When the flipside becomes the backside

6th December 2002 at 00:00
Dear Mam

I've just returned from a big conference at the Kassam Stadium, the home of Oxford United, so I thought I would write and let you know about it. That Mr Clarke, the new Secretary of State for Education, was there. He said some very nice things about Estelle Morris. I must say he looks more like one of us than she did.

There were lots of media people with cameras. Mr Clarke apologised for inviting them, but I expect they thought he would say something important. We listened to him very politely and only really got worked up after he left. I hope we made a good impression.

One of the people from the Department for Education and Skills told us Mr Clarke had written his own speech. I suppose they were covering themselves: if it had gone wrong they could say it was nothing to do with them. I don't think he did too much damage.

I noticed that we did not have an act of collective worship at the beginning of the day, although Mr Clarke did refer to "Tony" all the way through. I realised, eventually, that he was talking about Tony Mackay, our Australian "facilitator".

He said he had received lots of helpful advice from a headteacher in a train on the way from his constituency. I think he was slightly embarrassed when he realised the headteacher was actually with us in the conference room. But getting good advice in that way might be more cost-effective than maintaining the expensive Department for Education and Skills.

There was lots of talk in the speech about leadership for transformation. Do you remember those Transformer toys you bought me when I was little? You took a model of a car or something and twisted it round until it looked like something else, but, cleverly, it was made of exactly the same amount of stuff.

I can't remember much more of the speech, except that Mr Clarke did refer to the "backside of the profession", when I think he meant "flipside". Thankfully, his "backside" did not look too big in the speech.

We did not have the football match between the heads and the Department for Education and Skills at the Kassam that I had hoped for, which is a pity, because Mr Clarke looks like he could be a useful stopper.

That's all for now, I'll catch you again at the weekend.

Your loving son, Philip

Philip Bloomfield is head of Fitzharrys school, Abingdon, Oxfordshire

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