Peter Andre: the Piaget of the modern age

8th July 2011 at 01:00

Those of us on break duty looked on helplessly as the hysteria mounted. Rumour was rife among the children that Peter Andre was dropping in at any moment. A couple of wags in Year 9 then began mingling among the fevered clusters, quietly offering updates on Peter's latest whereabouts. Each update prompted large packs of children to surge from one end of the site to another.

The Andre rumour was not entirely without foundation. The six-packed celebrity was indeed visiting the school, but not for a couple of days. His coming was intended to be a super-injunction-type secret known only to our head, his privy council and the town carnival organiser (Andre was filming in the region and had agreed to promote the event in a school assembly). It was supposed to be a rapid in-and-out. No disruption before or after. But instead, the whole attempt at information control had gone totally Ryan Giggs.

So who had given the game away and caused the very chaos our head had been so keen to avoid? Why, Peter Andre himself, of course. He had chatted to a couple of pupils in town and had happened to mention it to them. Text and Twitter meant that all 2,000 pupils had got wind of it within about three minutes.

Staff reaction was generally to curse Andre for his brazen lack of consideration. Colleagues complained that it was the kind of degrading farce that happens whenever education becomes embroiled in celebrity culture. But I disagreed. TV celebrities are surely the future.

We should be pleased that these people are beginning to have more of a voice in education. Personally, I cannot wait to read the report on the state of maths teaching that Michael Gove commissioned last year from Countdown's Carol Vorderman (as The TES felt obliged to add when alluding to it recently, this is not a joke). Similarly, I was delighted that the House of Commons education select committee chose to hear recently from the only set of teachers whose views really count for something - the celebrity staff at Jamie Oliver's Dream School.

We should now accept that education moves magically and ethereally forward whenever a school becomes an academy and whenever a celebrity becomes an academic. Someone like Peter Andre may prove to be the Piaget of the modern age.

In fact the rather dull Piaget pales into insignificance in comparison. Piaget, for instance, came up with the tired: "What we see changes what we know. What we know changes what we see." Andre, in contrast, has uttered the more incisive: "All you need to do to be a bit sexier is to smile once in a while."

And while Piaget offered the trite "Intelligence is what you use when you don't know what to do", we have the much more challenging Andre rumination "I hate feet. They're disgusting. What are they even for?" This is the kind of question about fundamentals that Piaget never even thought to ask. I think your fine feet are there to lead us all out of the present jungle, Peter. We must follow in your footsteps and listen to your wisdom.

Stephen Petty is head of humanities at Lord Williams's School in Thame, Oxfordshire.

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