Nutters, schools' missing ingredient

9th July 2004 at 01:00
From the Children's Laureate comes a call to arms we can all rally around: We need more nutters!

Michael Morpurgo made the plea at last weekend's (TES-sponsored) Institute of Ideas' conference and warms to his theme in a phone call to the Diary.

"The great teachers of my life were the eccentrics. They were people that loved their subject hugely," he says. "We tend to go for the systems people, who are going to produce exam results."

But what about that n-word? "Nutter" is a loaded term, ever since long-forgotten education secretary John Patten used it to describe Tim Brighouse, then chief education officer in Birmingham. Tim sued, Patten coughed up and Brighouse was promptly canonised by the teaching profession.

Michael admits he may have been influenced in his choice of words by the fact he was sitting next to a certain Johnny Ball, but he assures us he meant it in the nicest possible way.

"What he did was to enthuse the nation's children about maths. It's an extraordinary achievement," the laureate says. "You have this huge amount of knowledge but above all this terrific enthusiasm to put it across. If to some extent that means you come across a bit of a nutter, well so be it."

Of course Johnny Ball also gave the world Zoe, but we'll let him off.

Anyway, the Diary reckons we can assume Mr Ball will not be consulting m'learned friends.

Let the madness begin.

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