Sunday 18 August 2013


Guest post by Mistleflower

By my reckoning, the successful Copland  6th form students who  achieved creditable and  ‘significantly improved’  results at A level this year  enjoyed their 7 years of secondary  education presided over by managements made up of :  first,  a bunch of (alleged) crooks led by a man knighted for ‘service to education’; second, a local Head brought on for a few weeks when the alleged malfeasors had suddenly to be substituted; third,  another  local Head on temporary loan for a season; and, finally,  a longer-lasting Leadership team ultimately deemed ‘Inadequate’ by Ofsted and put on a free transfer after failing to restore the school to its former glory after a difficult 3 seasons in the lower leagues. (The current management duo were drafted in too late to have had any influence on the A level results in question).  Despite all this disruption and disturbance, these Copland 6th formers seem to have flourished in their time at the school.
 Could it be that  Michael Gove, ever on the lookout for a new wheeze and a cheap headline,  will see Copland’s  improved A level results  after the school’s  unusual management journey as a potentially winning formula which he will announce at the Tory party conference  is soon to be rolled out in (state) schools across the country?  Could it be that LA  Directors of Education are  at this very moment being urged by DfE clones  to headhunt gangs of  fraudsters to help begin the ‘turning round’ of ‘failing schools’?  Have all Ofsted inspectors been ordered to produce the names of 10 ‘Inadequate’ Leaders  by noon on September 1 or face being declared ‘Inadequate’ themselves to their eternal shame and that of their children, Yea Even Unto the Tenth Generation?  Are teams of these newly-rehabilitated ‘Super-Inadequate ’ Leaders to be parachuted in to ‘failing’ schools across the nation, to begin the process  of driving up their A level results in time for the next election but one? Could it be that South Brent will soon be held up as an example of  educational ‘good practice’ in the same way that Gove has previously cited as relevant exemplars the educational systems of  Singapore, Finland, Guam,  Kyrgistan,  Vanuatu,  North Korea and the Gilbert and Ellice Islands in the days of Arthur Grimble (ask your grandad) ?
Or…………. might it just be, in fact, that these successful  Copland A level students worked pretty damn well over a period of 7 years in a school  that had been robbed blind by corruption, that was physically falling to bits, that was badmouthed by their friends and by some parts of the press (though nobly supported by others),  that was betrayed by its local authority, that was woefully mishandled by incoming ‘Leaders’ who seemed to have been briefed that the same staff who, on their own, had lanced the boil, were not really themselves  the victims of historic criminality  but were, in fact, the problem?
And could it be that these staff carried on teaching these students pretty well  over these same 7 years, trying not to be too distracted by having to spend time doing stuff the governors, the local authority or the fraud squad should have been doing   (detection, financial auditing, evidence gathering , taking witness statements,   accusation, publicising, and then union  action endangering their own livelihoods and career futures)  in order to bring to an end the haemorrhaging of millions of pounds of Brent taxpayers’ money?
 Could it be that these teachers continued teaching these students  by  using the same guiding  principles which had brought them into teaching in the first place: a respect for learning,  an affection for their students and a belief in the potential that learning has to change their students’ lives?   Could it be that they gave only weary lip-service to the  ‘Strategies for Delivering a  Good to Outstanding Lesson’  spouted at them on  INSET days by various  Leaders,  most of  whom were themselves demonstrably  incapable of producing anything approaching  the thing which they seemed to imagine  their status in the management hierarchy  gave them the authority to pontificate on?
Might we not ultimately conclude, therefore,  that the most important thing in any school has nothing to do with ‘Leadership’ and everything to do with the organic relationship between teachers and students. That the mantra taught in Leadership School ,  ‘I Am Passionate About Making a Difference ‘,  was never more than  a tired formulation , convenient for contestants on The Apprentice and  those who lack the imagination to invent their own platitudes, but one which barely conceals the barely-hidden fear of all Leaders  that maybe ‘Leadership’, in the sense that it is encountered in many of our schools, ie separate from and ‘above’ the organic teaching relationship which  is the essence of effective education , is no more than a self-serving dead end;  that most ‘Leadership’  ultimately doesn’t make  much difference at all to anything?  And might we not hope that  at least a few of the more talented individuals who have gone down the Leadership road might now see the error of their ways and  find their way back into respectable employment: as teachers?
Well done to those Copland students. You did a great job in exceptionally difficult circumstances.
Well done also to those Copland  teachers.       And, if you’ve still got a job, keep up the good work.

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