Skip to main content


The policy wonk whose heart isn't in it

The policy wonk whose heart isn't in it

Monday Spend the day having a word with myself, along the following lines: "Hey, if you're serious about trying to establish yourself as some sort of eminent opinion-former or whatever, shouldn't you actually practise what you preach? You must challenge your OWN beliefs now and then. Have a private, internal debate. Weigh everything up and then change your opinion about something." I consider this suggestion and agree wholeheartedly with myself.

Tuesday Amazing. I can't believe it. Now just such an opinion-changing opportunity has arisen. I have definitely changed my mind about the Institute of Applied Pre-Modernism, a policy think-tank at the weirder end of contemporary theory. Until this morning I had thought of it as a rather grand and pretentious organisation heavily dependent on mysterious donations from abroad. Then I got a phone call from the Institute inviting me, as an "opinion-former", to join their Education Working Group. As this involves a mind-changingly large day rate, I've agreed with them and, for the second time this week, myself.

Wednesday To the Institute of Applied Pre-Modernism, a charming Georgian townhouse situated off London's Portland Place in a quiet cobbled mews. The quaint reception area looks like a mini Saatchi Gallery. It's full of art pieces that seem terrified of being broken. A full-size Buzz Lightyear erupts from one wall. The legend reads "To Pre-Modernism - And Beyond!" There is a very small overlap in the art world between bathos and irony which, I have noticed, is where all the money goes. Eventually, a young woman in ostentatiously utilitarian glasses emerges. She looks like she's made entirely from printer paper. She leads me in to meet the other members of the Education Working Group and chairman Gareth gives us the Institute's mission statement in a nutshell: "To think around education issues rather than about them, and to keep things as vague as possible. So when anything happens we can say we thought of it first ... "

Thursday Getting the hang of this "pre-modernist thinking around education". In the morning, we fill a whiteboard with words (Discipline, Balls Out, Swedish Model, Middle Class Penetration, Wiggle Room, and so on). After lunch, we think it all looks a bit too porny so we erase them and start again.

Friday Gareth's full of praise for my grasp of pre-modernist theory. I've suggested the Institute publicly announces it is considering "what lies beyond" the current school model, ie, funnelling hundreds of children into a big building from Monday to Friday. Nothing much has changed since the 19th century, it's bound to be different in the future so "let's think". And Gareth LOVES my other brainwave: "Could speed-stacking replace streaming as a way of sorting pupils?"

Please send your suggestions to

Log in or register for FREE to continue reading.

It only takes a moment and you'll get access to more news, plus courses, jobs and teaching resources tailored to you