August 2017

The know zone

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  • Leaders’ surgery
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  • Spotlight on KS3
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  • All change
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An embattled principal addresses some of his concerns about funding – as well as a few thoughts about unorthodox money-making schemes – in a letter to the ASCL General Secretary.

Dear Geoff...

I realise you’ve got a lot of things to do now you are General Secretary but I wondered if you could help us out?

The problem is we’re well and truly stuck. We haven’t even started the new academic year yet but we fear that when we do, our budget will run out by 15 September (Battle of Britain Day) and we’ll still have another 11 months to go. As hard as we try, those pesky productivity gains are still not coming and I’m getting a touch panicky that they’ll be cutting the electricity off unless we can sort this out before Halloween. So I thought I’d come to you.

We have thought of various schemes, of course. There is the possibility of a 5:2 diet (five-day weekend and two days in school) but parents would not be happy. Starving their children of education is not the answer.

‘Victorian Experience’

Then we thought, let’s make the entire year one big ‘Victorian Experience’. All we need to do is put everyone in the hall and away we go. Unfortunately, the hall’s too small and, anyway, the new GCSE history wants us to study 1,000 years in six weeks, so the reign of one grumpy monarch is hardly going to cut the mustard, is it?

Of course, we could become entrepreneurs ourselves and simply sell the entire school and all its land. We realise that the Education and Skills Funding Agency (ESFA) may be a bit iffy about this, but surely the future is to ‘go virtual’, so why not become the only education system in the world to have no schools?

Then again, perhaps we’re over-reacting. Let’s just narrow the curriculum, focus on the basics and cut out the fancy stuff… like English. English teachers have far too much marking anyway so this will solve the workload problem at a stroke. Instead, we can make every day a ‘drop everything and read day’, and employ retired teachers as reading invigilators.

Subject lessons can be replaced by simply changing the topic of the book. So, for example, period 1 could be Jamie Vardy’s autobiography (PE), period 2 could be one of those mindfulness colouring books (art and psychology) and so on.

Glass half-empty

Alternatively, we thought, why not stop paying the staff? They’d leave, I hear you cry, and then we’d fail our Ofsted, but then isn’t this just typical of the glass half-empty approach that has let us down in the past? How can you give an inadequate rating to a school with no teachers and therefore, one assumes, no pupils either? A guaranteed Progress 8 score of zero, a perfectly balanced budget, no exclusions and, for that matter, no carbon footprint, so everyone’s a winner!

Frankly, I really can’t say what we should do. You were the only person we could turn to.

Please fix it for us Geoff, ‘cos we’re getting a bit scared.

The author is a Principal in the East Midlands.

Want the last word?

Last Word always welcomes contributions from members. If you’d like to share your humorous observations of school life, email Permjit Mann at ASCL offers a modest honorarium.