New Labour, old policies

28th October 2005 at 01:00
Stand by to hear wheeze 0593. All teachers will be required to teach their classes while swinging one-handed from a chandelier and singing God Save the Queen. Ooops, sorry, I'm wrong. That was wheeze 0592. Let me check my wheeze list properly first, I don't want to misinform.

Ah yes. Wheeze 0593. Every school will become a private school, free from interference, with its own "brand" (who makes up this crap? - Tony Zoffis).

Gasworks comprehensive and Railway Cuttings primary school will, therefore, combine and be rebranded Hoity Toity college.

All teachers will be required to wear gowns, so prepare to garrotte yourself demonstrating the backward somersault in PE lessons. Children will have to sport boaters and striped blazers. Everyone must belong to a house.

Any group of parents can shut schools, open schools, turn them into casinos or massage parlours, burn them down on Guy Fawkes Day, whatever takes their fancy. Hunting, shooting, polo and snorting cocaine will be compulsory subjects, though I may be wrong about one of these. Guns are banned.

Freedom, or leg chains? In the words of Mr A Spokesman, "schools will be set free, so long as the peasants do exactly what we tell them".

If anyone thinks the Conservatives would be different, David Cameron got a cheer at his party conference for saying that he too would set schools free, but, er, synthetic phonics would be compulsory and progressive teaching would be abolished. Big Brother versus Even Bigger Brother.

Why do these politicians hanker after the 19th-century stereotype of the public school? Is it because this is the type of school some party leaders attended? You belonged to houses because you actually lived in a school house, remember? That is why you were grouped in '"houses" for your activities, stupid.

Perhaps they intend that today's equivalent houses, which schools will be expected to introduce under this new "compulsory freedom" regime, should also reflect where pupils live, like the Eleventh Floor Flat house, the Posh Des Res with Integral Garage house, or the Across from the Takeaway house. At school I could have been in the Back to Back Next to a Foundry house. Nice.

It is all extremely bizarre, even by today's surreal standards. Tony Zoffis wants schools to opt out of their local authority. Remind you of anything?

Like the grant-maintained schools the Conservatives introduced in 1988, which Labour then abolished?

Conservative city technology colleges (1988) - Labour city academies (2005).

Man the Conservatives put in charge of the city technology college programme in 1988? Cyril Taylor. Man Labour put in charge of the city academy programme in 2005? Sir Cyril Taylor.

As with the private sector, the new "branded" state schools that opt out will not have to teach the national curriculum. If the national curriculum is such a cow pat that the posh schools are excused having to soil their hands on it, why do the rest have to teach it?

Apparently the Government has already drawn up a list of businesses to "enter the school market", as Mr A Spokesman put it. Eh? Cattle market, second-hand car market, flea market, black market, fish market, Stowmarket, I understand - but school market? Conservative government sees children as cans of beans (1988) - Tony Zoffis sees children as cans of beans (2005).

The worst feature of all this, take my word, will be the utter spinelessness and hypocrisy of many MPs. Oh there will be lots of huffing and puffing, of course there will - threats of rebellion, curses, mutterings, plots, dire warnings, all the easy stuff. When it comes to filing through the "Aye" lobby, however, it will be a different story.

Tony Zoffis will quietly ensure that no deviation occurs. A light tweak on the elongated cheese wire that is tightly wrapped round the collective genitalia of MPs will suffice. The (watering) Eyes have it, a poignant example in contemporary English culture of the concept "neuter".

So line up your brands and your house names: Cholmondley House, sponsored by Jodhpurs Weekly; Fortescue-Smythe House, sponsored by Moneybags Shareholding.

Alternatively, unlike the supine MPs, you can rebel. Instead of aping the public schools, why not wind Tony Zoffis up by creating an alternative working-class school market? Ramsbottom House, sponsored by Clitheroe Cloth Caps; Greasy Spoon House, sponsored by Chav's Chippie.

Run extracurricular activities like whippet racing and pigeon fancying.

Offer a barrel of Newcastle Brown to the mum with the most chiselled perm, the dad with the best braces, and a cloth cap to the pupil who can balance most peas on a knife.

Tony Zoffis will be livid, as it is not quite his view of a school market, but it will be the absolute beans (special offer - three cans for the price of two).

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