Comment - Big Apple turns sour

Kenny Frederick, Headteacher, George Green's School, East London

New York, New York may be a wonderful town. But the novelty has worn off for our group.

When we were first told our flights had been cancelled and that we would be here for an extra four days, it did not seem so bad. We had come here on an educational visit, spending the last week of our Easter holidays working in our partner schools in the Big Apple. We'd had very little free time to see the sights, so we made the most of our sudden, unexpected chance to do a bit of tourism.

However, when we were told that we were unlikely to get home any time in the next week, at least, it came as a shock.

I am here with three members of my staff, but we are part of a group of 26 London teachers. The fact that we are not alone makes it easier to bear.

We were due back at school on Monday and so have been trying to make arrangements to ensure pupils do not suffer through our absence.

While we wait for a place on a plane home - or possible rescue by the Navy - we are combining working in our partner schools with communicating with our schools back in London.

Our greatest concern is our Year 11 pupils and sixth formers who will be preparing for their public exams in a few weeks without our support. Thankfully, those at home are trying to minimise the disruption caused by our being away.

Our US colleagues have made us welcome and have invited us into their homes for dinner and a chance to experience American home life, although this makes us miss home even more.

On a positive note, we have learnt a great deal about the education system here. Teachers and principals are facing similar issues and are trying to find solutions to the same problems. American schools - like ours - are obsessed with test results and are having to spend a great deal of time teaching to the tests, and this means their curriculum is constricted. But accountability structures are far less advanced here, and I am as surprised as my colleagues to find myself selling the virtues of both internal self-review and Ofsted.

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Kenny Frederick, Headteacher, George Green's School, East London

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