Inchworm

17th December 2010 at 00:00
The policy wonk rethinking your profession

Monday: All political advisers have been kept behind. We're in detention, and it's so unfair. "I haven't got my phone and Mum's expecting me in five minutes for my TEA," wails Wonky Steph from Strategy. "I haven't done nothing," mumbles Dev from Policy Futures. "You mean you haven't done ANYTHING!" barks Scary Paula. "That's the problem. And sit up straight - this is the Department for Education, not bloody Wetherspoon's!" Paula's very cross. Not unusual in itself, but today we're to get a special bollocking from The Govenor. In he sweeps, resplendent in the studded leather Richard III outfit he's "wearing in" for the Christmas party. He draws his sword with one hand and produces a copy of the Guardian with the other. "Fie, fie! What new vexation this, from naughty France, doth test our patience? Now must we take arms against this calumny, or perish here in Academe's most sacred grove!" He's waiting for a response. We break into awkward applause. He goes mental and takes the leg off a chair with his sword, after a dozen or so inexpert swipes.

Tuesday: What's made him so cross is the latest Programme for International Student Standards Evaluation Report. Britain's slipping down the world education rankings, particularly in maths, reading and science. "Twenty-fifth!" shouts Scary Paula. "That's below Poland. Bah! Now they've finished our bathrooms, the best teachers have gone home and are nurturing a Super Race." She leaves us in no doubt. Something Must Be Done.

Wednesday: We bat around a few ideas. Sandra thinks we should denigrate Poland, get them demoted. "Maybe they cheated during the evalution by pretending to be cleverer than they actually are." I wonder if Sandra ever imagines what it would be like to be cleverer than she actually is.

Thursday: Still thinking. Wonky Steph suggests "we begin a comprehensive investment in education, stop using parental choice to fracture everything into a skills market and give the same support to teachers as that given to nurses, or to PFI shareholders". We all agree that Steph's an idiot. We have to get Britain up the rankings by close of business tomorrow.

Friday: Solution: recalibrate the stats. We could factor out China, Korea, Taipei, Japan and Singapore, on the grounds that they have non-western maths, which is easier for them to do than western maths. Brilliant. We've moved up to 19th place in under an hour. After lunch, we discover that Britain has a greater variation in reading standards than nearly everyone else, attributed to "class differences". Perfect. In line with Departmental Aspiration Guidelines, we set achievement to the highest level. So much for Britain "dumbing down" - by teatime we've moved up to 12th!

As intercepted by Ian Martin.

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