Thursday 24 July 2014


Professionals and Mercenaries
Guest blog by ‘All in this together’.
Richard Marshall, the interim Copland Head hired by the Gove/ Pavey/IEB coalition to do their dirty work for them, this week  gave a new meaning to the much-abused word ‘professional’ when, in his last-day-of-term address to staff (and his first official recognition that any member of staff had left the school all year) he used it to describe the manner in which staff at Copland had responded to the one hundred and thirty three redundancies he had diligently imposed on the school since last July. By ‘professional’, Mr Marshall presumably meant that his sackings had been achieved without loss of life and, ultimately, with a kind of cowed resignation from the staff. In George Osborne’s  would-be-macho world of balding male willy-wagglers, where’ tough’ decisions have to be made with a fearless lack of concern for the comfort or security of any individuals (except themselves), this version of ‘professionalism’  can be framed as some kind of brave and realistic acceptance of the unavoidable new realities. 
The inconvenient truth, however, is that Copland staff did not behave at all in the manner which management clones mean when they employ the weasel word ‘professional’  to mean ‘that of which I approve’.  In reality, Copland teachers  used their collegiate solidarity to resist at every stage what Richard Marshall and his sidekick  Nick John had been hired to do. When the pair arrived last July and demanded of Copland Heads of Department that they nominate people they wanted sacked, apart from the odd shameful exception they refused to do so. When the Heads of Department were then threatened that they themselves would go unless they provided names, they still refused. That resistance, an expression of the self-confident autonomous decision-making which is the mark of real professionalism, set the tone which continued throughout the year. Teachers at all levels (except senior management, inevitably) have been united in their action against the surrendering of the school to Ark Inc and its removal from local democratic accountability.   In the end, the fight was lost, as any fight by a few hundred teachers, parents and pupils  against Cameron plus Gove plus their friends on Brent Council plus a hand-picked and craven IEB plus a couple of hired ‘tough’ guys was always going to be lost. 
However, there are defeats and there are defeats.  Ark and the spivs who own it have grabbed Copland. They will give it a new name and claim the credit for the new  building (which, in fact, was planned to go ahead whoever ran the school).  But Gove has gone from the DfE and, as a result of his perceived ‘toxicity’ in the eyes of the electorate (in large part a result of the loud and active resistance of teachers like those at Copland) his hopes of leading the Tory party, and God help us, the country, have gone too.  
Copland staff can feel  proud of the fight they put up in defence of the jobs of their colleagues (including dinner ladies, classroom assistants, mentors, support staff, sports coaches, caretakers, cleaners as well as classroom teachers).  Their professionalism was manifested in action not in apathetic quiescence and  this kind of professional engagement and concern  is a crucially important part of the checks and balances in any democratic society’s resistance to a bullying centralised state. 
So ‘professional’ is certainly what the great majority of Copland staff have been, particularly in face of the despondency and disillusionment which they inevitably felt as they watched their various ‘Leaders’ abandon them. But to use the word ‘professional’ in the way Mr Marshall used it on Wednesday was an insult.  However, there is another variant of ‘professional’’s  many shades of meaning  and it relates to an any activity performed primarily for financial gain. At this point the word almost takes on the meaning of ‘mercenary’, where any moral qualms on the part of the people hired to carry out the activity can be silenced by, to misquote a great British politician of the past, ‘stuffing their mouths with ten pound notes’. There were  people in the hall at Copland on Wednesday who maybe were worthy of such an appellation; but it was certainly not those teachers and ex-teachers who were having to listen to that ill-judged  speech.

Congratulations to all the staff, parents and pupils who fought so hard and persistently to prevent forced academisation. Although you didn't succeed it was a battle worth fighting and an example and inspiration to others.

Martin Francis 


Anonymous said...

The behaviour described in para 2 seems to be standard in many academy chains with Harris and Ark frequently mentioned. The atmosphere created certainly affects the kids and so does the here today gone tomorrow staffing instability with teachers just disappearing from the kids lives at the end of term without the chance to say goodbye. For so many kids school provides one of the more stable parts of their lives and some of the only stable relationships with adults. That doesn't appear in the exam results though and has no value in the league tables. If it can't be measured or bought or sold it can't exist. Tory morality brought to you by all 3 major parties.

Anonymous said...

Spot on all in this together! I looked at the present and past staff members in the hall on Wednesday and at the after party and it reminded me of the quality of teaching staff Copland has had. An ex-colleague said to me how the hell could the various corrupt or incompetent heads and deputy heads and assistant heads and future leaders and interim heads etc etc etc have managed to waste the resources they had so badly?

Anonymous said...

Because they have no interest in what you call 'the resources'? Like in most jobs once you decide your main interest is your own career then you arrange what you do each day around that. Get yourself noticed by management by doing stuff whatever it is and whether or not its necessary or even of any value. Do lots of things which you can put down on your cv as your own initiatives whether they're of any value or not. Be positive by agreeing with management initiatives whatever they are. Please the people above you and don't worry much about those below you. Justify this to yourself by realising that this is what all successful people do. Don't think too deeply about much. Be ready to be totally committed to whatever modish crap is presented as the new wisdom. Be ready to abandon that commitment as soon as the next modish crap arrives on the scene. Cultivate your social media presence. Embrace the New Stupidity.
It works in my sector. Why should teaching be any different?

. said...

I am an ex student (1995-2000) really sad to hear about the school. Does any one know how I can get in touch with my previous tutors please. Thanks

Unknown said...

I joined the staff of Copland in September 1972 as a supply teacher attached to the Geography Dept. After a cup of tea in the staff room I was in front of my first class. I became permanent staff in 1973 and continued through until leaving in July 1985. I still recall various students who were charismatic characters and similarly dedicated professional members of staff. It is with great regret that I have read of the decline and consequent demise of this once proud and effective education facility I was Head of Careers when a Copland student first gained entry to Oxford and another to Cambridge. Now retired 10+ years I often look at my photos from those years and wonder where things went so wrong

Mike Wall

Anonymous said...

Any idea how I get in touch with previous tutors please class of 1994 to 2001 thanks