A year is a long time in politics

Happy anniversary Mr Cameron and Mr Clegg but forgive me if I don’t send you a card and a bunch of flowers. You’ve been busy in your first year of marriage.

'Get that morning breath sorted, Nick.'

Let’s go back to polling day, 6th May 2010.

It began with a bang. Literally.

I was driving to a school from the office when a bloke walking along the pavement decided, for no earthly reason, to start walking in the road. I had to do an emergency stop to avoid squishing him but the huge refrigerated van behind me didn’t make it and ploughed into the back of my car. I know it’s wrong but I love my car, it cost me a lot of money and because of having a job that involved a lot of driving, was my living. It was now sitting in the middle of the road steaming gently, its rear end caved in.

Long story short, the local police patrol stepped in and took over and the man in the road was sent off with a flea in his ear. I went home and went off to vote, still shaken and shocked.

Well the van’s insurance company insisted on giving me a fancy hire car while mine was in the garage so I ended up driving around South London in a Mercedes the size of a boat feeling like a drug dealer.

A few days later, we heard that you would be joining together in holy coalitionamony .

To Mr. Cameron, a boy, Nick.

But I wasn’t worried.

We knew that you would be cutting liberally (geddit) and comprehensively but never dreamed of how far you would go. ‘Don’t worry too much, ‘said my line manager at work, ‘you’re frontline staff, they’re getting rid of backroom staff not people working with children and teachers.’

Sadly, however, it was the backroom staff that ended up doing the cutting so they got rid of frontline staff first. Even my line manager got the chop. No one knew how to manage.

Over the last few months we’ve seen you cutting children’s centres, school sports funding and local authority staff who work with children, disabled people and the elderly. We’ve seen you put up tuition fees for university students and cut the EMA grant.

The people are revolting

But we’ve also seen protests and sit ins and the worm turning. The worm seems to have turned mostly against you, Cleggy but let’s not forget the Dark Lord of the Sith. No disrespect, Dave.

But nothing is your fault is it, Dave? You’re till peddling the ‘we inherited these problems from the previous government. ‘Or rather, ‘a big boy done it and ran away.’  No mention of the fact that you were probably rubbing your hands together in glee at being able to restructure local government, the NHS and schools with gay abandon.

As for me, my job is a distant memory and I’m working on building my business and being a private entrepreneur like you always wanted.

So happy anniversary, boys, and I hope you sleep well at night.

PS I’m listening to the radio as I write this. Grant Shapps is saying, ‘we inherited this deficit, it was the fault of the previous government.’ Sigh.

Strictly Come Coalition!

Brucie: Good evening and welcome to Strictly Come Coalition. It’s cuts for you, for you….

Plebs: Cuts!

Tess: And our first coopool onto the dance floor tonight is Michael Gove and his partner the state school system. Last week the joodges said that his University U turns were unbearable and his fees fleckles were flawed. Can he do any better tonight with his education white paper quickstep?

Brucie: Wonderful, wonderful stuff from thingy…er…Michael Gove but what did our judges think. Bruno let’s start with you.

Bruno: MMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMichael!!!! That was as wet and drippy as a day old cornetto. It was all over the place. I didn’t-a like it. 4.

Alisha: What was you thinking Michael? I just don’t get it: graduates need a 2:2 or more to teach but soldiers don’t need no degree at all? Totally buttaz, blud. 4

Len: Well I don’t like all that fannyin’ arahnd with national curriculum and chewbaccalaurates or whateva they’re called. But I like the way yer brought out the discipline elements. Well done, mate. 6

Craig: O.M.G. Oh Michael Gove. What a disaaaahhhhster, darling. You haven’t listened to a word anyone has said to you, you’ve gone totally overboard on assessment and discipline. Testing at 6, an obsession with synthetic phonics and exclusions all ovvvvvaaaaaaa the place.  2.

Brucie: Don’t worry Michael. You’re my favourite.

Tess: Wow, harsh comments there from our joodges but what do you think at home? Well, it doesn’t really matter what you think because we’ve decided for you.

Brucie: And now for our next couple. It’s David Cameron and his partner Nick Clegg with the leadership waltz. Last week Len said that Nick was being dragged round the dance floor by David and was hanging on for dear life. Craig said he felt that Nick is being dominated by David. Bruno said, ‘it’s a –love!’ and Alisha said ‘wasteman, innit!’ Take it away, Dave and Nick…

A tale of two academies

I’m in two minds about academies. There seem to be two types at the moment: those that are run by consortiums with huge amounts of money to throw into their schools and those that think that changing their name from Shankem Comprehensive to The Gove Academy for Young Ladies and Gentlemen will somehow magically raise attainment.

 The former type of academy like the Harris consortium or the Absolute Return for Kids (ARK) charity set up by French billionaire and Mr. Uma Thurman, Arpad ‘Arki’  Busson, have a strong set of values and beliefs as well as a bulging wallet.

 ARK now run eight academies in England, with six of them in London. Take, for example, the Evelyn Grace Academy in Brixton. Although the school has been running since 2004, it has just moved into a £50 million building designed by Zaha Hadid, who comes fresh from designing the 2010 aquatics centre in Stratford.

 The school’s motto is ‘excellence, endeavour and self-discipline’ and there is a strict code of conduct as well as a clear teaching and learning structure and a programme of extra curricular enrichment.

 The first photos of the new building look incredible- a cross between an airport lounge and a P&O cruise ship, the school is designed to maximise learning. I’m wondering if I donned a uniform (blazer smartly pressed, top shirt button done up and shoes polished) they’d take me in for a couple of years.

 But not all academies are like this. Most remain in their tired old buildings with their tired old grounds and their tired old staff.

 With outstanding schools being encouraged to become academies by the coalition government I worry about future academies. Mr. Gove is keen for new academies to be released from the evil grip of their local authorities who only exist, of course, to make trouble for schools and to badger head teachers.

 Boo to the HR department!

Down with legal services and admissions!

Off with advisers, consultants and IT support!

Stuff your catering contract and your school library service.

 Some current academies continue to churn out poor GCSE results and improvements are made at snails’ pace.  A rose by any other name does not always smell so sweet.

 In my experience there is one major factor in any school improvement, be it academy, primary, secondary, special or PRU: inspirational school leadership.

 This means that a modern Head has to be business minded as well as wise about education. They need to have charisma, a firm handshake and skin the thickness of a dehydrated rhino that doesn’t moisturise.

 Heads need to be able to drum up support from business, from parents, from local communities and from pupils.

 They need to be able to manage a budget, mop a floor, write a business plan, fend off a ranting parent, take assembly, meet the chair of governors, praise a good piece of work and write the admissions policy.

 At the same time.

 Before break time.

With a smile.

 I couldn’t do it and I’m in awe of anyone who can.

 So let’s turn our focus to what makes a really good leader (no, Hitler and Pol Pot don’t count) and ensure that our children have the best school leaders possible with the best support possible from the government.

 Academy or not.

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