'Come with me on a trip as the Angel Wilshaw takes us to a school past, present and future'

It's never too late to change, as one imagined school leader is taken on a trip that might sound a little familiar

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Mr Klooge was an executive head and a ruthless operator. Let me paint you a picture.

His words would roll out of his mouth with a gentle lilt. And then stab you like a dagger.

He was only small; about five foot, but he had little beady eyes and a skin head.

He was physically diminutive but when he walked into a room, you knew it was him, because the entire room would fall into a state of polite cautiousness.

Stories would halt mid throw, jokes would suddenly become “safe” and those of a certain inclination would immediately begin to drop sycophantic titbits into all manner of conversations. Others would stand in stoney silence. 

He had so far demobilised 18 members of staff – “healthy turnover”, he described it as. Granted, a couple probably should have gone, but most were hardworking, experienced and professional.

He wanted to fill his inner circle with a young, glossy, Twitter-savvy pack of lizard – not tiger – teachers who would kiss his backside while putting others to the sword with cold efficiency. The only humour that Mr Klooge allowed was the type that ingratiated him.  

Laughter never came from the pit of stomachs, only from the tip of lips. This was a superficial operation and even those that said they were happy (very few) were only so on the surface.

Anyway, one frosty and dark Monday morning in mid-December, something incredibly strange happened to Mr Klooge.

It was 7am and he was strolling towards the front door of the school when suddenly, he couldn’t take another step. His pin-striped suit would take him no further.

He desperately tried to move but he couldn’t. And then, he blacked out.

He woke up in a cupboard. Yes – in a cupboard! Was he alive? Was he dreaming?

He pinched himself and then checked the Ofsted documentation on how to be an outstanding school leader was still packed into his inside blazer pocket (most important stuff first). “Phew,” he thought. “I’m here”. But he had no idea where "here" was.

He stood up and was about to open the cupboard door to find out, when a voice called out behind him. “Wait”. He paused and wondered if it was Gandalf from The Lord of the Rings. “ARRGHHH,” he screamed. It was Sir Michael Wilshaw.

“Sir Michael!” he cried, and knelt down to kiss his feet.

“Get up man,” came the response. Klooge snivelled to his feet. “I am the ghost of educational Christmas past and I am here to transport you back in time to show you what you have become”.

“But, but, you’re Sir Michael Wilshaw…”

“I am…but I’m not,” said the figure. Mr Klooge was bewildered.

The angel Wilshaw took Mr Klooges right hand and thrust it through his body. It went straight through him.

“We are back in 1989,” said the Angel Wilshaw. “I want to show you something”.

He led Mr Klooge to a classroom. They walked in and none of the people in the room could see either of them. They floated to the back. Immediately, Mr Klooge recognised the woman sat at the teacher's desk. “Is that?” he hesitated. “Is that Julie?”

Julie was a 44-year-old single mum who jumped before she was pushed. But here she was, as a fresh faced twentysomething NQT.

The Angel Wilshaw simply said: “Watch”. And he did.

What he saw astonished him; A teacher full of life, a set of students brimming with enthusiasm, a relaxed atmosphere, smiles and learning.

The bell rang and all the students walked out of the room, apart from one. A young man approached her. “Miss,” he said tentatively.

“Yes” she said from her desk.

“That lesson was cool.” And then he stopped. It was almost as if he wanted to say more but his credibility wouldn’t allow it.

“Aww, thanks, John,” Julie replied. John nodded in acknowledgement before turning and walking out of the door. She stared at him as he left with a warm smile on her face. She was clearly taking a moment to enjoy the job and bask in its intrinsic value.

Mr Klooge just stared at her for a moment, sat at her desk smiling with a sense of satisfaction, about to devour an apple.

“That’s impossible, I’ve never seen her teach a good lesson in her life!” scoffed Klooge.

“That’s because she suffered a mental breakdown five years ago, when you and your Rottweiler leadership team drove her into the dirt, remember?”

On that, the Angel Wilshaw turned away and left Klooge standing there just gazing at this almost unrecognisable teacher in front of him. He began to wonder if this was the teacher she once was. He began to ponder the things he’d done.  

At the click of Sir Michael's fingers, they were transported back to the present. This time, another school, another classroom.

This time, the students were joyous with boundless energy. But it wasn’t his school. The staff were happy.

The Angel Wilshaw pointed at the teachers smiling faces framed by Christmas hats, and he even giggled to himself at the sight of teachers playing sneaky Christmas DVDs to the kids. “Blasphemy!” cried Mr Klooge.

“Oh lighten up, my old son!” chimed Wilshaw. “Come with me…” He ushered him along a corridor towards the door marked headteacher. “No need to knock” he winked and they were in the office.

“Welcome to my meeting,” said the headteacher. It was Bill Shears. He’d taken the mick out of him so many times for being a kind of “Uncle Tom” softy with his staff, allowing one thing and another, not taking data seriously.

“Ha!” Klooge launched one of his smarmy grins on Wilshaw. “What a loser,” he scorned.

“He gets better results than you now, Kloogey” said Wilshaw.

“Don’t call me Kloogey. And that’s rubbish – no way does he get better results.”

“Yes way,” said Sir Michael, clicking his fingers so a transparent Star Trek style spreadsheet appeared in front of them. “Courtesy of my old friends” he chuckled.

Klooge frowned and then the frown turn into eyebrow-raising shock.

Mr Shears started to speak to his staff, the majority of whom were wearing Christmas jumpers.

“So far this term, we have got rid of silly marking policies, reinstated the sanctity of the staffroom, stopped all forms of surveillance and excess accountability, clamped down on poor behaviour in a reasonable fashion, embraced all teaching styles and allowed teachers to teach, banned competition between staff and general nastiness and organised an inset day of ten pin bowling.

"All that and our students are making wonderful progress. Hit the music, Bob…”

His assistant headteacher, who was rather doddery (an experienced staff member in a leadership position shocked Klooge more than the speech), clicked “play” on the CD player and the leadership team engaged in a whole-hearted rendition of Fairytale of New York – minus a slurring Irishman.

Klooge was laughing – laughing! Oh my, if his staff could see him now.

There was suddenly a loud click. Klooge turned and there was the Angel Wilshaw holding a polaroid camera. He’d captured the moment.

“Do you feel that?” asked Wilshaw, rubbing his thumb and finger together.

“What?” asked a confused Klooge.

“It’s the sense of happiness in a school. It’s not too late for you to create it.” Wilshaw told him.

And snap. They were in the future. It was an empty pub and Klooge was staring at himself, sitting on a bar stool, his shirt wide open at the top, with a whisky.

“What’s this?” he asked Wilshaw.

“Come” said Wilshaw.

They approached the bar and saw a drunken Mr Klooge sat at the bar barely able to sit up straight, mumbling something about RAISE online under his breath.

“This is your retirement party” said the angel.

“But it's empty?” said Klooge.

“Like I said, it's not too late for you,” insisted Wilshaw. And with that – boom – they were back in 2016.

I say “they”, but actually, it was just Mr Klooge. He staggered to his office and sat at his desk.

There was a tiny little tear drop, which slowly tried to climb out of his right eye onto the folder that he was clutching in both hands; the one that said “outstanding” on it. He stared, solemnly, at the letters.

The angel Wilshaw appeared at his door and said something he must have picked up from a Bourne film: “Look at what they made you give.” 

And that was it, he was gone again. But not before pinning up the polaroid shot of Mr Klooge bawling raucously on the door of his office.

The following morning, he called a staff meeting. Things were going to change in his school from this day on.

Thomas Rogers is a teacher who runs rogershistory.com and tweets at @RogersHistory

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