Gemma You probably aren't aware that I'm only 10 years old.
I'm not really, but the local authority seems to be treating me like a fluffy-brained youth. You see, I've just received a circular headed "Mission statement" (I thought mission statements had been discredited and buried for at least three years, but somebody obviously hasn't told the LEA). The sheet then says: "The council's vision for success is PRIDE in its education services." Well, OK, I'm proud of my school and quite a few others around me, and I hope the council is too. But then the word PRIDE is printed vertically, in great big letters, down the length of the page. "P", it says, stands for "promoting learning", "R" for "raising achievement", "I" for "instilling confidence", "D" for "developing competence", and "E", would you believe, for "empowering communities". Great stuff. Magic. Thank you so much. We're all gratefully indebted to the fresh-faced council junior who concocted it.
Gemma text = Or, horror, was it put together by a team? Just imagine WPFACS (Working Party For Acrostics And Catchy Slogans) getting together to dream up this stuff...
"Gottit! What about EDUCATION? After all, that's the game we're in."
"How do you spell EDUCATION?"
"OK then, something simpler. What about SOARING TO SUCCESS? S for Selebrate..."
"Too many Ss. It needs to be catchy. What about ACCESS FOR ALL?"
"No, they'll think you're flogging a credit card. How about ACHIEVING EXCELLENCE?"
"Does the i come before the e? No, wait, there's a c in there, so wouldn't the e come beforeI " "We haven't got all day. Let's go for a one-worder. PRIDE?"
"Yes. It'll give us Promoting, Raising, Instilling, Developing. What about the E? Education's too obvious. Energetic, Effective?"
"What about Empowering?"
"Empowering! Lovely word. Empowering what?"
"No no, broaderI biggerI " "Communities?"
"Super! What does it mean, empowering communities?"
"Nothing, really. Sounds great though. Five thousand copies before noon, Doris. Oh look, it's 10.30am already. Coffee break."
And on it goes. Piles of paper. Mountains of nonsense. Money wasted that is desperately needed in schools. We're surrounded and bombarded by meaningless statements that presumably fooled some of the people some of the time, but can't be fooling any but the dewy-eyed these days.
All schools will tell you that a policy is needed for everything, because it keeps local officialdom, and Ofsted in particular, happy. It doesn't mean you have to do anything, you just need a policy. You don't even have to think one up, because several astute firms out there produce policies on everything from PSHE to paint pots on floppy discs. Just load 'em in the computer and put your school name where it leaves a space. Half an hour's work. And you've no idea how much it'll impress your governing body.
Meantime, when I drive to work, the streets are in poor repair and full of rubbish. I bet there's a policy for cleaning them up somewhere.
Mike Kent is head of Comber Grove primary, London borough of Southwark.