Inchworm

1st October 2010 at 01:00

Monday: I'm invited to the Ops Room, a hush-hush National Trust bunker deep below the Department's basement cafeteria. Lovingly restored by sinister archaeologists, it's now once again a Churchillian Lair. There are bakelite telephones, and antique typewriters*. In the centre of the room a big map: Schools of Great Britain. Little plastic warships being moved around with those long antique pushy stick things. Destroyers = free school proposals. Cruisers = academy confirmed. Overseeing this ideological Battle of Britain is Scary Paula, our 21st-century version of Hermann Goering. The Gove's rarely down there (too busy) but does occasionally drop in, wearing his oversized WW2 boiler suit. He'll splutter his way through a massive cigar in the smoking room, amusing sycophants with his musical comedy take on the 1944 Education Act - "Who Do You Think You Are Kidding, Mr Butler?" *hooked up to iPads.

Tuesday: Briefing in the Ops Room. Scary Paula pacing up and down with a swishy riding crop, emphasising her points. Yes (swish), we have offensives planned against our 10 declared enemies. Teachers. Tattooed people. Certain Lib Dem "partners". Busybody local authorities. "Wacky ideas". Ed Balls. Children. Emotional weakness. Rejection of common-sense Conservative policies. Channel 4's Skins. But (swish) the situation's much darker than we imagined. We have a new enemy; a deadly sleeper force awaiting the command of an unknown evil. "Covert intelligence (swish) is gushing in from classrooms up and (swish) down the country." Scary Paula pauses, staring slowly round the room. "Year 9. We must (swish) vanquish them. (swish) Crush them. All that stands between us and victory is (swish) YEAR 9!"

Wednesday: Back in the "real" world of a departmental meeting room, we sift through the classroom feedback material. There's no doubt that Year 9 is a formidable opponent. The consensus among teachers is that much of this cohort is empowered by a lethal combination of growing self-confidence and a fresh contempt for education. "A perfect storm," as one teacher put it. "A perfect, sodding, sullen, obstructive, thick, disruptive, balls-aching, nerve-shredding storm, and if I had my way I WOULD GAS THE BLOODY LOT."

Thursday: We discuss solutions. Gassing is quickly ruled out - apparently, it's in breach of some nannying EU directive. By teatime we've narrowed it down to three options. Bring gap years forward from post-sixth form to post-Year 8. Compulsory military service for 14-year-olds. Or put all Year 9 pupils to sleep like tortoises for the academic year.

Friday: The Gove likes all the options - they'd save a fortune in staff costs. But the Tortoise Option is the focus group favourite. They'd like to see "anaesthetic sabbaticals" introduced for teachers, too ...

As intercepted by Ian Martin.

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