As efficient as the railways

29th December 2000 at 00:00
If I were a dictator, I would hold a general election tomorrow, just to get it out of the way. But, if I really were a dictator, I wouldn't be bothering with democracy anyway, so that is a pretty stupid observation to start with.

Let me put it another way. Sadly, there is no chance of any rational debate about education for the next four months at the very least. This year's pantomime season will stretch well into May.

"We've met all our targets."

"Oh no, you haven't."

"Oh yes, we have."

Enter Wee Willy Hague, stage right.

"You think your ideas are crazy? Well, I've got a really loony plan."

"Oh no, you haven't."

"Oh yes, I have."

"Oh no, you haven't."

"Oh yes, I have. I want every teacher to have to negotiate a fresh contract every year, and I'm going to have even more OFSTED inspections, unannounced, or whenever parents want one."

"Hurrah! Boo! Get him off. Off, off, off! We're going to win the cup. Come over here if you think you're hard enough" (followed by many more weeks of equally serious debate).

The only solution, for those who feel the lyrical heights are still there to be scaled, is to start your own party. I have been thinking of founding the Really Sensible Initiatives Party to put innovations back where they belong. Our election slogan will be either "We never run out of steam", or "No one forgets a good initiative".

Every day we shall have a new initiative, as a week is far too long to have to wait in education. Our mailshots will be delivered twice, morning and afternoon, just in case we decide to have a second wheeze if the first one is flagging.

There will be both little and big initiatives. An example of a small but significant wheeze is our plan to give every teacher a little bag for those annoying half-inch bits of chalk that clutter up your pockets. These bags must be sent in every Friday to the National Chalk Recycling Centre where they will be ground up and recast into nice new sticks.

A typical medium-sized initiative is Fesh Start for Teachers. Many teachers have now forgotten how to teach because of the priorities of box ticking and form filling, so they will all be retrained in Education Inaction Zones.

These are places where there will be no new initiatives for five years.

Our giant mega-initiative will be a major push on privatisation. Even school toilets will be privatised and there will be a charge to users, under our manifesto promise, of "50p a pee".

Those who are cross-legged, desperate and have already turned puce will have to pay pound;1. ("Oh no, they won't." "Oh yes they will.") We want education to be as efficient as the railways. Local authorities will be abolished even before Wee Willy does it and 25 new private franchises will be set up, under a single leasing body, Schooltrack. Great Northern, for example, will be responsible for schools from Sheffield to the Scottish border.

The directors of Schooltrack will be paid according to how well pupils perform in tests. If children do well in national tests, each director will receive a pound;1 million bonus. If they do badly, then directors will be paid a pound;2m bonus.

Emergency school timetables for each franchise will be produced every Friday, just for the following week, but will be subject to further alterations. There will be no lunchtime buffet service until further notice. Children walking along corridors will have to observe a two miles per hour speed limit in both directions.

Schooltrack apologises to pupils who were expecting to get their GCSEs but, owing to operating difficulties in a number of areas, lessons will be subject to delays and cancellations. Pupils are advised to seek alternative education wherever possible, or not to go to school at all.

The Really Sensible Initiatives Party thanks you for reading this manifesto and offers everyone the seasonal greeting currently being wished to each other by many teachers: a happy Woodhead-free new year.

Oh, and I forgot to say that you can all sod off the day after the election.

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