Diary - An end to tunnel vision?

5th February 2010 at 00:00

I scanned the front two rows. They were all there - directors, councillors, inspectors, MSPs. This month's Education Minister was there. The hall fell silent. I was all alone. No notes. No PowerPoint presentation. I grabbed the lectern, and I could feel myself drifting away. It was an out-of-body experience.

"Ladies and gentlemen. I have been on a strange journey." Pens were poised. Gazes fixed. Chins stroked. Rings twiddled. "This journey took me forwards. And backwards. Then sideways. The curriculum in Scotland is like that journey. Are we on the main line, or are we heading for a siding? Is the driver in the front of the train, or at the rear? Are other faster trains overtaking us? What do we do when we are losing power and the lights are going out in every carriage?"

I played the railway metaphor for all it was worth. "Colleagues, we are behind time. We are running late and there are other faster trains ahead of us. We have made mistakes. Too many changes of engines. Too many companies meddling in the operation. Not enough co-ordination. From a once-proud position, we are being left behind. The drivers know what is wrong and they can fix it."

They were all listening intently. Heads were nodding. I could almost feel the release of tension. Then I made a momentous decision, which could have ended my career. I heard an angelic voice telling me to go on and say it. I said it.

"The Scottish Curriculum Express is limping along and struggling to make it into the terminus. Too many signals are down. We are running out of apologies to tell the passengers. We don't need a Curriculum Fat Controller. Some drivers have worked on this line for a long, long time. Give them good trains, clean trains, well-equipped trains. Trust them. Support them. Keep them as drivers. Let them train new drivers. Let them flourish."

I sat down. Silence. I closed my eyes. Then: slow applause - quickening applause - tumultuous applause. They were on their feet. They were cheering. The guy from The TESS was scribbling furiously. Thank goodness nobody threw their underwear onto the podium.

The minister left abruptly. The HMIs followed quickly. Was my career over? Had I blown it? As we broke for coffee, I was surrounded by the press and radio reporters. They sensed a political time-bomb had gone off. Did I see the end of local authority control? Were the roles of HMIE under threat? Was I advocating more headteacher involvement? I was asked to phone a Mr Donaldson. Whatever next?

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