Moon trips are a match for all other promises

28th March 2008 at 00:00
I'm sure you'll have heard we'll soon be including five hours of creative arts appreciation in our curriculum.

I wonder if, like me, you smiled cynically because you know it won't be funded properly, and it's just another flashy headline ... never mind the fact that we couldn't fit it into our already crowded schedule. We haven't even included the modern foreign languages agenda yet.

I'd love to think the Department for Children, Schools and Families has seen the light and realised that music, drama and art are far more important than the constant tracking, targeting and testing that blights young children's education. But I've been a headteacher too long to take news like this seriously.

The cynicism set in one morning, many years ago, when I was relatively new to headship and computers were scarce in schools, but highly desirable.

A salesman phoned, and asked if all my teachers would like to own a new computer. Of course they would, I said, but they can't afford one. They won't have to, said the salesman: they're free. I pointed out that nothing comes free, and put the phone down. The next day, he came into school. The Government was offering special bursaries for teachers who agreed to undergo computer training, and his firm could offer training and free computers. The firm would complete the applications and apply for the grants; we simply had to sign a piece of paper. Naively, we did. So did lots of other schools. And naturally, neither computers nor training materialised. Never mind, I thought, we can apply for the money ourselves; the Government would never release it to any old Tom, Dick or Harry, would it? You can guess the answer.

I was reminded of this years later, when I learned that inner-city schools were to receive pound;25,000 for improving games facilities. Mine was one of them, and I looked forward to receiving the cheque. But I'd forgotten that headteachers aren't trusted to organise anything for themselves. The money went through committees, consultancies and designers, all of whom took a slice, and companies then tendered for supplying the equipment.

What did I end up with? Some painted playground designs, a variety of games apparatus, and an ugly iron storage shed. Less than five grand's worth in all.

Remember the swimming headline? Children who couldn't swim were to receive three weeks of intensive lessons to ensure they acquired this desirable skill.

Highly laudable, except that it didn't happen. But then, how could it? Public swimming baths are busy places, and we already have a job fitting four weekly lessons into ours.

And what about the cookery lessons? People don't cook any more and the nation is becoming obese, so proper culinary skills are to be brought back, taught by appropriately skilled teachers. This, after years of building on playing fields and ripping out school kitchens. Will it happen? Of course it won't.

Nor will the promise of "Music Tuition For Every Child", a quite outrageous headline which merely indicated that the Government has ceased caring whether anybody believes it.

And yet I really believe it could be achieved if millions weren't being pumped into providing schools with boxes of Sats tests instead.

And what about this new promise of funding a field study trip to the moon for all 11-year-olds?

OK, I made that one up. But so bounteous are the promises becoming, I bet I had you fooled for a moment or two.


Mike Kent, Headteacher of Comber Grove Primary, Camberwell, South London.

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