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Unravelling the jargon of education speak

Education is like toothpaste. People produce new improved versions, but they have to use the same vocabulary to describe them. Basically, toothpaste cleans teeth. Thousands of highly paid copywriters have driven themselves to early retirement in Tuscany trying to make the latest Dentospinachbegone sound new and different, using only the words "clean" and "teeth".

The latest jargon to bob to the surface of the condemned soup of educationspeak includes education improvement partnership (EIP). This name has clearly been coined by the Department for Education and Skills Random Jargon Generator, as all elaborations of what it is meant to do make clear.

(I use the word "clear" entirely at my own risk. It is not, and never has been, part of education jargon, which would recoil from it as a rattlesnake does the mongoose.) An EIP, we are told, enables people to take the lead. You can broker stuff with it. It involves imaginative things, and collective things. There is support and, inevitably, there are solutions: effective solutions, collaborative solutions. For those who are new to it all, or who have long since lost the will to live, there is solutions guidance. Everyone will be committed to delivering. Good grief, they're even talking about raising standards and improving behaviour. Can they think of nothing new at all?

Apparently not. The phrase is really just the latest name for foundation partnerships. But what does it mean?

Herein lies its beauty. Anyone with a basic grasp of English could list half-a-dozen possible meanings, and they would all be right. It is the quintessential education initiative: those who decreed it cannot be faulted, as it is clearly full of good things ( see all the tosh above); but if it doesn't work it will be the fault of the poor bloody infantry.

Speaking of which, we at St Jude's take a rather weary view of these things. We have been devising imaginative and effective solutions for years, only to have them vetoed. The chemistry teacher has come up with several effective solutions, which are now on sale in the staffroom.

Our problem is that we have already realised the full potential of our pupils - and it scares us to death. The only thing we could conceivably improve without undue risk to the planet would be their dental hygiene.

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