No Win – Always a Fee

I admire the multi-talented actor/writer/comedian Ricky Gervais not simply because he wrote the brilliant ‘Office’ but because he refuses to be pigeon holed in his sanitised, politically correct, Hollywood world that refuses to acknowledge the past and dares not to be critical of anything or anyone.  Take  his recent buttock clenching, astute hosting of the ‘The Golden Globes’ where he highlighted the Catholic church molestation and dared to mention the name Bruce Jenner, his car crash fatality pre his reformation as transgender Caitlyn.

The education world is now in a similar ‘frozen’, politically correct state where the holy sacraments of radicalisation, safeguarding and Ofsted come with a raft of edicts, always then accompanied by various businesses all who aim to ‘fleece’ the beleaguered, frightened headteacher, scared that they miss an incident that they might be held culpable for.

The start of my week last week typified the frenzied nature of being a headteacher.  The weekend brought 85 emails, only 20 of which were school related, and ranged from the advertising ‘must have’ educational gimmicks to ‘fabulous opportunities’ relating to:

  • the ubiquitous supply agencies offering tempting short term fixes for staffing with standard 10% fee included;
  • a group of magnanimous barristers willing to solve my legal problems – cost ‘no win, no fee’;
  • various essential staff training inclusive of e-safety CD, Prevent training in a day and all I and my governors need to know regarding ‘lockdown’;
  • the weekly request from my union ASCL to have my say on funding, teacher supply and attend CPD on the latest changes to required data in preparation for the ever threatening Ofsted, was another simply depressing email.

At least with email you have the cathartic option of the delete button.  The arrival of the Severn Trent water board is akin to greeting the Sheriff of Nottingham.  Their helpful comments that the ten foot high water fountain in our playground was ‘a leak’ and was our problem did not help my mood nor did his departing quip that the meter was running.  He could have joined the pundits of BT Sport, Michael Owen et al, stating the blindingly obvious.

Nevertheless, at least he had a sense of humour, a quality that had bypassed my next unwelcome visitor, the man with no name from the Health and Safety Executive.  His impromptu visit on this wet Monday morning was caused by his visit to our neighbours Sainsbury’s and his observation that the local contractor on our roof that overlooks Sainsbury’s car park, fixing the weekly roofing hole, was not wearing the required safety harness or jacket.  Despite his frightening ‘telling off’ of the contractor, son of boss & company, apparently this was my responsibility as they had walked past, ignored their sign and I was head of the centre.  A fine for us and ‘black mark’ in HSE notes and further advice that we needed to fix the water leak immediately!

I hoped that was it.  My PA, the wonderful Kim, discussed with me the final wording for our three adverts and how we could compete with the wealthier schools in more affluent local authorities.  With the wording correct, pack produced and up-to-date interview timeline ready for the likely influx of enquiries for PE/geography posts and my ever hopeful belief that someone wants to teach science, I finally exploded in Ricky Gervais monologue to no one in particular when informed that the TES were charging a minimum of £1,084 +VAT per ‘online only’ advert .  No wonder one of their columnists, headteacher Ms Smith of ‘Educating the East End’, proudly revealed that this programme has produced a plethora of applications, free advertising and a successful way of getting applications without the exorbitant advertising fees in the monopoly of the privately owned company.  For my school £3,000 for teaching adverts is too much and I will need to find ways of advertising our school that go beyond this blog and my twitter account of 100 select, astute followers!

All this had occurred by Monday lunchtime and not a child in sight!  Thankfully, class 7s preserved my sanity before the inevitable battle with the insurers with regards the seventy year old pipe not being damaged by the recent weather.  Meanwhile, the Severn Trent meter kept on turning – but what does it matter?  Public money not being spent on children – that’s the current government education policy.  Have a great week and look at our website for job vacancies; please pass it on – without a fee!

A Time for Change

When Piers Morgan defends your actions with the lame year 8 excuse ‘it was only a bit of fun’ it is time to apologise unreservedly.  The West Indian cricketer Chris Gayles’ very public, very awkward ‘chatting-up’ of the sports reporter Mel McLaughlin was more than a bit of fun and so typifies the way all women have to exist in our civilised society, exemplified by the situation the highly articulate, very capable Mel McLaughlin was placed in simply doing her job.  The girls in our schools, in our cafes and on public transport are treated by men of all ages as ‘fair game’, sexual objects to try it on with or even worse to sexually assault.

In my annual New Year message to the staff (Welcome back after Christmas break (NM) 04.01.16), my number one priority, exam results and finance apart, was for colleagues to find a way to empower all our girls.  The very next day Gayles was conducting a cricket interview about the reporter’s eyes, potential drink date and blushing cheeks.  Like many, our school has taken up the sadly informative ‘White Ribbon Campaign’, highlighting that domestic violence mainly against women has dramatically increased in Worcester the damning league table statistic of an increase of 50% of women in the past year receiving domestic violence: over 10,000 reported cases!  Emotional as well as physical abuse is in so many households, affecting so many families with so many females being harassed and maltreated.

It is therefore absolutely essential we address all our students, not simply empowering the girls as my New Year message incorrectly advised, and begin to teach what a proper consensual, loving relationship is about.  Milly, our 22 year old returning ex –student is studying for her doctorate at Birmingham University after gaining first class honours in politics international studies in her degree and subsequent masters.  Our school helped produce a scholar and crucially, a major speaker.  Her two assemblies to years 10, 11 and 12 girls (which was subsequently replicated to the boys of these year groups) highlighted the daily trial of endurance, resilience young women have to cope with in their daily lives.  She highlights:

  • Memories of science lessons in our school where girls were rated for their beauty – “6/10 for her arse – 3/10 for her face”.
  • Memories of enduring Worcester Sixth Form lunchtime baiting by the rugby team on her appearance and willingness to consider sexual favours, some of which were physically impossible. The fantasy world of boys who want to be watching porn or exposed to unrealistic views of relationships.
  • Research into Birmingham University male sports teams’ frank ‘proud’ admission that the game entitled ‘shag a pig’, where the aim is to sleep with numerous unsuspecting girls,  tell all on social media and then name the unfortunate victims with the rating out of 10, is a sad reflection on the male participants in current university life!

Is it a surprise that our culture leads to boys objectifying women as sexualised objects for their gratification?  The ‘Lad Bible’ website has over 17 million followers, the twelfth most visited website in this country, gaining over £100,000 in advertising fees for such illuminating philosophy such as February 25th post:

“Do you want to miss out on taking that 8 home tonight, that when you wake up is at best a 5?  Lads, get your wellies on and absolutely smash it up.”

Or when reality shows such as ‘Keeping up with the Kardashians’ share millionaire Kim’s nightmare at putting on weight in her selfie obsessed pregnancy.  No wonder suicide in young males has been described as an ‘epidemic’  at its highest British point for 14 years, as we establish unrealistic expectations for men who cannot, are not expected to share emotions and are expected to have the perfect body with the unobtainable six-pack, fast car and ‘barbie doll’ girlfriend.  The increase in suicides to 6,233, figures from the Office for National Statistics, 80% of whom were young men usually in the age range of 20-25 shows that as a nation and as schools this is something we need to address urgently.  We are producing emotionally stunted males and pigeon holed, stereotyped  females that lead to relationship failure on an unprecedented level.

Perhaps schools should be allowed to test less and talk more.  Perhaps the crass decision to remove the ‘feminist’ module from politics at A-level should be immediately revisited and perhaps, crucially, at a time when two women a week in England and Wales are killed by a violent partner or ex-partner, an immediate re-examination of the marginalised personal, social, health education (PHSE) delivery is required.  Our schools are trying to ‘cram’ into students PHSE, often as an afterthought, taught by non-specialists too often placed last on the timetable: a piecemeal curriculum to keep the Ofsted inspector quiet.  Perhaps it is time for leaders such as myself to place exam results not as the priority when the citizens we are producing are isolated, unhappy and depressed!  This is a time for change. We owe it to our vibrant young people to create a fair and equal world and our curriculum and attitude as leaders has to reflect this now.

If you like the sound of our school please note we have three teaching vacancies for September 2016 – adverts and application documents are available from the school website:

http://www.christopherwhitehead.worcs.sch.uk/recruitment/

  • Geography – application deadline 10am 29th January 2016
  • PE – application deadline 10am 1st February 2016
  • Chemistry/Physics – application deadline 10am on 2nd February 2016