Sources close to my partner tell me that Copland staff are becoming increasingly concerned about the strange behaviour of new Head Richard Marshall. Following the actions set out in recent blogs on this site, Mr Marshall has set aside next Tuesday for a game of musical chairs involving the English and Humanities departments.
Staff taking students on end-of-term trips have been told to cancel their plans, come to school in old clothes and be prepared to spend the day moving all the English books, resources, wall-displays, stock, personal effects and other paraphernalia out of the English rooms and over to the Humanities block, a separate building some distance away.
Humanities teachers have been instructed to do the same thing but in the opposite direction. The instruction came out of the blue, followed the new management style of ‘no consultation, no discussion, no sense at all’ and was ‘explained’ as somehow providing some dubious benefit to the English department ( none of whom believe the reason given or want the move). Humanities Faculty teachers have individually and collectively decided to resist the move. This has been met with the immediate threat of disciplinary proceedings which are rapidly becoming the principal means of management communication under Mr Marshall’s headship.
How did we get to this ludicrous state of affairs?
For the real motive we need to look not at the English department but at Humanities. The faculty has historically been one of the most stable at Copland and has contained some of the most experienced, most able, most intelligent and most committed teachers in the school. It has a very strong record at GCSE and particularly at A level.
Particular faculty individuals have worked tirelessly over the years to help Copland students gain admission to the top universities. Faculty members have recently been active on the school’s governing body, in liaising with outside social and cultural organisations, with taking students on visits to English courts and residential visits to European Community centres in Brussels, in forging links with moderate Muslim organisations and in establishing a ground-breaking anti-homophobia group which brought Copland huge media coverage and national recognition and respect; in general, striving to broaden the horizons of students in one of the country’s more deprived boroughs.
It would take very little time or effort to collect tributes from a huge number of former students who would attest, with affection and respect, to the way in which Copland’s Humanities Faculty ‘made a difference’ to their lives. It would surprise no one at Copland if a Facebook page to this effect was under construction at this very moment.
So why would the new Copland management led by Mr Marshall want to attack (and that is precisely how it is being described) this apparently exemplary faculty?
Here’s why. The Humanities staff’s qualities of care and involvement in the school and the progress of its students are the same qualities which mean that 2 of the school’s Professional Association reps come from the Humanities faculty as does one of the longest serving staff representatives on the school’s governing body. The Humanities faculty was also particularly bravely involved in the risky whistleblowing which resulted in Sir Alan Davies imminent fraud trial. The efforts of these teachers helped halt the alleged hemorrhaging of Brent taxpayers’ money into the pockets of a corrupt management.
But while they’ll applaud such qualities at a distance, authoritarian managements really don’t like such independence of thought and such readiness to question their ‘tough’ decisions, (especially those which seem to make no sense or to be transparently vindictive). And a vindictive attack on the school’s professional associations is precisely the interpretation of the Copland management’s action which was expressed very clearly at a packed Joint Union meeting of Copland staff on Friday when it was decided unanimously to support the Humanities Faculty in whatever manner was deemed necessary. A vote of confidence in the union reps, their principled resistance to the recent use of bogus capability procedures and the dignified part they played in resisting the recent ‘sickness’ absence fiasco described elsewhere on this site, was also unanimously passed.
Maybe the new Copland management wasn’t aware of the qualities the Humanities faculty embodies. Maybe they would be more aware if they hadn’t rejected all attempts at dialogue with the staff using the established JCC and other channels which have avoided this kind of unpleasantness in the past. Maybe the IEB or Brent’s Children and Families Lead, Michael Pavey could have a word.
Meanwhile we face the prospect of an undignified standoff next Tuesday between security men and Copland Humanities teachers which would really enhance the school’s reputation and the new management’s respect in the eyes of the rest of the staff. Especially if footage of it were to become the biggest YouTube success since Fenton the deer-chasing dog. The likeliest outcome seems to be that this ridiculous plan will (like Sports Day!) be ‘postponed’ and then clandestinely carried out during the school holidays. As a way of continuing this ‘war against the teachers’ into the next school year, that would take some beating. Which, under the current regime, makes it all the more likely to happen.
It really is time for someone to have a word.