You never know what they don’t know. We discovered some 16-year-olds yesterday who’d never played a board game, had no idea of the conventions, didn’t know any card games. They were offered this chance as part of the Tallis Choices Community Day. Younger year groups had time on sustainability, relationships, violence, drugs and careers, but year 11 get a bit of support in how to make the right choices in a year full of exams. This included what to do to relax, on the grounds that many of them are a bit anxious, and mocks start in a fortnight. Yoga, team games, board games, relaxation, meditation and a bit of optional crochet.
But you never know how they see themselves. One chap who’d opted for the crochet fetched up in XFN Study Hall (expectations, effort, engagement) with it later and calmly sat down to while away an hour with the wool. XFN isn’t optional and it’s only for those who’re strangers to the flashcard. You don’t have time to crochet quotations from An Inspector Calls even in 1 hour 45 exam, so that little bit of creativity had to be suppressed. Kindly. There are places to relax and there are places to work.
And places where sitting zipped into your puffa with your bag on your back ready to spring is a little unnerving. Year 12 were debating all day and I muscled in to judge the final. The chair was inexperienced and keen to learn, but didn’t look very relaxed and also had to be warned about applauding one side more than the other. Be more Bercow, I advised. On the way in I followed some people so tall I couldn’t see their heads, boys whom the gutter press would characterise as arrogant yobboes, clinging to one another in case they have to articulate an unprepared thought. ‘I’m going to sit next to you. I can’t speak out loud even if I’m asked’. Mind, off-the cuff may make more sense than another who confidently told me ‘you can catch death from meningitis’.
Either of which were preferable to year 11 on healthy eating. How was it? ‘It’s all about the poo, Miss. You’ve got to get it just right.’ Thank you, indeed it is. Oh look, there’s someone I can talk to about the weather.
Or politics! Which brings me neatly to heads’ priorities for school funding which I’d like to share with you in the necessary purdah-imperative spirit of impartiality, having taken my puffa off.
- An adequately-funded National Funding Formula for all schools
- Proper funding for SEND and High Needs provision which is in crisis
- Adequate post-16 per pupil funding rising from £4000 to £4760, not £4188 as planned
- Funding for social care, policing, counselling, behaviour support and all the other unfunded extras now expected and required of schools
- A published 10 Year funding plan as recommended by the Education Select Committee
- Clarity about future costs and future revenue streams
- Salary increases fully funded by new money.
- An independently verified benchmarking tool for school funding
- Independent statistical analysis so the system doesn’t have to rely on the IFS and EPI for accurate and unvarnished funding analysis. (On this last, government have referred to a headline investment of £14 billion into schools and the UK Statistics Agency riposted “There is, however, a risk that the figures could mislead: for example, people who read no further might expect that the headline figure of £14 billion refers to an annual increase. We therefore encourage the Department and Ministers to continue to provide appropriate context when making statements on school funding.”
Does this sound unreasonable? I don’t think so. If we really cared about children we’d have 10-year funding plans which couldn’t be unpicked by governments. Children’s futures are too important to leave to politicians.
I discovered a brilliant poem two weeks ago, Anne Carson on Troy. It ends
Morning arrives. Troy is still there. You hear from below the clatter of everyone putting on their armour. You go to the window.