Picture the scene: It is Christmas Eve and Justine "Greening" Scrooge is heading to bed, glass of wine in hand, ready to catch up on some reading.
But sleep descended on her quickly that evening. Barely had Scrooge's eyes closed when she heard the blood curdling sounds of rulers being tapped on desks and the sound of teachers crying into the night as the marking piled up.
Suddenly, a small infantile shape appeared at the end of the bed, dressed in an all-grey school uniform,
"Come with me, Scrooge, let me take you on a journey." Off they flew to a time when grammar schools ruled. "Don't look at the schools, Scrooge," said the little girl. "Look at the inequality that you seem to so badly want to repeat."
"Stop, I've had enough," wailed Scrooge, as the grey figure took her hand again. Off they flew.
"Let's look at what a normal school today looks like," said the figure. "Notice the tearful, overworked teachers. The heads poring over the latest piece of meaningless data. Notice the unhappy children following a curriculum not fit for their needs. And notice also the uncaring government and media."
"No more, no more," said Scrooge, as the grey figure took her hand once more.
"Now, let's look at what is going to happen in the future," said the child.
They landed at a stark, desolate place. No teachers were evident, they had long ago left for happier times. Class sizes were enormous, and all the pupils were hooked up to their tablets. The government lessons for the day were being played. Money had been saved by treating all pupils the same, irrespective of need. Accountability had been achieved for all. No need for heads, or teachers, just technicians and data points. No sound of happiness: bliss.
"I've had enough," said Scrooge. "Please take me home and I will make 2017 the year when teachers are appreciated, valued and respected by the government. I promise to fund schools appropriately and appreciate that all children are different. I will scrap league tables and get rid of Ofsted. And I promise to trust teachers again. Lastly, I will stop playing around with the education system."
The grey figure slipped her hand from Scrooge’s and Justine woke with a start. She looked around. What a night, she thought, what a dream, what promises I have made. Thank goodness I am a politician and I don’t have any qualms about breaking them…
Happy Christmas and a happy new year from Colin
Colin is a former principal who is now supporting teachers and school leaders