Tuesday, December 15, 2015

I was sacked as a teacher because I was too right-wing

ACCORDING to my former colleagues, anyone who votes for the Conservative Party is “thick”, the British Empire was “unambiguously evil” and capitalism leads to “mass inequality and misery for the vast majority of working people”.
The only answer was, you guessed it — the adoption of socialism, presumably led by a bunch of corduroy-wearing, Little Red Book-carrying school teachers.
As the only right-of-centre teacher in the history department, I found lunchtimes particularly galling.
My colleagues would sit around denouncing the British Empire, Michael Gove’s changes to the national curriculum and the Government’s “ideologically driven” attempts to cut the nation’s deficit.
But what worried me more was their unashamed willingness to brainwash pupils with this very same world view.
On one occasion, I overheard three of them discussing the delivery of a unit provocatively titled “Should we be proud of the British Empire?”.
There was only one right answer for the staff.
“‘No! We should be ashamed,” said one.
“Look at Amritsar, what we did to the Native American Indians and our involvement in the Middle East.”
In history classes, pupils discussed a litany of British atrocities, from forcing widespread opium addiction upon an infantilised Chinese population to massacres in India and Africa. There was only one task asking pupils to consider the question: “How did the British Empire improve lives?” And it was homework.
There was no classroom discussion about capitalism, democracy and the rule of law; the propagation of ideas, literature, technological, medical advances or even the abolition of the slave trade.
Mostly, on this subject, I held my tongue.
I was a supply teacher on a zero-hours contract and, as such, knew they could manufacture my dismissal quicker than you can say Arthur Scargill.
If only I had stuck to this resolution.
After keeping schtum for two months, I finally asked a colleague: “So why are Tory voters so thick? Is it just that they disagree with you?” “No,” he replied. “It’s because they voted for cuts.
“Perhaps they saw the cuts as necessary,” I suggested. “Surely it’s better to make savings now, rather than keep spending money we don’t have, go bankrupt and, like the Labour Government of 1976, be forced to make even deeper cuts after going cap in hand to the IMF.”
“That’s rubbish!” said another colleague. And so it continued, until they brushed off my argument with a blasé “Yeah, yeah, yeah” before gesturing towards the office door as if dismissing a troublesome child.
Two days later, I defended the new national curriculum and the Government’s commitment to traditional teaching methods against the head of department’s venomous and sustained criticism.
I said: “We do too much for the children we teach. We should give them more responsibility and more freedom to think independently.” She just said: “I don’t want to talk to you any more.”
I asked why she was being so rude. “It’s only a debate,” I said. “Isn’t it a good idea to listen to the views of others?”
My answer came two days later. I was called to the head’s office and told that, after a complaint from colleagues in my department, the school no longer required my services.
So I was effectively being sacked for holding the wrong views, though the head dressed it up in a different garb. It was my manner rather than my opinions. I was “too assertive”.
I’ve only got myself to blame.
For a brief moment, I deluded myself into believing schools encouraged tolerance and the questioning of beliefs through intellectual exploration, freedom of thought and speech.
How silly of me.
First published in The Spectator. Also published in The Sun.

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Teachers are doing ISIL's work for them

Just last week I overheard three colleagues discussing the evils of the British Empire. ‘I despise it,’ one snarled. ‘Me too! Look at Amritsar, what we did to the Native American Indians and our involvement in the Middle East,’ another opined, shaking his head in disapproval. ‘I really can’t think of anything positive to say about it,’ the third lamented.

I work in an academy with a large Muslim population. To be more precise, over 80 per cent of the school’s children are Islamic, some, of course, more devout than others, all from varying traditions.

Now, one might be forgiven for thinking that this very demographic is the one most susceptible to radicalisation. That doesn’t mean they’re all potential terrorists. Of course not. But let’s be honest with ourselves: they are more at risk of being radicalised than pupils in, say, a Church of England school.

So surely, as teachers, we should be aware of this fact and act accordingly, as the Government’s Prevent strategy urges us to do through the promotion of British values.

But in my school, as demonstrated in my opening paragraph, many of my colleagues – particularly in the history department – are actively encouraging our most vulnerable children to hate their own country.

They were discussing a unit provocatively entitled, ‘Should we be proud of the British empire?’ As you can probably gauge from their rather one-sided conversation - and the simplistic, reductive scheme of work that supports it - it is a loaded question devised with only one answer in mind: No! We should be ashamed of it.

They have irresponsibly and outrageously sacrificed neutrality, historical accuracy and considered objectivity on the high altar of unthinking subjectivism and banal sentimentalism driven by feelings of post-colonial guilt.

How on earth can these dangerous individuals, so willing to do ISIL’s work for them, be allowed to teach our children?

That is not to say that we shouldn’t make our pupils aware of the misdeeds committed by ‘Perfidious Albion’ in its quest for world domination. But we should also be encouraging the children to explore the benign gifts bestowed upon the world by Britain’s two-hundred-year hegemony.

The spread of capitalism, the world’s first and only lingua franca, parliamentary democracy and the rule of law; the propagation of ideas, literature, technological and medical advances; the abolition of the slave trade and its global enforcement by British naval power during the period known as Pax Britannica; and finally, its assault upon the forces of fascism and militarism during the Second World War.

Now how can my colleagues not think of any positive consequences of Britain’s imperial domination? They are either grossly ignorant, blinded by their own bias or being deliberately deceitful.

Even the concept of empire – a concept that we rightly reject wholesale today – should be contextualised. From the Umayyad dynasty to the Ottomans, the Romans to the great seaborne empires of France and Britain, until recently, imperialism and colonialism were staple features of global geopolitics, as was slavery. You cannot therefore properly analyse and evaluate the British empire without placing it within this contextual framework.

In fact, bearing this in mind, the question of whether it was a force for good is far too simplistic. But that’s another story.

Again, though, I must reiterate that I am not calling for a sanitized account of Britain’s imperial past, just a balanced one, firmly rooted in reality.

At the moment, in my school at least, predominantly Muslim children are being force-fed a diet of anti-British propaganda – a diet both inaccurate and, more importantly, one which plays into the hands of those who wish to do us harm.

With the recent attacks in Paris being committed by mainly home grown terrorists, this ought to give us pause for thought.

Also published on Breitbart 1st December 2015

Monday, October 5, 2015

How education jargon hurts children

‘Excuse me, sir. Seeing as how the VP is such a VIP, shouldn’t we keep the PC on the QT? ’Cause if it leaks to the VC he could end up MIA, and then we’d all be put out in KP.’
How I cheered when Airman Adrian Cronauer mocked Lt Steven Hauk’s fondness for acronyms in Good Morning, Vietnam. Using jargon is an act of unconscionable self-indulgence. It is designed to make the user feel superior while saying not much, and Adrian, played by the late Robin Williams, spoke for millions of cheesed-off employees when he attacked it.
Jargon, acronyms and corporate-speak — all too common in offices — should be banned from schools. But to my horror (I am a teacher in an east London state school) over the decade I’ve been teaching, I’ve seen all sorts of horrible acronyms become common in both the staffroom and the classroom.
SEN, Progress 8, value added, IEP, EBD, FSM, ADD, ADHD, flight paths, EP and EAL. Unless you’ve studied the weird new education language, you haven’t a hope of understanding what teachers — or other people in the education business — are on about, and I sometimes think this is the point. It means baffled parents, who don’t know an FSM from an IEP, can’t hold teachers to account. It’s a far cry from the government’s expressed aim of empowering parents and giving them choice.
But there’s another, more alarming problem with jargon in education. It means complex problems are pigeonholed and oversimplified and, in the process, misdiagnosed. Take attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). If this isn’t a case of the concept leading the response, I don’t know what is. Teachers, teaching assistants (TAs) and pastoral staff are forever stuffing children into the box marked ADHD. We tell the parents, who call the doctor, who prescribes the drugs. But children can be inattentive for a hundred more complicated reasons. If ADHD weren’t available as a catch-all diagnosis, we’d have to try harder to understand each child.
English as an additional language (EAL) is another concept that drives practice. In my experience, many so-called EAL pupils speak excellent English, but now that there’s a handy label, teachers are forever applying it to pupils. Once you’re EAL, you’ll be forced to have an IEP (individual education plan) and if you fall a bit below your designated FP (flight path) you could end up in the humiliating SEN (special educational needs) category.
Just the existence of the phrase ‘flight path’ in schools is dangerous; it creates the false impression that pupils progress in a linear fashion. This can have unforeseen and deeply troubling consequences. If a pupil’s making EP (expected progress) in, say, chemistry, or, better still, EP+1 (better progress than EP), he’s on or above his designated FP (which is based on KS2 data — exhausting, isn’t it?). When a teacher sees ‘EP+1’ he knows he no longer has to push the pupil. EP+1 means the child has exceeded his target. That he may be capable of getting an A grade becomes largely irrelevant. If his FP states an expected C, and the pupil received a B, the teacher has ‘added value’ and the school’s statistics have benefited. So why push him any further? According to the law of the jargon it’s unnecessary. Everyone’s happy, aren’t they?
No they’re not. I’ve seen more than one instance of a pupil deciding, two years down the line, that he wants to aim higher. He wants to train as a doctor, say, but he can’t because he needed that A in chemistry — and nobody pushed him. Management-speak and fancy-sounding acronyms create a world of false targets, when the real target should be the needs and desires of children.
My personal favourite is the word ‘innovation’. Schools, in particular their ‘senior leaders’, have become obsessed with innovation. They demand innovation constantly, for the sake of innovating — so as to be seen to be ‘thinking outside the box’. This means they alter anything and everything on a whim. In my last school, the length of the school day, the lesson times and the lunch break were all changed for no reason, just so as to innovate. You can imagine the chaos and confusion.
Once again, my school was responding to a fashion rather than the needs of the children. The jargon has become a tyranny rather than a tool. This must change. Oh for Airman Adrian Cronauer to teach us all to speak English again.
Also published in The Spectator on 14th November 2015

Thursday, September 10, 2015

All you left-wing traditionalists: you really should be Conservatives

I recently read an incredibly thought-provoking article on Labour Teachers by Greg Ashman, a practising teacher, entitled, 'Do lefties have to love inquiry learning?' In short, he concludes that they don't, and I tend to agree with him; but I do take issue with several of his assumptions and would add a caveat to his main contention: they don't, but most of them do.

First, let's look at some of his assumptions. According to Greg, the Right 'no longer' opposes change; instead, the 'new' Right embraces innovation and new models for delivering public services. In contrast, rather than intent on overturning the status quo, the Left now aims to conserve it, he asserts, maintaining its beloved NHS and calling for the continuation of state spending on welfare and education. In simple terms, according to this view the Right is now the agent of change whilst the Left advocates the maintenance of many aspects of the post-war settlement.

But in his laudable attempts to embrace nuance and complexity, Greg misses some important points. He initially misinterprets the historic meaning of Conservatism and its approach to government, for example. This, I am sure, is through simple misunderstanding rather than deliberate misrepresentation - a very common error made by Leftists. He implies that historically, the Right was a reactionary movement opposed to change. This is a fallacious caricature.

The Victorian poet laureate Alfred, Lord Tennyson, neatly articulates the true nature of Conservatism in his poem 'Hands all Round' (1882): 'That man's the true Conservative/Who lops the mouldered branch away.' 'But', he later added in a conversation with the philosopher William Angus Knight, 'the branch must be a mouldered one, before we should venture to lop it off.' In other words, as Edmund Burke, the father of modern Conservatism himself contended, we must embrace change where necessary and conservation where no evidence exists to support what might, in theory alone, work better.

The 1867 Reform Act, Robert Peel's Repeal of the Corn Laws in 1846 and Benjamin Disraeli's social reforms all point to a party that has throughout its history been ready and willing to enact change where warranted.

Furthermore, in arguing that the Left now seeks to conserve, he fails to spot the fact that it only seeks to conserve the radical changes wrought by various post-war Labour administrations. This doesn't make it a movement protective of the nation's political, socioeconomic and cultural inheritance, circumspect in its approach to reform. Of course not. It is as passionate for change as ever and, if eager to conserve, only does so in an effort to maintain its post-war gains.

So, in my view, Greg misunderstands the essence of both political parties. Conservatives have always been wary of change, but not unambiguously against it whereas those on the left, on the other hand, and in the main, view the nation's traditions as antiquated and inimical to social justice. Sorry, Greg, but they categorically do not seek to conserve. As a consequence, lefties tend to support any change which attacks traditional social, economic, political and cultural structures. Multiculturalism, mass immigration, House of Lords reform, gay marriage, state control of the means of production and, of course, progressive education are all assaults upon traditionalism supported by the Left.

That said, and here I agree with Greg, lefties can of course reject inquiry-based, progressive educational theory and practice. Such an approach conspires to thwart social mobility and harm the working-class, after all. But the fact remains: most do not take this view for the reasons outlined. Progressivism maybe old, but, until relatively recently, it's been a revolutionary theory with little evidential backing designed to reject authority and overturn existing societal structures - a classic left-wing objective. The fact that these would stand a better chance of being overturned through traditional methods is beside the point. The Left's propensity to shout 'change' without considering the unforeseen implications renders it deaf to such commonsensical arguments. It simply sees a tradition and immediately seeks its destruction - just look at House of Lords reform or the foxhunting ban.

The advantage of Conservatism is in its circumspection. This gives its advocates time to think and apply rigour when considering the most effective course of action. All you left-wing traditionalists: you really should be Conservatives.

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

God Help Me!

I've finally taken the plunge. After six years of service, back in May, I reluctantly decided to throw in the towel and move on, hopefully to sunnier climes. At the time, the small matter of not having another job lined up didn't really register. I just needed to escape. 

So, for the second time in my career, I'm closing my eyes, holding my breath and diving into the darkest depths of uncharted waters, otherwise known as the murky world of supply teaching. Back in 2008 - the last time I worked as an itinerant child-herder - I spent nine months working the circuit in and around Hertfordshire. Needless to say, it was tough, so I'm under no illusions. As an unfamiliar presence threatening their settled, though precarious ecosystem, most children, very much like a band of paranoid chimpanzees, initially view you with deep suspicion, if not hostility. It is up to you to allay these fears and build their trust. No easy task.

So far I've registered with three agencies, but, annoyingly, I'm still awaiting my DBS certificate - a certificate I applied for back in June. As if it needs saying: until it arrives, I can't work. It really is a huge inconvenience that's playing cruel tricks on my imagination. Could it possibly be that small brush with the law I had back in '97 - the night of Princess Diana's tragic death? I wonder. Perhaps. I did receive a formal caution for the unforgivable misdemeanor of lifting up a couple of windscreen wiper arms, after all. After being handcuffed, bundled into the back of a jam sandwich (underworld jargon for police car) and thrown into a cell, I was fingerprinted and charged with vandalism. Vandalism! I only raised a couple of windscreen wipers, for God's sake: hardly Ronnie Biggs stuff.

Anyway, I'm sure I'm catastrophising; I'm sure they're not going to hark back to something I did at the age of eighteen. More to the point: I've had DBS checks before - of course I have - and they've always come back clear. It's just the wait. I need to work and, believe it or not, I'm actually looking forward to getting back into the classroom.

This year I've decided to log my experiences in an effort to capture the fun, myriad vicissitudes and sheer madness of the profession from the perspective of a supply teacher. Apart from that brief period I mentioned earlier, I've only ever worked as a permanent member of staff. I'm glad I've taken the leap, but do feel anxious. Will it prove fruitful? I do hope so... 

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Educating Cardiff: good intentions are no substitute for effectiveness

If you're aged eleven to 16, have a penchant for energy drinks and enjoy the odd puff on a ciggy, Willows High is certainly the school for you.

Surprisingly though - and despite all the trainers, dog-ends and hoodies - Ms Ballard's relatively recent appointment as headteacher has seen the school's results drastically improve from just 14 per cent in 2011 to 50 per cent last year. Even I cannot argue with this incredible achievement.

Neither can I criticise Ms Ballard's warm, kind-hearted approach and infectious enthusiasm. She is indeed a lovely lady with the best interests of her pupils at heart. Similarly, as head of house and undoubted hero of this opening episode, Mr Hennessy is tireless and unrelenting in his dealings with the school's most challenging pupils.

The kids are equally likeable. Leah may be every teacher's worst nightmare, but, like many of her nicotine-stained ilk, and in between the days she takes off in an effort, I'm sure, to recuperate from her regular run-ins with Mr Hennessy, she offers a spark of potential which could grow, with a little effort, into a raging blaze of glory. If only she'd turn up to school.

Jessicca, at the opposite end of the spectrum, is academically gifted but, according to Ms Ballard - in a judgement I don't entirely agree with - socially awkward. With the help of Ms Bubbins though, she becomes editor of the new school newspaper. It was a real pleasure to see this delightful young lady's confidence grow as she reveled, thanks to the aforementioned Ms Bubbins, in her newly acquired responsibilities. If I were to choose one vignette to highlight the power a teacher has to influence and change the lives of his or her pupils, this would be it. Needless to say, Jessicca ended the year with a multitude of excellent GCSE grades.

Leah, too, after being exhaustively harangued and cajoled by Mr H throughout the episode, successfully completed her final year. So what's the problem, I hear you ask? Aren't the selfless teachers at Willows clearly doing an excellent job? 

Well, in answer to the latter, no, they aren't. Good intention is no substitute for effectiveness. As alluded to in my opening paragraph, behaviour at the school remains appalling. Pupils walk around wearing trainers, hoodies and headphones, drink potent, mood-altering energy drinks in full view of the head, smoke cigarettes and casually talk on mobile phones.

In the case of Leah, she has spent most of her school life truanting with impunity. During one instance, she was filmed running around the playground with several of her friends when they should have been in lessons. Her punishment? A phone call home, a brief chat with Mr H and a day in isolation. I wonder how many times she's experienced that... In other words, she's been doing it for several years with no real escalation in consequences, I wager because of her underprivileged background.

And you can bet your life on it: she's not the only one. The result: anarchy.

Meanwhile the indefatigable Mr H works like a Trojan. He harangues, pleads, phones and, all in all, spends an inordinate amount of time on pupils like Leah. But what about the others - the grey, unexceptional kids that do nothing wrong? Mr Hennessy's time is finite, after all. They are ignored. Some, as a result, become naughty in an effort to be noticed; others simply lose the will to learn. Jessicca herself neatly articulated how frustrated she becomes when her lessons are disrupted by Leah, and she's an exceptional pupil who can clearly cope. What about the unexceptional or, worse still, the struggling but keen? How can they possibly cope with their lessons being regularly disrupted? Who protects them? In short, their needs are being sacrificed for the perceived needs of kids like Leah.

Mr Hennessy means well but he's letting down the majority. One could almost argue that he's working too hard. He needs to give some responsibility back to the pupils and let a good, clear behaviour policy do the lion's share. Whether he likes it or not: some kids need to conform or go.

But what about the results? Don't these make a mockery of my argument? In a word, no. Fifty per cent A*-C grades including English and maths are, I agree, a big improvement. But they're still mediocre. Just imagine what they could be...

Having worked in a similar environment, moreover, I can't help but speculate that these improvements are being made through the inhumane flogging of the teaching staff at Willows. By working teachers to death on the educational equivalent of the Burmese railway, of course improvements will be made, but these will be nothing more than superficial and, in the long term, unsustainable. 

It was very sad to see some truly wonderful, caring teachers make such fundamental errors. Clear rules consistently applied lead to a calm, orderly environment which ultimately results in meaningful learning. 

Unfortunately, moreover, Willows High is not an exception; it is entirely representative of schools up and down the country. How sad...

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Chinese school triumphs over British system in four weeks

During my last blog, I predicted that - as a consequence of only having four weeks with pupils resistant to unfamiliar teachers, longer days and alien methods - the Chinese taught pupils' end-of-experiment results would lag behind their more progressive, British taught peers.

How wrong I was. This week's episode of Are Our Kids Tough Enough? Chinese School showed the conclusion of a four week - albeit deeply flawed - experiment which pitted Chinese traditionalism against British progressivism.

Despite being dealt a pretty miserable hand of cards, handicapped by the sheer unfamiliarity of their personalities and strategies, and the short timescale they had to cross the divide, the Chinese teachers triumphed. According to every measure, their pupils outperformed their British taught peers.

Of course the experiment was, as already pointed out, deeply flawed. But let's not kid ourselves: it was deeply flawed in favour of the child-centred approach. When one considers this simple fact, one cannot help but be astonished by the findings and draw some obvious conclusions. First, traditional methods are so manifestly effective that they were able to overcome the disadvantages besetting the Chinese teachers from the beginning. Secondly, and just as significantly, progressive methods are so ineffective that, in spite of the enormous advantages enjoyed by the British teachers, their pupils still failed to match their Chinese taught counterparts.

Are we concentrating too much on fun at the expense of learning and hard work perhaps? Not according to Bohunt's headmaster, Mr Strowger. He went from decrying Chinese methods as ineffective at the beginning of the experiment to, after begrudgingly conceding their superiority, berating them as inhumane at the end. The goalposts had shamelessly been moved, and, after apparently entering the endeavour with an open mind, he proceeded to ignore the experiment's findings. He had clearly learned nothing.

At this juncture, it is important to stress that I am not advocating the wholesale adoption of the Chinese approach. But we should be, and Mr Strowger in particular should be, seriously considering the implementation of many aspects, including a return to not showering teachers with opprobrium for the purported crime of talking too much. We need to expect more of our children and hand them back some responsibility. 

Alas, Mr Strowger, I suspect, after hearing his last comments and his undisguised dislike of teacher-talk, intends to change very little. He will no doubt continue to insist upon teachers delivering 'fun' lessons in an effort to 'engage' their pupils. It really is incredibly frustrating. More to the point, our children deserve better.

Thursday, August 6, 2015

Inadequate headteachers are damaging our children

Some years ago, my colleagues and I were forced to endure a professional development session entitled, ‘Are your lessons worth behaving for?’ Forget the ungrammatical construction of the sentence for one moment, ending as it does with a preposition. Every time this memory resurfaces and, with it, the implicit message that if our students misbehave it must always be our fault, I find myself seeking solace in a bottle of Sauvignon Blanc in an often unsuccessful attempt to stave off the inevitable enraged response. Come to think of it, perhaps alcohol isn’t the best answer…
Anyway, leaving that to one side, on Tuesday evening this traumatic experience was again evoked as I, perhaps injudiciously, began to watch Are Our Kids Tough Enough? Chinese School on BBC Two. Masquerading as an experiment which pitted Chinese didactic teaching methods against the more progressive approach favoured in British schools, it was clearly, first and foremost, made to entertain. And entertain it did. Watching teachers used to students culturally imbued with obedience, respect for authority, ambition and motivation attempt to teach our children, even in an ostensibly successful school like Bohunt, was indeed great television.
But are we going to be able to draw any new conclusions about the merits of the respective teaching methods after four weeks, even if the kids exposed to Chinese traditionalism are tested against their British taught peers at the end? Of course not. First, the Chinese teachers do not know their new students and only have four weeks to teach them. Any teacher will tell you: it takes between three and six months to gain the trust of one’s students in this country. Secondly, and most importantly, there is an enormous cultural gulf between the Chinese teachers and their young English charges – a gulf which, I suspect, cannot be overcome in just one month, if ever. And thirdly, in order to be successful, every teacher needs the support of his or her Head and, in this instance, that is clearly not the case. The Head is desperate for them to fail.
At the end of the four weeks, when, I predict, the British taught kids perform better than their Chinese taught counterparts for the reasons outlined above, the smirking Headteacher will conclude, against all of the international evidence to the contrary, that progressive teaching methods are more successful than those of a more traditional bent.
So as a practical experiment, the methodology and stated concept are deeply flawed. There are simply too many variables outside the realm of pedagogy which will determine outcomes. Yet we can still draw some useful conclusions. For example, the behaviour of many of the children at Bohunt is not conducive to learning. It is disruptive and, in the case of Sophie in particular, downright rude. Indeed, if I were the Head I would be mortified by their treatment of five visitors attempting to broaden their horizons.
And here we come to the crux of the problem. Mr Strowger, the Bohunt Headteacher, blames the behaviour of the kids on the Chinese teachers. Instead of reading them the Riot Act, appalled by their treatment of overseas visitors, he points the figure of blame at the teachers’ traditional, didactic methods. So, too, did the Head of Maths. In fact, he appeared to revel in the misery being inflicted by the children, deluding himself that it proves the superiority of child-centred progressivism.
All it really proved was his own inadequacies and unfitness for the position of teacher, let alone Headteacher. The children at Bohunt are great: quirky, intelligent and full of potential. Their Headteacher, though, is letting them down. In blaming the teachers for their poor behaviour, when he should be instilling the attitude that you treat everyone with equal respect, even if you find them difficult to understand, or even boring, he is encouraging the children to misbehave, be rude and then search for excuses. It’s extremely sad.
Unfortunately, Mr Strowger is not unrepresentative of other Headteachers around the country either. They are intensely damaging to our children. Forget academies, Secretary of State, do something about these numpties. Everybody’s lessons are worth behaving for.
If this one conclusion is drawn, and something done about it, the programme’s impact will be much more profound than a simple piece of cheap, Tuesday-night entertainment often begets. I very much doubt it, though.

First published on www.conservativehome.com on 6th August 2015

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

It’s vital that our children study Dead White Men

According to a recent survey, a clear majority of teachers view the new knowledge-rich National Curriculum introduced last year as overtly political and unfit for purpose, as a consequence.
Now, I do not claim to know all of the reasons why this opinion predominates, but, having worked in the teaching profession for over a decade and, during that time, having listened to many of my colleagues decry knowledge as an instrument of oppression, I think it safe to assume that, within this majority, there is a strong conviction that such knowledge is indeed oppressive.
I recently stumbled across a blogpost which neatly articulated this prevailing view. It argued that such Anglocentric knowledge immerses ‘the oppressed in the culture of the oppressor’ and ‘ensures that the dominant culture’ remains unchallenged by the downtrodden and disadvantaged. To put it another way, it contrives to maintain the inequalities wrought upon society by the immanent evils of capitalism.
Interestingly, the blogger goes on to suggest – but not detail – an alternative narrative through a curriculum which strives to highlight and overturn these existing inequities.
In my opinion, though, this contention is littered with flaws. Most glaringly, it wrongly assumes that we live in a fixed, strictly stratified, intrinsically unfair society in which opportunity is scarce and social mobility non-existent. Don’t get me wrong: opportunity isn’t as widespread and easily accessible as one would hope, but it does exist. Why else do hundreds of thousands of migrants make the long, arduous and, in some cases, fatal journey to our shores?
Like the USA – the very embodiment of the capitalistic prison the blogger abhors – Britain is a land of opportunity. Capitalism has created and distributed wealth, increased living standards, funded universal healthcare and education, not to mention facilitated an attendant increase in life expectancy among all, including the poor, women and ethnic minorities (the so-called ‘oppressed’).
So when my Marxist-inspired colleagues and counterparts in the education blogosphere lament the malign effects of capitalism and decry the existence of a curriculum that attempts to preserve it, I cannot help but consider the failed alternatives and, in the words of John McEnroe, cry out: ‘You cannot be serious, man!’
Should we teach our children about Britain’s unique, inspirational, awe-inspiring evolution from feudalism to constitutional monarchy and representative democracy – something the blogger unfathomably believes ‘oppressive’? Of course we should.
But let’s say, for argument’s sake, that there are ‘oppressed’ minorities in our society. An Anglocentric, knowledge-rich curriculum like the one introduced last year evidently does not automatically render them ‘good-Soviets’ – supine, impotent and unable to question the status quo. On the contrary, many of history’s great reformers, even revolutionaries, were the recipients of what could be termed an occidental educational experience – Mahatma Gandhi, Kwame Nkrumah, Eric Williams, Edward Said and, dare I say it, Margaret Thatcher to name just a few.
If one wants to challenge existing hegemonic structures, one must first understand them, surely. In short, the ‘oppressed’ must be able to speak the language of the ‘oppressors’; or to put it in less emotive, perhaps more relevant terms, the poor must be able to speak the same language as the rich.
So the new National Curriculum is enabling rather than disabling. Depriving ordinary children of the knowledge available to the privileged is oppressive. They are left with no understanding of society, nothing to question and, most importantly, prevented from accessing the corridors of power which are, whether we like it or not, inhabited by those who enjoy a privileged, Anglocentric education in which ‘dead white men’ predominate.
On this last point, moreover, ‘dead white men’ have had a disproportionate influence over our history, whether we like it or not. That’s a fact. So if we want our children to know about and understand our island story, we must surely introduce them to such figures: otherwise, in the name of political correctness, we’re being dishonest and depriving them of important information concerning their shared provenance and place in the modern world – and let’s not forget that, as previously mentioned, learning about such people does not prevent one from questioning and challenging their legacy. It enables it.
Look, any curriculum is inherently political. By its very nature, it is, for want of a word with more benign connotations, an act of indoctrination. That much I agree with. The DFE recently decreed that we must instill our young charges with British values. If this isn’t indoctrination, I don’t know what is.
But let’s not imagine some kind of moral equivalence with Soviet Russia or Nazi Germany. Our values are based upon pluralism, human rights, democracy and tolerance. These are worth promoting – even worth indoctrinating – because rather than breeding compliance, they encourage contrarianism, questioning, challenge. So in our case, indoctrination, paradoxically, sets one free and broadens one’s mind. If anything it exists to challenge any existing inequalities.
If we were to teach an alternative, less Anglocentric curriculum, though – one tailored to galvanise resentment in those perceived as ‘oppressed’, without championing our shared and mutually advantageous national values and achievements – we’d jeopardize our survival as a democratic, tolerant, pluralistic yet cohesive nation. It really is that simple.
The Government’s new curriculum reflects this concern and aims to give ordinary children the same opportunities as the privileged few. There really is nothing to oppose. But to those who still do, worried about a conspiracy being conducted by the Bullingdon Club against the ‘oppressed’, I leave this message: one cannot legitimately argue that there are ‘oppressed’ groups in British society; neither can one argue that a traditional liberal education of the kind recently introduced helps to facilitate this non-existent ‘oppression’.
British society is mercifully free, open and eminently more desirable to live in than most other societies around the world, as demonstrated by current and historic levels of migration. It is an Anglocentric, core knowledge curriculum that is largely responsible for this monumental achievement. The new National Curriculum rightly rejects the relatively recent trend in favour of non-judgementalism and child-centred learning – a trend which places social cohesion at risk and retards social mobility – and seeks to challenge ignorance, increase opportunity and rekindle a sense of shared identity. We discard it at our peril. I’m just disappointed that Academies can opt out.

First published on www.conservativehome.com on 21st July 2015

Monday, July 13, 2015

Will Sir Tim Berners-Lee's selfless, far-sighted gift to humanity ever be repeated?

In 1994, Sir Tim Berners-Lee selflessly donated the World Wide Web to mankind. He refused to obtain a patent for and profit from a revolutionary invention that was arguably, among the practical and day to day alterations shaped by its influence, about to change the very nature of human existence. He sacrificed individual, material gain for the collective benefit of the entire human race.
I think that, given this fact, it is safe to assume that his alma mater, Emanuel School in south-west London, successfully inculcated a sense of responsibility beyond the narrow parameters of the self. It taught him to be aware of and contribute to something larger and ultimately more durable and long-lasting than one’s own perceived needs. In short, it instilled selflessness.
The aims of education are manifold. I contend that they can be categorised under two main headings.
First, the Individual. The purpose of education is to extend opportunity to each and every person, regardless of socioeconomic circumstance: it is to drive social mobility and, ultimately, enable the individual to climb the ladder of opportunity. Moreover, it strives – or at least should strive – to equip each person with the knowledge to understand and enjoy the world around them.
Through such knowledge and the material gain which hopefully accompanies academic success, the individual is liberated from the stultifying shackles of ignorance and penury, and is enabled and free to live a fulfilling life, bask in the wonders of the universe and reach the ultimate objective of self-actualisation. This is indeed a noble aim.
The second category is the Collective. Education is not just about the individual, but the good of society as a whole. By infusing pupils with morality and knowledge, they are being trained as custodians of their socioeconomic and cultural heritage – a heritage to be enhanced and passed on to their progeny – and instilled with the qualities and skills to be productive and useful to the collective advancement of not just themselves, but their fellow citizens. It is an enormous responsibility: one which is rarely explained in schools for reasons that will become apparent.
These aims are of course mutually reinforcing. What’s good for the collective is good for the individual and vice-versa. But a pertinent question is whether our schools successfully fulfil their obligations to deliver an education which meets these objectives. The answer, regrettably, is no. Our children are not satisfactorily inculcated with the morality, knowledge and skills to reach their potential, nor to be productive guardians of and contributors to humanity’s cultural inheritance. Why?
Alas, the collective aims of education are being subordinated to raw, untrammelled individualism – an individualism which ultimately, and paradoxically, stifles each pupil’s progress and stops him or her from fulfilling their potential.
In our desperation to live up to the mantra ‘Every Child Matters’, for example, and to ensure that each child has the same opportunities through ‘inclusion’ in mainstream schools – even if they’re eminently unsuited – we’ve colluded in a kind of reverse-utilitarianism. The individual has been elevated, almost sanctified, and his or her needs, in practice, now take precedence over the needs of the majority.
A child may be unable to cope in a mainstream school, for instance. He may be monopolizing a teacher’s time and resources as a consequence, and to the detriment of the 20-odd other pupils in the class. But in the name of equality, his needs, being an individual, are deemed to be of paramount importance. He must be allowed to realise his potential no matter what the cost. No consideration is given to the collective purpose of education, the continued sustenance and health of society, or to the utilitarian principles that should guide our actions. All that matters is the individual deemed disadvantaged.
Morality, moreover, is viewed as a construct of one’s own socioeconomic and cultural background. As a result, schools often refuse to sanction unruly pupils from dysfunctional households in the same way as their more advantaged peers. In a misguided effort to re-balance the inequalities bequeathed at birth, teachers individualise the school’s rules and treat their underprivileged charges with more compassion. Again, it matters not that the majority become frustrated and despondent and confused about the arbitrary nature of the school’s approach to rewards and sanctions; it matters not that behaviour deteriorates throughout the school in response, either: it’s all about the individual, nothing more.
In the same vein, the system refuses to allow pupils to fail. Grammar schools were abolished because they hurt the feelings of the individuals who failed the Eleven Plus, even though they provided an excellent education for thousands of ordinary children. In mainstream comprehensives, many remain wedded to mixed ability teaching lest the less able feel stigmatized and teachers – demoralised and exhausted – run themselves ragged to ensure the success of every child, even the ones who don’t deserve to pass.
Perhaps the most indicative aspect of this phenomenon is our existing hostility to the explicit teaching of facts. We no longer pass on a specific body of knowledge with the aim of entrusting our children with society’s cultural inheritance. That would have the distinct whiff of indoctrination. In particular, the historical knowledge taught in schools is viewed as a way of perpetuating the hegemonic status of the West and with it, the cultural dominance of white middle-class men. Instead, we are now encouraged to free our charges from this groupthink and collective straight-jacket, urge self-discovery and facilitate non-judgemental, individual enquiry. The phrase ‘child-centred learning’ pretty much encapsulates the current zeitgeist which elevates the individual above the collective.
In each instance, society as a whole unquestionably becomes less educated and, as a consequence, weaker. The nation’s moral certainties and cultural traditions are not being passed on, nor is a sense of collective responsibility and duty to one’s fellow citizens. It’s all about me!
And as the collective aims of education are subordinated to those of the individual, the individual’s aims, paradoxically, become unattainable, too. We can only thrive within the collective, after all. In the name of individualism, pupils are placed in unsuitable schools, taught that rules don’t apply to them, shielded from failure and prevented from acquiring a uniform body of knowledge. How can this possibly be beneficial?
Furthermore, whenever teachers are asked about the purpose of learning they invariably reply: ‘To get a decent job.’ This is an extremely individualistic, narrow way of looking at it. We rarely think about and explain the collective aims of the endeavour; the responsibility that children have to learn for the preservation, sustenance and progress of society.
The result is entrenched selfishness and, unless we reverse this damaging trend, I don’t think it’s too alarmist to predict, the sad, gradual demise of our civilisation. Will Sir Tim Berners-Lee’s selfless, far-sighted gift to humanity ever be repeated?
First published on www.conservativehome.com on 12th July 2015

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Where are the social reformers who will speak up for abused teachers?

Vincent Uzomah. Have you heard of him? If you haven’t, it wouldn’t be a surprise. Apart from one small unremarkable news bulletin, his recent stabbing at the hands of a disgruntled pupil at Dixons Kings Academy in Bradford has been largely ignored, even though it should serve as a belated wake up call for a complacent profession and an indifferent public.
According to the most recent figures available, there were 17,190 fixed-term exclusions for physical assault on an adult and 50,630 for threatening behaviour towards an adult in 2012-13. Only 920 pupils, however, were permanently excluded for similar offences during the same period.
What do these disturbing statistics tell us? Well, not only do they highlight the fact that violence in our schools has become a mundane feature of everyday life. They also, on closer inspection, elucidate the reasons why the phenomenon is so widespread.
Every year, tens of thousands of children either threaten or assault their teachers; yet the vast majority are allowed back into school after a fixed-term exclusion. Only a tiny minority are permanently excluded. The number of exclusions permitted, moreover, before a permanent exclusion is issued, is infinite.
So where is the disincentive?  One could argue that these violent pupils are, in the main, being granted a short holiday for attacking a member of staff, before being invited back to resume their education. There is no deterrent. On the contrary, there seems to be a perverse incentive actually to be violent.
I suspect these statistics only represent the tip of a rather large iceberg. Many schools, including mine, do not even issue fixed-term exclusions for violent behaviour, especially if the perpetrator pulls on the Head’s heart strings with a hard luck story which divests him or her of any meaningful responsibility. Don’t forget, we live in an excuse-making, relativist epoch in which rules only apply to the already advantaged. In addition, schools are reluctant to use such penalties lest they attract Ofsted’s opprobrium – a very real possibility. So you could perhaps double these figures to get the real picture.
In short, schools should permanently exclude violent, threatening pupils – without exception. If they did, we would unquestionably see a reduction in physical abuse, threatening behaviour and a concomitant reduction in fixed-term exclusions in consequence. Eventually over the longer term, as children realise and understand the full consequences of their actions, we would also see a reduction in permanent exclusions, too. The current reluctance to issue exclusions of any kind is paradoxically fueling their growth. It is incredibly self-defeating.
And let’s not forget the lost opportunities and human misery behind these statistics. Pupils are forced to share their classrooms with unrepentant thugs, and teachers are expected to enthusiastically support the unsupportable. We are not only the abused, the ones on the receiving end of these violent outbursts, but we’re the individuals accountable for the progress of these children tool. Yes, we’re still responsible for their results, even though they’re unmanageable and, in many cases, uncontrollable.
It’s nothing short of a scandal. Apparently Teach First has recently offered psychological support to its new recruits. They are finding the profession intensely stressful, by all accounts. I wonder why…they are being subjected to regular verbal and physical attack; they are unsupported by their senior leaders, the Government and their unions; and moreover, despite these considerable obstacles, they’re still expected to teach with gusto and secure the expected progress of their young charges, even the naughty ones. For the life of me, I can’t understand why they’re finding things so anxiety-inducing, can you?
Look, we need to wake up to what’s going on in our schools. Uzomah’s fate may be rare, but it’s an extreme example of the violence that many teachers face, in many schools, on a day to day basis. Teachers have truly become the twenty-first century equivalents of nineteenth century factory workers. Where are today’s indignant, impassioned social reformers?

First published on www.conservativehome.com on 5th July 2015

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

In many schools, racism has become acceptable

Several years ago, an Asian colleague left my school unexpectedly. In the weeks that preceded his mysterious disappearance, he was subjected to appalling levels of racial abuse at the hands of some intensely unpleasant pupils. Whether he left of his own volition is a moot point. Predictably, though, the Senior Leadership Team offered little support and protected his tormentors - as a result, they said, of their 'challenging' home lives. In other words, they were permitted to spit racial vitriol because, according to our head, courtesy of their socioeconomic circumstances, they couldn't help it.

An interesting clash of left-wing causes has thus come to pass - one ultimately superseding the other. Indeed, anti-racism has been sacrificed at the high altar of moral relativism. We must apparently accept the casual dispensation of racial abuse, as long as it's conducted by those who don't know any better.

The same confused thinking has led to the tacit acceptance of - even complicity in - some truly shocking practices which beset some of our communities across the country, from Female Genital Mutilation and homophobic attacks to honour killings and the subjugation of women. Where are the outraged feminists and LGBT activists decrying and challenging these odious, backward practices? They're too busy hounding UCL Nobel prize-winning professors out of their jobs, I suspect. They're predominantly male, middle class and should know better, after all.

Relativism trumps everything in twenty-first century Britain. It also leads to misery, injustice and increased levels of inequality. Just ask my former colleague.

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Nicky Morgan needs to denounce the Left's shameful record and speak up for Conservative principles

Let's make no bones about it; the Left's unrepentant fingerprints are all over the scarred, lifeless body. It lies face down, riven by ignorance, indolence and poverty, desperate but unable to escape the torpor and abject misery in which it finds itself. Council estates which housed the existing poor were the most vulnerable limbs. These, in the name of equality, were mauled and left broken by well-meaning Leftists only too willing to expose their credulous inhabitants to new, unproven experiments which, alas, went horribly, catastrophically wrong. In short, over several decades - and in the name of egalitarian principles which failed to achieve their stated aims - the Left destroyed the education thus life chances of generations of school children and, in pig-headed contravention of all the evidence available, blithely continues to do so.

So when will Nicky Morgan take the fight to Labour and say so? She should be adding, moreover, that these failed policies were, and still are, inimical to the defining tenets of Conservative thought and, as a consequence, can only be expunged by a Conservative administration.

Let's take the liberal doctrine - a doctrine adopted wholesale by the Labour party - of moral relativism as a starting point. With the decline of the traditional family, the demur withdrawal of Christianity from public life, the post-war increase in immigration and with it, the proliferation of different religious, ethnic and cultural mores, the Left's politicians, cheerleaders and myriad agents of the state - including teachers - began to impose a doctrine which forbade the application of judgement and decried the occidental moral certainties of the past. Instead, this view intolerantly insisted that we have to accept the fact that positions of right or wrong are socially, economically and culturally determined therefore subject to a person's individual choice. So there you have it: there is no longer a dominant moral code to be followed in Britain, apparently.

But how does this affect our schools? I hear you ask. Well, according to this position - which is widespread by the way - how can you possibly sanction two pupils from completely different socioeconomic and cultural backgrounds in the same way? They may have vastly different conceptions of what's right and what's wrong, after all. 

Let's consider this scenario as a not untypical example: Child X comes from a middle class, Catholic household in which both parents remain married. Child Y, on the other hand, has an alcoholic mother, absent father and a revolving door which greets and often violently bids farewell to a different stepfather every few months. One afternoon, Child X and Child Y both threaten to hit a member of staff - again, a not uncommon occurrence in many of our schools. However, Child Y is treated more leniently than Child X - Child X being the one, of course, who should know better, coming, as he does, from a relatively descent household.

Now, to access the reality - which is, alas, far worse - imagine this scenario being multiplied by an indefinite number to accommodate the myriad different socioeconomic and cultural backgrounds of pupils in schools up and down the country. You end up with confusion as kids no longer know which rules apply to them; resentment as some discover that their peers are being treated differently; and ultimately, an intensely damaging moral vacuum in which right and wrong no longer exist, so open to question thus clouded they've become. Of course, it is surely obvious that in such an environment, low expectations and poor behaviour find sustenance, and, where they find sustenance, so too does educational failure. Moral relativism is indeed the scourge of our education system, responsible for ill-discipline, expectations which barely manage to get off the ground and truly appalling standards, especially among the poor.

It is also a doctrine beloved of the Left and scorned by true Conservatives. But no Tory, not even Michael Gove, has been courageous enough to challenge it. Through a reformed school inspectorate Nicky Morgan needs to emerge from her predecessor's shadow, throw down the gauntlet and finally extinguish this cancerous growth. Only then will we see the behaviour and expectations necessary to close the gap between rich and poor.

The Left's opposition to the explicit teaching of facts is another failed approach yet to be highlighted and challenged. As the 7 per cent of privately educated children continue to enjoy the multitude of opportunities offered by a knowledge rich curriculum, their state school counterparts are reduced to ignorance and disadvantage, deprived of the common terms of reference that would enable them to access power and the knowledge to stimulate the higher order thinking skills so crucial to future success (an outcome brilliantly explained by Daisy Christodoulou in her recent study, The Seven Myths About Education). 

The impartation of knowledge, or so the Leftist position goes, is an act of subjugation used to maintain existing social structures and the hegemony of the West. A traditional, knowledge rich curriculum is deeply discriminatory, it claims, affirms the host nation's cultural superiority and, as a consequence, runs counter to the current moral relativist zeitgeist discussed earlier. One has to ask oneself: why else has Tristram Hunt - a man who incidentally received a knowledge rich education himself in one of the world's leading private schools - promised to deprive state run schools of subject specialists on account of their failure to go to teacher training college? Is it possibly because he views subject expertise as secondary to a college-taught pedagogy that explicitly proscribes the teaching of facts?

Why hasn't this been highlighted and challenged? We now know, thanks to various cognitive studies, the importance of facts to the development of thinking skills - something that should go without saying, really (you can't think with nothing to think about, after all). Bearing this in mind, again, I reiterate, why has Nicky Morgan not highlighted the Left's insidious hand in this deeply un-Conservative trend that eschews tradition and results in the endemic ignorance of our children - ignorance responsible for scuppering the life chances of so many? 

Okay, I recognise Michael Gove's attempts to address the problem with, inter alia, reforms to the National Curriculum, but these don't go far enough. Academies can opt out and, take it from me, many do, enabling them to continue inflicting child centred learning on yet another generation of unsuspecting schoolchildren and parents. Morgan needs to go one step further, in my opinion. She must make the National Curriculum compulsory, even for academies and free schools, and, again, through a reformed Ofsted, insist on the teaching of facts in our schools. This should be non-negotiable. Indeed, school freedoms should be determined within these very parameters. 

In the Left's misguided rush to realise equality through such measures - and others which include the pervasive 'all must have prizes' culture and ill-conceived Inclusion policy -, it has further entrenched disadvantage as private schools and good state schools - often in the best areas with the highest house prices and wealthiest children - continue to enjoy the benefits of moral certitude and a knowledge rich curriculum.

With the General Election approaching, Nicky Morgan, the Education Secretary, recently issued yet another headline grabbing initiative which will do absolutely nothing to improve our schools. Another test, another resit, this time sat during Year 7, will simply, yet again, highlight the system's failings rather than boost the standard of its provision. Nicky, you can test our kids until the cows come home but, unless you speak up for Conservative principles, denounce the Left's shameful commitment to moral relativism and its aversion to the teaching of facts, we'll still be talking about the corpse of educational failure and the socioeconomic decay that accompanies it in 2050. In truth, only the Conservatives can resuscitate the scarred, lifeless body that represents our most underprivileged children.

Saturday, April 11, 2015

Schools should direct boys’ natural aggression and competitiveness, not just accept misbehaviour

Several years ago, a Guardian columnist – whose name escapes me – argued that, as a consequence of an evolutionary anomaly, whereby the peculiarities of male instincts, immanent skills and inherited abilities have yet to evolve to suit our altered socioeconomic and environmental circumstances, it is not surprising that some boys behave badly. Far from being equipped for the modern world of sedentary indolence, where tapping a keyboard is the closest thing you’ll get to the kind of intense activity existent on the steppes of central Asia some twenty thousand years ago, they remain, at heart, ferocious hunter-gatherers, genetically predisposed to sporadic bouts of aggression and gifted with the spatial awareness to successfully pursue, kill, gather and ultimately survive to live another day. No wonder, then, given this reality, they find it difficult to sit still and learn Pythagoras’ Theorem and quadratic equations.
It is indeed a convincing argument that, unfortunately, lets itself down by proffering a pessimistic non-remedy. Apparently we’ve just got to lump it; we’ve got to accept the fact that boys will naturally be aggressive and, by implication, violent and abusive at school; we’ve got to accept that, literally speaking, “boys will be boys”. Well I don’t buy it.
If boys are genetically inclined to evince such behaviours, we shouldn’t bury our heads in the sand and wait for evolution to work its magic – a phenomenon that could, no doubt, take tens of thousands, if not millions, of years to bear fruit. Instead we should accommodate them, as they do in many excellent schools around the country. Why not direct their natural aggression, competitiveness and hone their spacial awareness through sport, for example? Would that be too masculine for our fluffy Guardian columnist, perhaps?
I was lucky enough to go to an excellent school that encouraged competitive sports, music, drama and, of course, both academic and artistic excellence. In the winter we played rugby every Saturday afternoon; in the summer it was athletics and cricket; in music, we had various bands according to instrumental competency and our lessons were equally competitive and strictly stratified according to one’s ability.
The point is here that the educational philosophy espoused by my alma mater accepted our inherent masculinity. Aggression was controlled through sports; our competitive spirit was accommodated through academic, sporting and artistic selection, inter-house cross-country, debating and chess tournaments not to mention regular competitive fixtures against other schools. As a result, abuse of our teachers was unheard of. Away from the rugby pitch, acts of aggression were indeed non-existent, and, let me make this clear, this was a comprehensive school that included ordinary kids, including me, from the local area, some relatively wealthy, some living in abject penury.
In contrast, in my view, today’s education system has been feminised and, as a sad consequence, aggression, abuse and violence are rife, particularly among boys. There are mixed ability classes, little to no competitive sports, an overweening, suffocating “all must have prizes” culture and interminable classroom discussions about feelings – four features that contrive to inhibit and frustrate a boy’s natural instincts. No wonder they misbehave, especially when Left-wing, moral relativist, non-judgementalist, misguided senior leaders refuse to discipline them, too.
If we want our boys to behave and get the best out of school, we must accept reality, accommodate and control their natural instincts, and reverse the dangerous feminisation of our education system. It’s no good, Mr Guardian Columnist, irresponsibly asserting, “We’ve just got to put up with it!”

First published on www.conservativehome.com on 10th April 2015

Thursday, April 2, 2015

Father, forgive the jihadists, for they know not what they do

Okay, perhaps the headline's a little sacrilegious, even extreme, but with Easter weekend fast approaching, it seemed a remarkably apposite way to describe the all too predictable responses of two London Head teachers when confronted with the revelations that several of their pupils were considering an odyssey to Syria in the perverse hope of becoming sex slaves to a bunch of grubby, bearded, masturbating and, I suspect, incredibly smelly jihadi mentalists.

According to yesterday's Times, on hearing the parents' fears, both Head teachers were reluctant to inform police lest the would-be concubines found themselves criminalised. Bless 'em! Not one thought was given to the wider population of the school, or that of the country at large. These adolescents have obviously been seduced by a malign, fascistic ideology that abhors western society and, in particular, British, yes British, values. They are potentially an existential threat to us all, including the peace-loving majority within the Muslim community. So why not notify the police and allow them to investigate?

The simple truth is that these Head teachers, and many Heads in general, have embraced non-judgementalism and with it, a strange inversion of utilitarian principles whereby the narrow, self-centred, short term interests of the recalcitrant minority override those of the law-abiding, rule-following majority. This, in general, leads to the appeasement of poor behaviour - a relatively recent phenomenon that destroys the education thus life chances of the majority - and, in this case, the appeasement of terroristic activities that threaten our very existence.

When are we going to wake up to the moral vacuum created by these deranged fools and sack the lot of 'em?!

And before you ask, no, I don't believe in the abdication of responsibility that Jesus' famous words imply. They do know what they're doing and, once more, they must be stopped.

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Teachers unwilling to promote British values should leave the profession

If Robin Bevan isn't an advert for everything that's wrong with the teaching profession, I don't know what is. On Monday, at the ATL's annual conference in Liverpool, this unconscionable nitwit who, alas, just so happens to be a headteacher responsible for the education of over a thousand unfortunate children in Southend, Essex, showered the Government's call for teachers to promote British values with contemptuous opprobrium and urged passive resistance instead.

So let's get this straight: according to this half-witted, imbecilic numpty, teachers shouldn't be promoting British values in British schools. We shouldn't be robustly, proudly proclaiming the superiority of Anglospheric parliamentary traditions and the ancient institutions which guarantee them - including, dare I say it, horror of horrors, the Anglican Church; we shouldn't be championing the rights of individuals to free speech, habeas corpus, religious and political association and expression; nor should we vociferously defend the rights of women and minority groups to enjoy the same freedoms as the rest of us. The aggregation of these values, apparently, according to 'anti-British Bullshit' Bevan, is no better or worse than those of other systems which abhor such niceties.

These presumably include, inter alia, oriental despotisms, societies that advocate female genital mutilation, Communist countries such as the lovely, human rights loving North Korea and, of course, both Islamism and Nazism. According to Bevan, how dare we, as teachers, be encouraged to promote our values over these wonderful alternatives.

What a twat! Bevan, do us all a favour and quit before you do any more damage to the lives of our children.

Monday, March 16, 2015

Senior Leader, pseudo-psychologist and excuse-maker general

It is the beginning of morning break. Five girls are gathered around the entrance to one of our exceedingly squalid, baking-in-the-summer, freezing-in-the-winter, third world demountable buildings erected to relieve the pressure on a 1950s-constructed, asbestos-wrought edifice that's creaking at the seams and destined for the knacker's yard.

Three of the girls are clearly distressed, sobbing uncontrollably whilst the other two attempt to comfort them. 'Are you okay?' I enquire, a little concerned, I have to admit.

'Yes, sir,' Molly replies. 'We've just had a really emotional PSHE lesson with Mr Standing.' I'm sure I've mentioned Mr Standing before but, if I haven't, or you haven't read any of my previous blogs, he's one of our many Assistant Head teachers. He's also the author of the school's woeful behaviour policy, an unabashed excuse-maker for the myriad misdeeds of our worst pupils, pseudo-psychologist and teacher of 'non-subjects' like PSHE, where marking and evidence of progression are conveniently unnecessary.

His latest vanity project - after reading and, I suspect, misinterpreting a chapter on educational psychology - is the 'very' public exploration of pupil backgrounds in an effort to understand their emotions and improve their behavioural responses to stressful situations - in other words, to try to dissuade them from telling their teachers to fuck off. During these teacher-led discussions - ironically a teaching style he's the first to criticize during observations, but that's another story -, he singles out pupils, insists they stand up and publicly probes them about their often troubled, highly traumatic personal histories and experiences. If reluctant to comply, he, like a dog with a bone, relentlessly persists until they succumb and spill the proverbial beans for all to hear and gossip about throughout the remainder of the school day.

The result is, of course, as any halfwit with a modicum of common sense could predict, a post-lesson outpouring of grief and distress, accompanied by whispers and, on occasion, sniggers. More to the point, though, is the fact that many don't want to take part. They don't want to be interminably reminded of the troubles they face at home. School, they thought, was the one place in which they could forget, for just a few hours each day. That was until Robert Standing read a book, attended a PSHE professional development session on how to raise behavioural standards and hoodwinked himself into believing that he's some kind of enlightened child psychotherapist.

He's indeed so desperate to find excuses for poor behaviour and, in a characteristic fit of self-delusion, so convinced of the project's efficacy, that he's rolled it out to include every year group, including Year 11 pupils, who've been removed from crucial lessons to pursue what can only be described as one man's conceit.

'Would you like to discuss it?' I ask, before realizing my irony. I don't know what to say. 'No, Sir,' Molly replies. 'I think we've discussed it enough.' Really?!