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Felines and fiddlesticks

Unravelling the jargon of education speak

An end-to-end review is what the vet does to my cat. It normally involves looking in dark places that even Tiddles views with suspicion. And it ends up costing me lots of money. But the cat is thrilled to hear that the same undignified process was recently applied to the National College for School Leadership. True, Tiddles thinks it has something to do with lifting the tail and having a good old poke around, but he's not too far wrong.

Rather than tail to teeth, the college's review was concerned with the policy-to-delivery chain. That sounds like a high-street chain selling dodgy life assurance, but the NCSL is delighted with its review, and has given it enough new jargon to baffle everyone for years. There are step changes in availability and access, design principles, key stakeholders, methodologies and at least one national focus. There is also talk of developing a high-performing, self-improving system. Clearly, Newtonian physics hasn't reached Whitehall yet.

Of course, behind all this there is a vision. What is it with Whitehall and visions? Even Bernadette made do with just 18 of them. Anyway, all these nuggets of tortured language can be strung together in endless combinations, each capable of generating more documents, reports and the odd survey. All over the world, forests are nervous.

Pity our poor headteacher here at St Jude's. Given that all the years of struggle with the recalcitrant pillars of tomorrow's community have engendered a quite military cast of mind, some elements of the review are in danger of causing our dear leader to part company with reality altogether.

The blood has been particularly chilled by the NCSL's stated aim to develop and deliver a small number of high-impact strategic initiatives, or HISIs, over the next three years.

This must never be allowed to happen. Should HISIs ever be fully commissioned, every school in the country would be within range. The devastation they could cause is unimaginable. Education would be destabilised. They could strike without warning. Some believe they could be deployed in as little as 45 minutes, though there is little evidence of that.

Small wonder the head in question is having a HISI-fit.

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