Sunday, November 9, 2014

School sport is being destroyed by Ofsted-ready automatons

His metallic suit glistened in the sun. I paused to take a closer look. An unrecognizable, enigmatic silhouette, intermittently decorated with gleams of reflective light, purposefully strode towards the school playing fields, Frisbee neatly tucked under one arm, followed by twenty-or-so pupils.

What on earth is he doing? I thought. As I continued to watch in speechless wonderment, it suddenly dawned on me. It was Max, our head of PE and Games, dressed in a Tron outfit. He was going to introduce our pupils to the science fictional game played in the movie. My God! What has happened to school sports? I pondered, before sitting down and continuing with my lesson plan - another source of frustration and demoralization, but that's another story.

Max, apparently, was in the process of making lessons 'fun', 'relevant' and 'interesting' - what some might refer to as the 'Disneyfication' of education in twenty-first century Britain. He remains wedded to the old, antediluvian, discredited  nostrums so beloved of the educational establishment. There is thus little room for competitive sports that build character, courage, selflessness and, let's not forget, militate against ill-discipline. Instead he thinks it worthwhile to play a non-existent game in a silly outfit. To be fair to him, though, Ofsted, even post-Govian reform, loves this sort of guff and, in a recent internal review, our leaders re-enforced this reality by criticizing, yet again, teacher-talk and 'conventional' lessons. Relevance and fun are still the all-important buzzwords in educational discourse - unique for its meaningless acronyms and empty platitudes.

When Max first arrived he succeeded a department head tirelessly committed to the pupils in his care. Max's predecessor gave up his evenings, weekends and even his holiday time to take our young athletes around the country, and he expected the other teachers in his department to do the same. Indeed, during his three years in post, he guided, through sacrifice, dedication and hard work, several of our kids to county, regional and national success. He was, in a word, fantastic, and his pupils loved him.

However, when he announced his intention to leave at the end of the year, the SLT did nothing to dissuade him. In their narrow, Ofsted-obsessed, tiny minds, he was not particularly good when it came to spreadsheets, even though his charges made excellent progress when it came to excelling at extra-curricular sports. His exit was thus seen by them as a positive outcome. He was old-school and, as a result, had no place in our-school, they thought. He was also keen on the notion of pupil responsibility and refused to pass kids that had clearly failed their coursework, even after severe pressure from Jackie, our Head teacher. This made him unpopular to say the least. All things considered, the departure of this incredibly selfless individual was greeted with relief, if not applause.

When Max arrived - Mr Spreadsheet himself - he inaugurated what some have since termed, as a result of his messianic sense of self-importance, Anno Domini, Year of Our Lord. The department was subjected to a Year-Zero-like upheaval. Iconoclasm was the order of the day: trophies were destroyed, medals binned and the shirts of our international athletes taken down and stored in the office cupboard. It was an absolute disgrace. The achievements that had given our pupils a sense of pride and belonging, a feeling that success is possible, no matter where you come from, were rubbished and discarded. In one instant, hopes and dreams of the possible were stultified. It can only be described as a despicable, wilful act of vandalism.

Any Head teacher worth his or her salt would have intervened and demanded that he desist. Needless to say, Jackie didn't; Max produced outstanding lessons, after all. His spreadsheets were excellent, always submitted on time and he was willing to falsify results if need be. He was also willing, let's remember, to dress up like a fool and make the kids laugh, something Ofsted inspectors love.

Our pupils rarely play competitive sports now; we have no county, regional or national representatives in any sporting fields either. What a tragedy! But hey, they have great fun throwing Frisbees and watching their teacher dress up like a wally.

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