Dear secretary of state for education,
Thank you for your thoughtful Christmas gift; we all look forward to an education policy announcement during our holidays. The fact that we know we can expect such largesse in every school break fills us with merriment. Given Parliament’s own regular breaks, we are doubly pleased to note the forward planning that has gone into timing these releases for us.
Not one of us suspects for a minute that the Department for Education would cynically publish bad news at times calculated to ensure we are not in our staffrooms to discuss it together.
Neither do any of us suspect education to be such a low government priority that its ministers might attempt to make the most of the slower times in the news cycle to draw attention to themselves.
No, we are simply grateful that we get to start this term, as we have every term in living memory, making sense of another change to our work. How boring it would be otherwise!
Given Ofsted’s new focus on curriculum, it is especially timely of you to have made this intervention. What we needed more than anything, as we re-balance breadth and depth in our curricula in time for September, while staying on the carrot-side of the accountability stick, was an Activity Passport. Half National Trust "50 Things To Do Before You’re 11 ¾", half "Children’s University Passport To Learning", and half "Every Child Should" campaign, this is 150 per cent original and inspiring stuff.
That entrepreneurial ex-colleagues, who have left the profession for no easily fathomable reason, were on hand to launch myriad consultancies to support us to deliver on this new policy only fills us with more awe at yours and your department’s peerless planning and matchless beneficence.
In the spirit of reciprocity, please accept the attached Activity Passport – designed just for you – as a token of our gratitude and of our own commitment to school improvement. Granted, it is your job to improve us and not the other way around, but as we all strive to make education great again, we know you too will want to be seen as a reflective practitioner.
As such, we feel assured that you will read the appended check-list and make every effort to tick every box. Your performance management review being due sooner rather than later, we feel it is our duty to make passing it as easy as possible.
Your view is clearly not to a promotion to higher office. Spaces at the top are limited after all and, in the end, what could be of higher importance than the very future of the nation? We know your government is keen to ensure the role of unpromoted teachers is properly recognised, and we offer you this Activity Passport by way of also recognising the contributions of unpromoted ministers and secretaries of state for education. It is your passport out of the Westminster Bubble.
Thank you in advance for your consideration, and we look forward to hearing of your progress until the next re-shuffle, and beyond.
Mr JL Dutaut – teacher of politics and citizenship (until this week)
The secretary of state for education (and ministers’) Activity Passport
Being an entitlement of every person appointed to such a position, regardless of socioeconomic background, prior experience or political affiliation, to enrich their time in office and provide for the development of their full potential as democratic citizens, elected representatives and members of Her Majesty’s Government.
1. Request and publish the full funding sources and interests of all thinktanks and lobbying organisations and persons proposing education policies.
2. Decline to consider any policy from any organisation or person who doesn’t comply with the request.
3. Visit one of your so-called "failing" schools.
4. Visit another of your so-called "failing" schools.
5. Keep visiting so-called "failing" schools until you find one you can genuinely say is failing from its own poor efforts rather than its community’s comorbid disadvantages.
6. Give away one of your powers. (It doesn’t matter which. The exercise is the point.)
a. Visit a primary school of your choice, unaccompanied – not your alma mater, not in your constituency, not by invitation, and not recommended by a friend or colleague.
b. Do a break and a lunchtime duty with unpromoted teachers.
c. Attend and support five timetabled lessons that day.
d. Attend an after-school meeting or club;
e. Read through all your red boxes for the next day.
8. Repeat for a secondary school;
9. Repeat for a Further Education college;
10. Repeat for a special school;
11. Repeat for a Pupil Referral Unit;
12. Repeat for an Early Years setting;
13. Meet some home-schoolers;
14. Become a school governor;
15. Go undercover as a supply teacher on a supply teacher’s pay and conditions. (No, they won’t recognise you. Yes, really.)
16. Work with a supply teaching agency for a day, taking calls from schools.
17. Work with a school admin team for a day in a socioeconomically deprived area.
18. Invite some teachers to a policy forum.
19. Create a policy forum to invite teachers to.
20. Hold a regular Twitter chat, #EducationSoS.
21. Wait five years before declaring whether a policy has or hasn’t been a success.
22. Announce that one of your own government’s policies hasn’t been a success, without caveats.
23. Randomly select a representative panel of teachers who have recently left the profession and conduct their leaving interviews.
24. Randomly select a representative panel of teachers who have recently joined the profession and listen to their views.
25. Randomly select a representative panel of teachers with above-average length of service and listen to their views.
26. Attend the All-Party Parliamentary Group for the teaching profession. (Yes, there is one. Yes, we know.)
27. Collaborate with all the other Parliamentary parties on one policy with a 10-year horizon. (It doesn’t matter which. The exercise is the point.)
28. Publicly hold yourself accountable for Progress 8 for the whole nation. (No? Why not?)
29. Work for a day supporting the counsellors on the Education Support Partnership’s mental health helpline (08000 562 561, @edsupportuk.)