Another view - FE: the Movie - more cutting-room floor than Cannes

6th November 2009 at 00:00
Comment: Stephen Jones

Hollywood it ain't. That much I can promise you. But then maybe I was expecting too much when I read that a couple of FE quangos had made a film celebrating teachers in further education.

The title kicks ass all right: Ambition 2020. Although if I was really picky I'd want them to snip off the date and go for the snappy one-worder. Sadly, that's about all you can say in praise of it - except perhaps that in its YouTube version it's only nine minutes long! For the rest, it's dire: two talking heads followed by a load of teachers sitting round tables . talking! This, apparently, is how FE is going to revitalise Britain's ailing economy.

The "heads" are those of the chief executives of the two bodies which made the film - the Institute for Learning's Toni Fazaeli and the UK Commission for Employment and Skills' Chris Humphries - so we don't need to guess how they got the gig. Mr Humphries tells us that teachers should do their job with passion. The trouble is, he delivers the line with all the passion of a wet weekend in Worksop.

So, as far as FE: the Movie is concerned, the field is still wide open. Perhaps what's needed is a remake of a classic title with an FE slant. Something like On the Waterfront. Thinking about it, though, Marlon Brando spends half the film wandering around in his vest. And teaching your class with your top off is unlikely to do much for promotion prospects.

How about an archetypal heist film then, say, along the lines of Ocean's Eleven? Jaded FE lecturer Danny Ocean (known to his class as Mr C) gets to play the Frank SinatraGeorge Clooney role. He recruits 10 hard-bitten accomplices - men who have taken all that the college classroom can throw at them, and who are looking for a more profitable way to supplement their pensions than additional voluntary contributions.

In the original, the gang plot to rip off Las Vegas casinos. Sadly, FE teachers are too busy marking to visit nightspots, so Mr C's crew hatch a plot to rob the Learning and Skills Council's Coventry HQ.

As ever in such films, there are problems from the word go. Several members can't make the meetings because they are taking evening classes. Those who can, sit around chewing their pencils and taking slugs of full- strength cocoa.

One says immediately that he can't do anything without drawing up a Scheme of Work accounting for every minute of the day until the end of June next year. Following a lively debate, they kick the issue into the long grass by deciding to set up an SOW sub-committee (robbery).

Another would-be villain objects that their nefarious work can't be any good unless it's subject to the scrutiny of an independent inspectorate. Well, yes, says Mr C, but won't it give the game away if they co-opt an Ofsted inspector? After three nights of wrangling they agree on a compromise: they'll forget about Ofsted and just concentrate on developing their own 12-page self-assessment report.

Three months in and they can start on their real work - planning the heist. Somewhere deep in the vaults of the LSC's Cheylesmore House HQ, they are convinced there's a big pot of money. As the country's biggest quango has an annual budget of over pound;10 billion, it's got to be somewhere.

The big night arrives. The 11 get access to the building by passing themselves off as cleaners. After all, they've spent their careers on cleaners' wages. In the basement, the welding tutor tackles the biggest safe. At last, the door swings open. "Oh shit," Mr C says. "We've bungled. This is the Building Colleges for the Future safe, and you know what that means?"

There's no money, just a note from management: "Sorry lads, we've made a slight miscalculation. Better luck next time," it reads.

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