Bringing home the bacon

Stephen Petty

Prolonged rhythmic squeaking from the neighbouring pig farm brought an end to a rare few minutes of Thursday afternoon peace. "Hear that, Sir?" burred Sam from the back of the class. "That's two pigs ruttin', that is."

The amiably lethargic Sam knows about such things. He has always displayed a strong kinship with the farming world. From his first day at our school, his default response has been to draw another tractor, regardless of the content of the lesson. ("Ah, Sam, I see you've sketched another glorious Massey-Ferguson 6490. And so, presumably, that's Martin Luther King sitting there in the cabin?")

Our school has a close relationship with the pig farm. Some of its herd have occasionally strayed on to our site, and a few of our own have been found grazing over there: our breed of "Oxfordshire Smokers" (aka the "tobacca-laureate students") is famous for wandering.

That special relationship may well come to an end soon, with plans afoot to buy up the farm and build over it so that our currently dual-site school can become one.

But what would happen to the pigs, you might ask. Most people around here seem to view them as an irrelevant little chipolata on the town's new educational horizon. They have plainly not thought this through, not taken stock of how education works nowadays.

We should be taking in the displaced pigs, giving them access to the curriculum and raising their aspirations. We should be putting them on the roll, not in the roll.

For one thing, the school would get more money. Pupil premium payments for the disadvantaged are just about the only way a school in England can gain any extra cash at the moment and I think it fairly safe to assume that every single pig would qualify for such finance.

In fact, a porcine-adjusted premium ought to bring us even more money, given that the average pig household does not earn any money at all until it's too late, by which time any talk of educational opportunity would be mere pie in the, er, pie shop.

If we could then get some of our swine students through the English Baccalaureate, it would send our Fischer-Family-social-contextual-value-added exam performance through the roof. Our pigs would begin at the school with no prior level of achievement at all, so if we could somehow get them the EBac before they graduate to back bacon, our pupil progress would be seen as nothing short of miraculous. Imagine the subsequent discussions about performance-related pay.

I am sure we can do it. High expectations and all that. The pigs are already fluent in a foreign language and their inherited difficulties with deciphering numbers and letters should easily entitle them to readers and scribes for the other EBac exams. All that then needs to happen is for each pig candidate to grunt responses to the questions and for suitably briefed scribes to interpret these in a way they see fit - as in "fit" for this new age of extreme accountability for all.

It may be a slightly absurd image of education today, but perhaps not quite as absurd as it should be.

Stephen Petty is head of humanities at Lord Williams's School in Thame, Oxfordshire

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Stephen Petty

Stephen Petty is head of humanities at Lord Williams's School in Thame, Oxfordshire. 

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