A long time ago, I was friends with a girl who was very clever. Destiny Oxbridge, IQ off the scale, you get my drift. Thing is, she used to get teased by some of us for her lack of common sense and inability to pick up on things that required more lateral thinking.
She comes to mind because I’m getting increasingly frustrated with the number of people pontificating in the press about schools, many of them clueless of how we work, even less so how we operate in areas of the country outside metropolitan London.
I’m sorry but it’s pure ignorance.
Ignorance that school are in fact open, open for children of key workers and many vulnerable children. Ignorant of the fact that many of these children are deeply complex and stuffing them into a school with unknown staff, changing regularly with unfamiliar routines might not be the right thing for them
Ignorant that in such cases, where these children are at home, schools are maintaining close phone contact, social distancing visits, providing packs, resources and even food for them and their families.
Ignorant that headteachers are also running nursery daycare, Children’s Centres and often from 7am until 7pm.
Ignorant that whilst doing all this, senior staff are trying to organise all their teachers so that they provide some semblance of learning via online learning platforms. Every day. Often being the first line of support for parents, where learning might be the last thing of their mind at this present time, something which these same journalists would do well to report on.
Ignorant of an amazing manifestation of teacher collaboration to open a virtual school – the Oak Academy. Done by teachers. This has been replicated at smaller scale up and down the country.
It’s not just the journalists of course. There’s ignorance from people who should know better. Their understanding of autism in our situation has been dreadful. In fact there is an awful lot of ignorance about special educational needs being demonstrated, the Children’s Commissioner being the latest. These people should be helping us, but instead spread ignorance.
And then there’s the officials in the DfE whose delivery of the FSM funding system during lockdown has been farcical. Again and again, their understanding of education in all corners of England makes a mockery of their impeccable curriculum vitaes.
I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised as we’ve seen this over the last few years, people looking to have a dig at schools when they’ve never actually bothered to find out the true facts.
The irony here is that our education system over the last thirty years has been designed to provide us with knowledge-rich individuals (I use that term very deliberately) who can look after their own economic well-being. They benefit the economy and they do well for themselves (again the word used deliberately) as a result. We have convinced ourselves that we have an educated class, graduates all. If schools must accept any blame, it’s that some have gone along with this, happily churning out pieces of individualised data who then become second-rate journalists etc.
So when the crisis hits, the level of ignorance is revealed. We see children in suits thrust too soon into delivering government policy, and these second-rate journalists and writers whose A-levels and degrees are worthless now that we actually have to look after each other. They know nothing of what I, and countless other headteachers, have to deal with. One even had the temerity to suggest we needed more courage (Daily Telegraph yesterday), whilst another intimated we are all at home doing bugger all on full pay (ITV).
Then we’re being told that the non-graduates, often the proportion of our pupils who are deemed losers, those that they don’t get enough of our antiquated qualifications, that they are problematic because they are not knowledge-rich and therefore uneducated.
And here’s the thing, do you know where they are? Well here’s a possible list to start with. Emptying our bins, driving our buses, delivering our goods, cleaning our hospitals, caring for old people in care homes, portering in emergency wards, caring for our smallest children in nurseries, serving us in supermarkets. I could go on.
Ignorant? Not in my experience.
They know that schools help them, support them and go the extra mile for them. They know we show courage and tenacity. They have more understanding of what ‘vulnerable’ means. They get reciprocity and kindness, they understand the common good and they know that society is not a collection of individuals churning out rubbish in their newspapers.
There you go. Angry moment over. Back to school again this morning.