12th March 2010 at 00:00
The policy wonk whose heart isn't in it


My first week as freelance consultant to the world of education. Correction, "accredited intelligence provider". I've got the paperwork, the kitemark, everything, although being an accredited provider is really just common sense. Know the sector, understand people's conflicting sensitivities and so on. Example: I've been asked by A Certain Government Department to get some feedback from faith schools, discreetly find out if compulsory sex education will be a problem for them. Easy. I keep my research ULTRA discreet by doing it all on the internet. Whoa. Faith is a broad spectrum, isn't it? Summary of findings: the more extreme the religion, the more likely it is that the issue of compulsory sex education will be DIFFERENTIATED BY GENDER: girls educated to accept compulsory sex, along with compulsory housekeeping. Boys more likely to be offered the opt-out.


I've been asked to shadow Ofsted inspectors on some visits. It's for a research programme being carried out by the vigorously non-judgmental Centre for the Understanding of Children. Their point of departure is that anyone under the age of 16 is essentially blameless. I'm tempted to refute this but as I've already agreed a fee, I can definitely see what they mean. Today, I'm sitting in on a geography lesson at Lady Sovereign School in east London. Very small and well-behaved class. The inspectors are impressed. Later, I have a crafty fag behind the bike sheds with Geoff, the head. He tells me inspections are a challenge. "But then, unruly pupils are a challenge, aren't they? I believe it's best to put all your challenges together and meet them all in one go". That, he says with a wink, is why all the challenging children have been taken out of school today on a special Rural Challenge outing, tipped into a gravel pit somewhere in Essex and challenged to scramble their way out.


Devise a new school building prototype. The foundations are fixed to a massive floating hydraulic turntable so that, at any point in the future, parents can see an underperforming school being turned around.


Lunch with Michael Gove. As usual, it takes forever. I've already ordered the second bottle of wine and he's still agonising over his starters. I keep telling him to spend less time on selection, but he won't listen. Things get more embarrassing when the main courses arrive. He insists on seeing proof that the chef got a minimum 2:2 in Catering "at a decent university". Luckily, I have ordered, and consumed, a third bottle of wine.


Geoff from Lady Sovereign calls. He's quitting. God; it's tragic how quickly disillusion sets in at principal level. "Yeah, I was only appointed in September," he says, gloomily. "And disappointed by November... "

Inchworm has moved from his previous home in 'TES Magazine' and will now appear in 'The TES' every week. Please send your suggestions to

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