"What on earth is he doing?" I thought as I was watching Max, our new head of PE and games, striding across the playing fields dressed in a Tron outfit with a Frisbee under his arm. He was introducing our pupils to the science-fictional game played in the movie.
Max, apparently, was in the process of making lessons "fun", "relevant" and "interesting" – what some might refer to as the "Disneyfication" of education in 21st-century Britain. Now there’s little room for competitive sports that build character, courage and selflessness, and, let's not forget, mitigate against ill discipline. Instead Max thinks it worthwhile to play a non-existent game in a silly outfit. To be fair to him, Ofsted, even post-Govian reform, loves this sort of guff and, in a recent internal review, our leaders reinforced this reality by criticising, yet again, teacher-talk and "conventional" lessons. Relevance and fun are still the all-important buzzwords in educational discourse – unique for its meaningless acronyms and empty platitudes.
When Max first arrived he succeeded a department head tirelessly committed to the pupils in his care. His predecessor gave up evenings and weekends to take our young athletes around the country. Indeed, during his three years in post, he guided, through sacrifice, dedication and hard work, several of our kids to county, regional and national success. He was fantastic, and his pupils loved him.
Yet when he announced his intention to leave, the SLT did nothing to dissuade him. In their narrow, Ofsted-obsessed, tiny minds, he was not particularly good when it came to spreadsheets, even though his charges made excellent progress when it came to excelling at extra-curricular sports. His exit was seen as a positive outcome: he was old-school and, as a result, had no place in our school.
When Max arrived he inaugurated what some have since termed "Anno Domini". The department was subjected to a Year Zero-like upheaval. Iconoclasm was the order of the day: trophies were destroyed, medals binned and the shirts of our international athletes taken down and stored in the office cupboard. It was an absolute disgrace. The achievements that had given our pupils a sense of pride and belonging, a feeling that success is possible, no matter where you come from, were rubbished and discarded.
Any headteacher worth their salt would have intervened and demanded that he desist, but ours didn't; Max produced outstanding lessons, after all. His spreadsheets were excellent and always submitted on time. He was also willing, let's remember, to dress up like a fool and make the kids laugh, something Ofsted inspectors love.
Our pupils rarely play competitive sports now; we have no county, regional or national representatives in any sporting fields either. But hey, they have great fun throwing Frisbees and watching their teacher dress up like a wally.
Joe Baron is a history teacher in London
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