Directing canteen traffic in the early hours of the term small child rushed up to me with a story of lost bag, shoes and bus before leaving home, followed by confusion and excitement in school. ‘Now I’m FINE!’ she squeaked. ‘Can I get a hug?’ ‘No!’ I squawked, rearranging her outstretched arms and backing into a dinner lady. ’We don’t do that here!’ Which, as explained above, is patently untrue. What I meant was - you’ll find plenty people to hug here, but not adults and certainly not me. The exuberance of youth.
In telling this rocket-propelled putative hugger something about the Tallis way I was – rather magnificently – following my own instructions. My theme for the year is Tallis as usual. We don’t want to invent any new ways of doing things this year, just to do everything we already do better, and more consistently. That’s not to say that we won’t have some creatively eccentric new ways of teaching, but we want our running procedures to be reliable, predictable and better.
Which subtle segue leads me into the general state of our education system. Not enough money, 40 000 fewer teachers that we need, exam system that can’t bear the weight put on it, financial scandals etc etc. My solution to most worries is reading so I’ve just finished Melissa Benn’s Life Lessons. Benn is a tireless campaigner for community comprehensive schools but in this little piece she also turns her attention to the state of adult education and the universities, as well as schools, proposing a National Education Service. (Before you reach for the pen to report me to the Secretary of State for contravention of Staffing and Advice for Schools September 2018 para 5:33 (expressing political views) this is not quite the same as the one that Labour talked about a bit at some point.) It’s well worth reading, not least for this.
Why do we still know so little and celebrate even less the successes of comprehensive education? That a new generation of educational activists and administrators, including anti-grammar [conservative MPs] and many in the academy and free school movement now adhere to its principles so hard fought for half a century ago but rarely give it credit is not merely a form of disguised tribalistic discourtesy: it is also the result of a long-standing distortion of the historical record
It should not be forgotten that today’s widespread commitment across the political spectrum….to the idea of all children getting a shot at an ‘academic education is the direct result of comprehensive reform. It changed our attitudes for the better and should be built on, not dismantled.
Reading was on the agenda in year 7 assembly too. ‘Reading makes you kinder’ said Ms R. ‘You all need to read more’. Perhaps the year 11 boy who bizarrely told Sir in English that he wouldn’t need English after leaving school could be persuaded that he might need kindness? Not that the conversation I had with Sir didn’t have its odd turns. It was in discussing the choice of poetry for GCSE that he gave me the title of this piece. Which poems would you rather read?
We are committed to love at Tallis in that we are committed to kindness and service. Part of that is to be reliable, predictable and better. War and love, love and service, expertise and equity, creativity and eccentricity: Tallis as usual, hold us to our promises.