Tuesday, 17 June 2008

Dear Sir

Governors meeting at Cressex Community School, High Wycombe. Slap in the middle of one of our very own Bishop of Rochester style “No-Go” Areas, TM, it’s a great place, with big challenges. I didn’t really mean to be a school governor in this job, but they asked and I really enjoy being part of this school community. All of Bucks’ Building Schools for the Future money from 2005 (£31m) is all going to Cressex and we’re getting a completely new school. Er, thank you very much, Mr Broon.

When you look at the picture of our technology block on the left, you can see we needed a few bob spending on the place. With Dr Simmons, our inspirational chair of governors and our committed staff and our dead good new headmaster, Mr Hood, we believe we can renew our school along with our buildings. David Hood has really hit the ground running. His report was 100% on the button. It seemed like he’d been here for ages.

Mr Broon’s friend Mr Balls has also announced a shiny new programme to help schools like ours raise standards. He’s got us on his list. We’re now officially a National Challenge School. Oh goody. You get a biro and a clipboard and some exciting stickers to swap with your chums. You can get invited to special events by Mr Broon’s friend Mr Balls. You might even get to meet Mr Balls. I’m not sure if his real name is Balls. P’raps that’s just what we all call him.

Oh, and there’s an exciting “Death or Glory by 2011” game specially for you. If you don’t get 30% of your kids 5 GCSE’s or more by then, Mr Balls will chuck you off a cliff. Actually I made up the bit about the biro. And the bit about the cliff. But Mr Balls will come along and take over your school and run it better than you obviously could, or close you down. Carrot and Stick, you see. £400 million of carrot; a great big yummy custard pie full of cash. What could be wrong with that. Play our cards right and we could get closed down the day after we open our new school. Which leads me to say this solution looks a bit one-size-fits-all. Oh, and 2011 is election year. There’s a thing. [No it’s not. Election year is 2010. Which goes to show I should listen more in Citizenship. I was being too cynical. Sorry. Mr Broon and Mr Balls probably have no interest in winning the next election and if by any chance it happens needs to point out it was nothing to do with Schools. They just does it all for the sheer joy of doing it, like birds sing.]

But, of course we peasants rejoiced. Thank you very much Mr Broon. Thank you, thank you, Mr Balls. By the way, I hope you are well. We will try and find something to throw your money at so that you can win your eleckshun. Sadly, like Mr Broon, I am cursed with supercharged Scots genes, and thus a congential dystopic whiner. Thus I could even find something to whine about with the being an official National Challenge failing school, TM.

It’s always nice to have a yummy custard pie, but nicer still not to get it in the face. The way this was handled, with a blaze of publicity about “failing schools” and how central government is going to sort them all out, we instantly got slated for closure in the media! This does not raise morale, or help those of us who are trying to turn things round. We will work our socks off to meet this target, but the way this was delivered actually undermines our ability to deliver. There are all sorts of reasons schools do not achieve high academic results, especially in a selective authority. A centralised one size fits all solution will help, but is part of a bigger picture that is more complex than the way this was announced makes it sound. We could tell all kinds of tales about our LEA, no doubt, but we work in close partnership with Bucks who are OK really. Anything that undermines our LEA doesn’t actually help us; because they are our partners as much as central government. There are, no doubt, failing schools out there. Our trends are beginning to go the right way, and we would like to think that is no coincidence. Various people have been working their tails off to make this happen, and we don’t feel it helps us to be tarred with this brush in the media.
We notice the vast wadge of this money is slated for consultants. We’ve met millions of them down the years, and very nice people they are too. Actually we don’t feel we need more consultants to faff about with our structures and load us down with more things to do on rainy afternoons. We are developing a plan for renewing them ourselves, and we think it is pretty cool. What we need is a secure platform on which to work (and we’ve got that with the buildings money. Thanking you). We’d rather spend our management consultant money on teaching and learning support. We’d like to grow the stability of our staff so that they can stay for longer. We’d like academic mentors. We’re building partnerships with all sorts of people — Bucks new Uni and Wycombe Abbey (other school I govern) to help our students lift their sights a bit academically. Please don’t shoot us in the back just to make a political point. My friend’s mum says you understand failing schools, because your guvment is failing too. Thank you Mr Broon. Thank you Mr Balls.
PS There is a very rude song on South Park about Brown Salty Balls, but we do not listen to smut like that.


Anonymous said...

I wonder if you could, I don't know, "conveniently forget" to hire any consultants? Or possibly do that AND take extensive consultations from the teachers who are actually trying to run the school, so you can say that many different people have been consulted?

Then you could spend money on useful things, like your new technology block and possibly geography textbooks not containing the USSR.

Maybe that was just my old school.

Anonymous said...

And of course - having the all that cash and then the threat of closure wouldn't encourage you to stuff it an a 'friendly' direction by way of contract so you didn't have to worry if it all fell apart...

So much for accountability.

Anonymous said...

It's right to be cynical about this government's intentions and actions, but your cynicism goes a little far here: 2011 isn't an election year. The next general election has to happen by May 2010 at the latest (so perhaps Mr Balls is counting on David Cameron to lead the charge over the cliff for underperforming schools!)

Bishop Alan Wilson said...

Great points, one and all, for which many thanks. Sorry about getting the election year wrong! I'm just not with it today. There's something that does get my goat about the way everything's being centralised. I do want to reaffirm our commitment to getting the best we can for our students. This initiative helps in some ways and not others. We will certainly blend the mix as far as we can towards teaching and learning and away from yet more management reform.

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