League tables and five other school *things* that should be in panto

Whether it's the EBacc or league tables, some aspects of school life are better suited to panto, writes Stephen Petty

Stephen Petty lists six school 'things' that really belong in the world of panto

“Why, sometimes I've believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast,” said the White Queen to Alice. As a teacher, I know where she's coming from. A capacity to suspend disbelief goes with the job.

All the same, I’m not sure when the White Queen last set foot in a classroom. Could she conceivably manage to believe in the following six impossible things? Surely none of the following six really “exist”, though some of them may be performing in pantomime at a place near you:    

1. The EBacc

Whether you call something the Ebacc, the Jabberwocky or Jabba the Hutt makes no odds. Giving something a name does not necessarily make it an actual, credible thing. The EBacc is merely the dream of a deluded man – Gove as Judy Garland in Wizard of Oz, but with added rigour. We must ignore this fantasy. I know this would deeply upset “Progress 8 Buckets”, but we’ll come to him and “League Tables” in a minute (See 2 and 3).

2. Buckets

Pantomime character “Buckets” is Cinderella’s other servant. He has been told to make her stay at home and work on the aforementioned “EBacc”. But she thrives in more creative environments and naturally wants to do dance and music. So whenever Buckets walks on stage, we must all boo!

3. League tables

The parent of all modern pantomimes, starring Buckets, Sats, EALs and some sprite with a magic wand called PIXL. Look out for the dramatic scene where the Lost Boys narrowly escape walking the plank but then find themselves all being off-rolled.

Talking of pantomime league tables…

4. The Russell Group of universities

“We are the best because we are the best,” proclaimed the Hatter to Alice. “Curiouser and curiouser," she thought – not a single “Russell” has ever been relegated from this elite group since its formation in 1994. What are the chances of that? As former interviewer Mrs Merton (the late Caroline Aherne) might have asked: “Tell me, what is it about this self-selected group that keeps you all at the top every year?” 

5. Appraisal time (AKA 'Alice through the blue sky')

Appraisal time doesn’t really exist either. This session with our line manager is customarily spent trying to remember, each year, how to enter the information into the relevant bespoke software.  Eventually, we and our boss manage to enter the necessary reviews and future targets – only to discover that we have accidentally saved the whole lot in the following year’s page and can’t seem to delete it. Still, it might save a job next year.      

6. The learning platform

What is it? Where is it? Anything to do with Harry Potter? When’s the train coming in? And who’s paying? Ah yes, funding, that’s another one…

Stephen Petty is head of humanities at Lord Williams’s School in Thame, Oxfordshire 

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