Let the loonies take over the education system

26th June 2009 at 01:00

"Here's one," calls my deputy, looking up from his laptop. "Large villa in Majorca. Central location. No same-sex parties. Sleeps up to 45."

"Put it on the shortlist," I say and I make a quick mental calculation. "So I'd be able to take the family and you could bring your girlfriend and at least they could have a bit of a summer holiday."

My Year 6 teacher comes bouncing in clutching a memo that I'd hastily drafted to her earlier in the day. "So if the Tories get in ..." she begins.

"If?" I raise an eyebrow.

"OK, OK. When the Tories get in, you're saying Sats will be moved to Year 7?"

"That's right," my deputy and I say in unison.

"Well, that sounds brilliant to me," she beams. "We can get back to some proper teaching and some really interesting topics. So what's all the fuss about?"

I give a weary sigh. "It's all about accountability. The Sats papers won't be sent away for marking. Secondary teachers will do the marking themselves."

"In all the free periods they get," spits my deputy.

"Then," I continue. "We hard-working, creative and dynamic junior schools will be judged by the secondary schools' in-house assessments, which will no doubt be artificially deflated to make them look better on their value-added measure."

I let it sink in and then land the punch. "So we will look like a bunch of incompetent amateurs."

My Year 6 teacher stops grinning. "They wouldn't intentionally deflate results, would they? That would be so unfair and unprofessional."

I raise an eyebrow again. "It's what some all-through primary schools have been doing for years. Deflating your teacher-assessed key stage 1 results vastly improves your value-added measure at the end of key stage 2. It would be the same for secondaries. Of course, that doesn't help junior-only schools like us, who'll now get shafted at both ends by inflated Year 2 results and deflated Year 7 results. We're caught slap bang in the middle."

My Year 6 teacher sits down heavily. "So we'll have to take our Year 6 children with us on our summer holidays?"

I nod sagely. "It's our only hope of keeping them ready for the tests when they transfer in September."

"How about a self-contained block of flats in Croatia?" pipes up my deputy. "It's pretty cheap in the summer. We'd have it to ourselves and there's a large conference room, which we could use for lessons."

I make a note and stick another drawing pin in our world map, feeling like Churchill in the war rooms.

"Or there's camping in the Dordogne. Six tents, two shower blocks and fresh goat's milk readily available."

I shake my head and reach for another coffee. "Weather-dependent," I reply. "I can't be doing with damp revision books and no internet access."

The school business manager staggers in, struggling under the weight of a ream of papers and files.

"I've made a start on the passports and the travel insurance. Can we rule out Peru because of the jabs? And Libya is a no-no because of its entry restrictions. And steer clear of anywhere where they harvest peanuts. Too many anaphylactics in Year 5."

I remove two drawing pins from the map and draw a line through Peru and Libya.

"What about a BB in Brighton? Sea view. It looks nice."

The site manager arrives. "I've started putting the risk assessments together. Are you likely to be doing any adventurous activities on this trip?"

There is a collective sarcastic laugh.

"Chance would be a fine thing," I chuckle through gritted teeth. "It's strictly a pre-autumn, pre-Sats, pre-preparatory holiday. August through to September."

The site manager looks perplexed.

"So no kayaking?"



"Definitely not. Just cramming and more cramming. Chalk, talk and textbooks."

"Wait a minute," calls my deputy, still hunched over his laptop. "There's just been a press conference by the Monster Raving Loony Party. They've made a statement about their education policies."

We all crowd round his laptop and he begins to read the statement.

"Should we be elected to power at the next election, we would abolish key stage 2 Sats. Instead, we would judge primary schools by how well-rounded their pupils were at the end of Year 6. We would test their attitudes towards good citizenship, how well they related to and tolerated others, how much they appreciated the arts and the lessons learned from history and how they valued themselves and the world around them."

The room is silent for a moment.

"Shut down your laptop and get your coats, all of you," I say. "We loonies are going out canvassing."

Colin Dowland, Headteacher of a junior school in north London.

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