delusion but that’s seething humanity for you. Access to support, a fair hearing and justice is a human right. As a rallying cry it’s a little arcane but Bring on the Ombudsman.
The DT showcase last night brought the sun with it, and wonderful work beautifully displayed, canapés and music. I went to look again this morning and found a smallish youth on his knees scrutinising the underside of a Bluetooth speaker in half a basketball, to see how it worked. I’ve commissioned the Black Lives Matter posters for my room and other public places: professional-standard stuff with a necessary message.
And overheard on the bridge: No, you can’t just crack open any egg and a chicken comes out. It doesn’t work like that.’ I assume this was a Biology or Food issue, not a comment on the local elections. It may form part of a campaign: School Ombudsman, because not every egg produces a chicken. I’d give the job to the little chap studying the speaker, he knew what he was looking for.