Worm, Inch - Futures Delivery Taskforce

23rd October 2009 at 01:00

GOVE-NANCE. I'm pretending to be a school governor! The Department's smuggled me on to a focus group organised by the Tories to find out what governors want from a Tory government so that in due course a Tory government can surprise everyone by guessing correctly. Predictably, the first four letters of GOVERNORS' FOCUS GROUP have been highlighted in gold on the invitations. I try my best to fit in, adopting the persona of a pushy middle-class parent with a short temper who doesn't suffer fools gladly. Also, I'm wearing a wig. Our moderator Kirsten removes the clingfilm from the sandwiches and asks: "What's on your minds?"

POSTMAN'S HOOP. First up is a great slab of a man who smells strongly of mints. "We need to bring back some proper moral discipline," he says, miming this with his fist. Things he wants "zero-tolerated," include: extreme haircuts, swearing, and the disturbing new "sex bracelets" craze: young people wear plastic wristbands and chase one another around. If the bracelet-wearer's caught and the band snapped, a sexual forfeit is claimed. Kirsten thanks him and asks us all what we think about extreme hair, swearing and sex bracelets. One quite angry guy wants "minus-five tolerance", a vague-looking woman suggests "around six per cent tolerance". When it's my go I say aren't all these matters best dealt with by the unions? But it turns out they're NOT TALKING ABOUT TEACHERS at all. Feel a bit of an idiot, plus my wig itches.

TROOPS IN. Kirsten asks if we agree with the statement: "I support Mr Gove's Troops To Teachers plan, I think school should be more like the Army". This gets a bit of a mixed reaction. Of course everyone approves of assault courses, forced marches and tear gas. But there ARE reservations about the long-term tactic of cultivating playground warlords. Summary: OK, soldiers in our schools - but only if they're led by General Consensus. Wig now at jaunty angle.

TECHNICALITY. Things speed up when all the sandwiches and wine have gone. Kirsten simply asks for a show of hands on the following: should there be technical schools to train a generation of children to build the next generation of PFI schools? Yes. Bring back competitive sport with a Schools Olympics? Yeah great, as long as it's on terrestrial TV. My wig falls off.

GROUP DYNAMIC. I explain I am on a journey of self-discovery, making the difficult transition from "person" to "governor". I'm insecure: that's why I need the wig, and why I had to drink all the wine. They've watched daytime TV and give me a hug. Emotional, actually. We all swap mobile phone numbers, plus details of our ethnicity, "mother tongue" and any disabilities. Inchworm.

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