Inchworm - The policy wonk whose heart isn't in it
To a tastefully converted church in north London to meet members of the Progressive Parents Collective. The general rule for progressive parents is that the person in charge will be a woman with Complicated Coiffure and a Unique First Name. "Hello, I'm Amiciania," says someone with a firm handshake and a hairdo as powerful and layered as a Benjamin Britten opera. I explain that I'm here for a briefing on the Collective's plan to create a national network of "corner shop schools". The room is suddenly plunged into awkward silence. "Of course children of all classes would be welcome in our schools. It's just that the ambience would be less corner shop and more... boutiquey." Hmm, finding an appropriate and friendly name for this new model of parent-power education is urgent, before The Gove sweeps to power and unleashes his flying monkeys. I agree to give it some thought.
The new Departmental guidance on keeping children away from gangs is very "street". Excellent section on tell-tale gang signs. You know, is there a new tattoo on the child's neck, or a finger missing? Does their Facebook profile list hobbies such as "hookers" and "identity theft"? I like the multiple-choice: "Has the child lost interest in schoolstopped attending schoolrecently led assault on school with Mac-10 submachine gun?"
Lunch with Ballsy. The pressures of state are getting to him. He looks ill and neurotic. But despite the crushing verdict of public opinion he is fighting back with a revamped agenda and a high-calorie diet. "I'll have from here..." he shows the waiter the top of the starters list, "to here... " indicating the last item. "Inclusive," he explains, unnecessarily. I feel sorry for him, the lame ideas they're giving him to announce. More business managers for primary schools? Ooh, what next - more Smoke Freedom Officers in high-vis tabards patrolling the staff car park? Then, halfway through the second bottle of prosecco: a brainwave. Why not announce the issuing of Special Glasses to every child in state education this September, ready for the "roll-out of 3D Education". But, he asks, what does that even MEAN? I explain it's bullshit, but if The Gove refuses to endorse it, he'll appear a Luddite. Ballsy chews slowly, looking thoughtful.
Bingo. The Department has commissioned me to prepare a consultation paper - "Upgrading Education To A 3D Immersive Learning Environment, Upgrading Teachers From Ciphers To Avatars".
Email the Progressive Parents Collective with my suggested name for their schools: Unattached Neighbourhood Centres of Learning Excellence. What could be more friendly and family-centred than having your child cared for by an UNCLE?
Inchworm has moved from his previous home in 'TES Magazine' and will now appear in 'The TES' every week. Please send your suggestions to firstname.lastname@example.org.