Christmas British Values!

Christmas time in schools is not like the idealistic, romanticised versions portrayed in the supermarket adverts or latest Disney film.  December is a dark, bleak month where the worst excesses of humanity, often alcohol fuelled, surface and the beleaguered Children’s Services receive numerous frantic calls to try to protect and shield children from the threat of men; often these are boys who were not ready to be fathers.  Despite falling budgets, schools cannot give-up and it feels very much as though we are holding back a fragile frontline, protecting the most vulnerable in our society.

Unsurprisingly, my school’s health profile 2016 made for depressing reading with students living in deprived households where there is significant excesses in binge drinking, smoking and under 25s admitted to hospital with mental health issues.  Yet, our persistent absence and exclusion statistics and those who have received three vaccinations is significantly positive in comparison to other Worcestershire schools.  In other words, my remarkable pastoral team control, support and parent our students and ensure that school is a safe place where generally they trust us and want to attend and we can even do the vaccinations – all of this needs to be done and used to be done by the parents!!  This is an extraordinary achievement, yet I fear I am pushing more onto these remarkable, often underpaid people.  Expectations are frequently unrealistic and the pressure to do something does cause sleepless nights.

Worcestershire sexual assaults have risen by 154% to an unpalatable 11,000 compared to 5,662 in 2014.  Worcestershire’s answer to this 154% rise is to cancel sexual health counselling!  Children and Mental Health Services now have an unacceptable waiting list of eight months and the school now faces a cut in the Educational Services Grant (ESG) by £98.00 per pupil equalling to £100,000 plus in our school.  This is the grant I pay for these extra services with:

  • The School Councillor, who saw over 60 critical students and staff last year.
  • The Safeguarding Officer, who spent last week on the riverbank talking down a serious suicide attempt and counselling the distraught parents.
  • The Pastoral Support Officer, who was recently at the home of a drug addict, checking on the welfare of mother and son with cannabis openly smoked and seemingly an acceptable drug to the alternatives.
  • The Education Welfare Officer, who met with a mother with mental health issues to try to ascertain whether she was likely to harm herself or those she was in charge of – she was sectioned!

All these key staff provide invaluable expertise and support that is difficult to measure in league tables or with questionable data – but they would be massively missed if removed and this could be considered as being life threatening for those families who are our most vulnerable.  I think I have and do teach values that are intrinsically British but it is arguable whether a Government that wants to place children of illegal immigrants at the bottom of a list for school places, the latest leaked Cabinet papers, should be followed or listened to!  Is an inclusive education for all our children really valued?  When the continued educational messages measurement of success is that:

  • Student progress is measured only by flawed exam data.
  • The reintegration of grammar schools, the provision of the elite, the traditional, the 1970s, is seen as necessary not a waste of money and will be brought in whatever the profession or data produces as evidence.
  • Big is beautiful: big multiple academies, big salaries for questionable unqualified CEOs, big unfulfilled promises for those in education, education, education!

I therefore try to promote British values of tolerance and thoughtfulness.  This is a difficult mood to capture in December with crushing financial debts looming and asking my staff to take on so many different unpaid, thankless roles to try to maintain a community that is in desperate need of support.  One in five families had a Christmas feast provided by a food bank!  This is an educational and societal crisis that needs addressing now with significant investment.  Failure to do so will see extremism making headway with the significant home schooled children particularly open to being groomed by unscrupulous, extreme ideologies.  Furthermore, our SEN children are being excluded not included as they are seen as a ‘drain’ on the points scored for the infamous league table or progress chart.  Add in the recruitment crisis and you can see why certain schools are left isolated, untouched by MATs/new teachers.

I have been Headteacher for 13 years and 2017 is the year I have approached under the most pressure, the most unsure and the most determined to ‘not have it’.  This is ludicrous and whilst we keep working at this ridiculous pace we do not protest at the daily educational messages that are not British, are intolerant, and I would suggest undemocratic!  To do nothing is not an option and where possible I intend to prick the pomposity of those whose educational vision would appear to be cemented in the claustrophobic, stereotypical confines of an exam hall; this will provide a success or failure judgement based on a grade (or is it a level?) simply on academic exam performance not your personal quality, your nature, your ability to respect what a fabulous society/community we could live in if we open our eyes and are allowed to look and value – possibly the true purpose of being British!  Schools and governments have to look beyond the grades and produce fully functioning human beings who happen to pass a few exams.  Now there is a Christmas message to toast to!

Headteacher – Male 51, Desperately Seeking…

I have just read a fabulous book, ‘Golden Hill’ by Francis Spufford, which is set in New York in the eighteenth century.  It is a commentary on human life with intricate themes varying from race, gender and class inequality to the need for all of us to be free.  It is beautifully written and is an excellent Christmas stocking filler.

November is always a harsh, bleak month.  As schools, we compound the pressure with a variety of ‘must have’ evenings – parents, certificate and governors, which means that Thursday gym sessions are a thing of the past.  Student and staff interactions become increasingly fraught as the inevitable ‘colds’ increase proportionate to the lack of sunlight.  We are on top of each other, a large dysfunctional family lurching towards mocks, marking and the carefully crafted annual report.  I, rather like a character in one of my escape novels, find myself trying to break free of the ‘shackles’ of the current educational system.  I am like a middle aged man approaching the dating scene.  I am in danger of becoming desperate, seeking an unlikely educational date, an elixir of perfection, a perfect educational date that requires:

  • A perfectly formed pert curriculum that meets the needs of all, not only the academic traditional curricula with alternative curriculums to be encouraged.
  • A staff and student body that has a good equilibrium, a positive mind-set; a need for a resilience and flexibility that can cope with urgent, unpredictable change often with threats from other traditional models based on the whims of the latest educational secretary/ political advisors.
  • A pot of money to support my essentials.

Of course, all of this has to be backed by the key male requisite, a financially sound independence that allows fun and frivolity.  Does such a perfect system exist?  I believe it does, but it needs investment, time and effort and is not a quick fix.

Like many who go on the dating websites, I fear this is going to end in disappointment or a brief tantalising excitement as you believe you are making progress only to have it dashed by data ‘nerds’ who hold you to account with nonsensical information, comparing ‘disadvantaged poorer students’ with ‘those from normal homes’ or ask you to grade students on farcical levels 9-1, which have not been written or agreed by those in charge of data, the exam boards.

My view of this disastrous educational date is that it clearly cannot and will not work with the huge number of issues, restrictions and baggage Mrs Education has.  She is rather like a fading, bankrupt, morally inept rock star trying to return to a bygone, glamorous, Mr Chips era of the 1970s, when Britain was Great and the teaching profession was revered with schools and children knowing their place ranking in the world.  No, this ‘Tinder’ tragedy needs to be consigned to the fantasy world and in the real world…

The headteacher has to carry on regardless of what we desperately seek.  This is a broken, flawed system and at times a political football and as Kenneth Williams in ‘Carry on Cleo’ aptly states:

“Infamy!  Infamy!!  They’ve all got it in for me!”

Let the Cameras Roll

I was contacted by BBC television thanks to my open letter to Robin Walker, Worcester MP and my September blog which was further commented on by my discerning Twitter followers, 185 and increasing!  The Sunday Politics Show, Midlands edition, picked up my less than impressed views on the proposed increase of grammar schools.  Sadly, this continues to be the hot topic in education.  This is a much safer educational issue for the politicians than discussing the latest free school catastrophe or the latest UTC to close, or sad statistics such as a third of newly qualified teachers are quitting teaching within five years of entering the profession or the latest exam board fiasco.  Therefore, I and the school were to be given television ‘fame’ with the aim of the programme being a discussion about the proposed ‘left field’ reintroduction of grammar schools and what I thought!

Those of you familiar with my blog will not be surprised that I saw this as an opportunity to discuss my wider educational concerns.  Rhetorical questions that I was hoping to pose were about:

  • The huge number of mixed educational messages the government continues to publicly debate: grammar school vs academy vs UTC, healthy children vs structured restricted education, vocational education, behaviour management, social work and social mobility. Where is the evidence that this government values state education?
  • How can £50 million be found for new grammar schools when authorities such as Worcestershire have been waiting for twenty years for the promised fairer funding financial formula?
  • Unwritten exam syllabuses that are being taught now. How is this fair to students, staff and future employers?
  • The grading fiasco 9 – 1. Why and who thought this was a positive change?
  • Nine Education Secretaries in 13 years of headship – is there an educational plan?

and so many more questions with, in all probability, little time.

As I tell the students, “be prepared”, and I went into battle with the cameras; shiny shoes, smart suit, ‘prep cards’ considered and memorised with what I believe were some wry observations at the ready.  These are some of my ponderings.  They did not make the editorial cut and sadly remained on my cards or were filmed but not considered:

  • The current exam system is tantamount to child cruelty – year 11 students this year will be undertaking 3 times as many exams as last year’s year 11. For example, English exams have increased from 3½ hours to 7½ hours and the beleaguered PE department have written off using the sports hall, which becomes an exam studio from April to July.  Inclusive exams are not really happening as we test the resilience of our children, not what they have learnt.
  • Schools such as mine are the last stop motel, they are all inclusive where we provide counselling, attendance monitoring, behaviour support, psychology assessments, nurturing for parents and students and even the police/nurses have an office. Schools and children should not be measured on a test, undertaken in a leaky sports hall, at the end of eleven years of education – I was determined to get this point in.  This became a frustrated rant at the unreasonable demands on all secondary schools and what we are expected to deliver with no external financial support.
  • Everyone has been to school, therefore they all have an opinion but schools evolve so quickly. Theresa May’s grammar school education was in the 70s and we have changed immeasurably since then. We need the evidence that they will be beneficial not detrimental.  Grammar schools will entrench separation not increase inclusive opportunities.

There were more but I screwed up the cards, frustrated at a likely lack of air time!

Disappointingly, I undertook a pleasant hour’s filming walking around my fabulous school for thirty seconds of camera action, with the television viewers in no doubt ‘I would argue strongly’ – I said it twice in favour of the state school system, so it was an interesting editing of the filming between questions one and six. Go to https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b07y9f87 at 44 minutes 38 seconds to see me in all my glory.  Therefore, what did I learn about the television process?

  • The camera puts on more than ‘ten pounds’ and filming in the last week before half term was not conducive to feeling young. The camera was close and obtrusive and that is the story I am sticking to!
  • Sound bites are what sells. Lengthy considerations are not going to get airtime.  We are a ‘pot noodle’, instantaneous generation and simplistic points are what were delivered, especially by the Conservative MP from Rugby who got two thirds of the  airtime with Boris like ‘sound bites’ such as ‘we deliver what the parents want’, ‘grammar schools are good schools’!  Alliteration and smooth but seriously lacking evidence or ability to answer the question.
  • Nobody really cares about the financial crisis that Worcestershire schools are currently facing. Only by the radical action such as the proposed four day school week that Sussex headteachers are considering will thought be given to essential money.  Headteachers claiming to be cash strapped are not good viewing figures.  My serious proposal to the Worcestershire headteachers is that we now need to demand the attention of the politicians who have ignored reasonable headteachers.  Striking, like the junior doctors, has to be a last action but the cuts are  now so harsh that long term adequate school provision is being affected.

Finally, our seagulls are seriously hard!!  The £8,000 drone incorporating a TV camera proudly put in the sky probably to display our crumbling fabric and portacabins was destroyed by a passing, unperturbed seagull.  My view that this catastrophic footage of a spectacular descent to being smashed on the playground could and should be used as a key analogy, the state of a smashed state education system in spiralling descent taken back to the 70s, also did not make the editor’s cut!

Floundering at Every Level

When staffroom conversation moves away from the English department’s current obsession, a surreal sitcom world of ‘Friends’, with ‘who amongst staff would you like to share a flat with?’, an icebreaker is always the never ending gift of Michael Gove.  Which of the many daily educational edicts from the mind of the ‘Dark Lord’ was the most stupid, the most damaging?  There are so many to choose from, all being operated in or coming to the loyal royal City of Worcester, all still having a damaging effect on the educational world.

Is it the new ‘free school’? Unwanted, unrequired, unloved and planned with little proper consultation.  Worcester City’s ‘free school’ is going to be rolled out in 2018 to the cost of £13 million.  A school of 600, hoping to glean top scientific students from the rest of us is a worrying threat to the five remaining city portacabin state schools.  I have expressed serious reservations about this becoming a success due to lack of need, lack of parental desire and a belief that there aren’t the science teachers out there!  2018 will prove whether it is going to be a successful venture or be consigned to the Gove bin of wasteful, expensive ideas.

A second contender would be the reform of teacher training that has left us bereft of science and maths teachers, which is a long term crisis that will affect the profession for the next decade.  Gove’s third strong new initiative is the ill thought out introduction of the Progress 8 measure, which has meant the castration of languages and the arts as viable options in so many schools as senior leaders ‘chase’ the correct bucket list, hoping to receive a positive score never mind the aptitude or needs of their students.  Just look at the number of entries for languages, halved from five years ago – decisions which may effect their future employability and life chances.  Furthermore, this judgement is limited as there is no real comparison.  Good grades means good scores and the more affluent schools and demographic areas will score heavily.  There needs to be recognition, a weighting for those who get good grades against home, school, community and cultural expectations, not a simplistic 8 grades good, points make prizes measurement.  Hard to do if you cannot employ/find a science teacher.

Nevertheless, the huge change in GCSE grading with 9 – 1 replacing A*- G will, I believe, be his most contentious and unless some dramatic developments occur, his most damaging with already a dread of August 2017 results day forming in my already educationally neurotic stomach.

This potential change has hung over the profession for the last year as confusion continues as to what it will look like.   A GCSE level 4 grade will now be equivalent to a C grade but the following year this will become a level 5?!  This mammoth educational change perhaps explains the air of lethargy and flatness I feel, not buoyed by relatively good GCSE results and a fabulous full staffroom that should give an air of hope and optimism for the new year.  My weariness is rooted in the speed of educational change, which is externally driven and appears to be rushed without sensible consultation or any real evidence.  No coursework in the final GCSE mark increases the lack of feeling of control for staff and stressed out students.  Coursework is another life skill that has been removed as we ‘hurtle’ back to 1970s education, without the trust in teachers that could mean we teach in a robotic, exam priority way, which I fear is detrimental to our complex society of 2016.

This change to 9-1 did not appear to be rooted in educational research or proper evidence with the proposed change late in 2013.  Only 15% of the 328 teacher and parent responses agreed with the change.  Employers and universities were even more scathing and unwelcoming with only 9% apparently agreeing to the change.  So we have an exam system that is established and understood being replaced by the introduction of a system that is ill conceived and grades/levels given to new GCSE students whose specifications are not yet written.  You simply could not make it up!  This is based on limited research and little evidence with the idea conceived at a time when educational edicts were daily.

When I talked to Ian Narraway, my family butcher, his dismay at a grade 1 being the bottom score was partly to do with the apparent demotion of his three 1980 CSE 1 grades, which he was rightly proud of and partly because of the confusion he felt at my waffly explanation of potential future 2017 apprenticeships, English and maths graded 9-1 and all the other subjects graded A*-G.  His best Victor Meldrew impression of ‘I don’t believe it’ is a sentiment I fear we will all share in the coming months.  The fear is always that someone’s school, someone’s children will be caught in the exams grade lottery!  I hope it will not be my school but I cannot guarantee with confidence my future predictions. This leaves me floundering during a year when young people and staffrooms require strong coherent leadership!

An open letter to Robin Walker MP: please reconsider your stance on selective grammar schools.

Dear Mr. Walker,

I am extremely disappointed that you have publicly stated your intentions to not vote against the government’s proposal to expand selection and thereby increase the opportunity for even more grammar schools. Please do not hide behind the argument that your priority is “fairer funding.” This is a case that has been convincingly argued and now needs to be put into practice. The sadness is that, once again, fairer educational funding has been put back for at least another year; a crippling decision for many of the Worcestershire schools. The irony that the government can find £50 million a year for selective grammar school education in times of austerity has not been missed by those of us in state education trying to juggle deficit budgets and the increasing government and public expectations. It is my belief that this proposal is a “smoke-screen” to mask the short comings recent educational policy has caused, leaving those leading schools bewildered as to what could be next. For example, currently:

  • Final year GCSE students are about to take a variety of exams not yet written, with no grade boundaries and no exam board advice. In the crucial English and Maths examinations, levels will now replace grades. Yet, the teachers – and crucially – the students, do not know what a Level 4 or 5 criteria is. The exam boards are in utter chaos and sadly our students are being used as “guinea pigs” with exams that are not fit for purpose.
  • The proposal to allow universities to set up new free schools in return for newly increased student fees is tantamount to blackmail and is creating a system that will surely fail. Once again, this allows universities to prioritise profit over potential. It is hard to comprehend how a university will be able to successfully run or take over a school in a deprived area, not their forte.

In the last ten years, head teachers have been guided towards Finland’s education system which is rightly being lauded as one of the best in Europe. I would point out that this system does not start any child before seven and no selective or independent schools are allowed until students are eighteen. Furthermore, when ministers were concerned about a recent dip in education, their action was to increase the arts and music. Perhaps this flourishing educational system could be a model for your current government to give consideration to?

Please support your excellent Worcester city schools and reconsider your decision to side with the government by not rebelling against this proposal. The Worcester city state schools have – once again – achieved way above the national average for GCSE results in 2016; a remarkable achievement considering the longstanding educational predicament that we have faced. Selective grammar education, as proven by the Sutton Trust’s 2013 extended research project, entrench privilege and disadvantage. They will not achieve the meritocracy that you and your government wish to create. This is a proposal that – yet again – undermines and devalues all those who work successfully within the fantastic state school system.

Yours sincerely,

Neil S Morris

Head teacher at Christopher Whitehead Language College

If you would like to petition for Mr. Walker to reconsider his decision on grammar school education, please sign the petition at the following link: https://www.change.org/p/robin-walker-mp-robin-walker-mp-reconsider-your-decision-to-vote-for-selective-grammar-schools?recruiter=601786091&utm_source=share_for_starters&utm_medium=copyLink

 

Annual August Anxiety

The great Terry Pratchett is attributed with observing that

“the crowd that applauds your coronation is the same crowd that will applaud your beheading.  People like a show.”

Perhaps this is why the month of August is a time of worry and fear as headteachers everywhere await their school students’ fate and possible new, enforced careers.  The A-level and GCSE results over analysis and subsequent tedious, inaccurate media comparison and inevitable annual conclusions that are drawn from these results are unhelpful and emotive.  We downplay success in an understated ‘British’ manner.  Good results are too quickly minimised with ‘they were a good year group’ or ‘we got lucky’, as intervention lists are planned and worry turns to the new years 11 and 13.  Poor or unexpected results, even in one subject such as in the English marking grade boundary fiasco of 2012/13, can lead to a year of uncertainty and paralysis of decision making as daily action plans look at what we could do, should have done.  Good results are crucial.  They positively affect the number of student applications and thereby essential finance, staff morale and student confidence.

Good results sway the next Ofsted judgement, which will lead to further upward or downward spiral.  This is based on ‘glib’ judgements from a two day, fly through inspection that barely scratches the surface of a school, its ethos, its leadership.

Is it not time to have a better system than this annual pot noodle quick snap judgement of schools?  Analysis of results has to occur but not the stereotype of success or failure.  Failure or when things have not gone well has been when I have been most proud of my staff.  The English department have moved from a restrictive period of underperformance to the happier climate of exam success.  This has seen awesome results this year of 93% A*- C.  The same staff, and I would argue similar approach, now have the freedom to innovate and challenge with confidence.  Good results allow you to develop your practice and have the confidence to do so.  The key to this turnaround has been superb support from governors, which is very different from passive, unchallenging support.  Their belief in the staff, the staff review system and the action plan helped, as did the lack of Ofsted.  Ofsted during this period would have put us in a limiting category, now we’d be pushing ‘outstanding’.  Neither judgement would have been correct.  We correctly made the judgement that our KS4 curriculum and teaching was good but our gentle, nurturing approach to year 7/8 was not having the desired effect.  KS3 is the key drive of a school and I would suggest should be the focus of Ofsted for the next five years.  This would stop the quick fix, simplistic emergency cramming of year 11 that occurs.  Get it right in years 7, 8 and 9 and obviously the foundations for success are formed.  My quick fix to the reduction of the annual August stress of results would be:

  • Not to publish results – public comparisons do not help local collaboration but can create understandable but silly GCSE/A-level envy.
  • Ofsted to judge schools on an average from the previous inspection, hopefully every three years. This would eradicate the paralysis dips in performance can cause and would allow schools time to remedy concerns, plan properly and not work on a year by year basis.
  • Ofsted to place far greater emphasis on KS3 than currently occurs, with particular reflection on the level of challenge and the curriculum.
  • Measure schools on all GCSE subjects. RE should be part of the Ebacc measure.  Art, music and sport are essential subjects/qualifications for some, not the marginalised measure they have become.
  • Optimistically, I would readdress the need to be judged by exams and reintroduce coursework assessment but that’s for another blog.

For the record, we did ‘okay’, ‘they were a good year group’ but I am worried about grades 1-9 and our new year 11!

Breeding Contempt

They say there is nothing new in education.  Theresa May’s divisive comments about a return to selective education grammar school does not augur well for this equal society she purports to stand for.  Worcester city could be May’s educational model where two traditional private schools dominate this conservative, royalist city. They take a very small percentage of free scholarship students, dependent on correct aptitude, correct interview and you become one of the 7% of the country who attend private schools, likely then to be one of the 70% who get the top jobs.  The seductive allure of a bygone era with the ‘old tie network’ understandably appeals to some loving, misguided parents.  My good friends send their child to one of these schools to ensure their boy gets lots of cricket and mixes with the ‘right sort’.  This statement highlights the fear of the council house child, the Daily Mail stereotype that so many parents wrongly have.  Incidentally, their boy has had a miserable first year and they are looking at a return to state education.  I am secretly pleased at some of the stories that have been shared although I wonder why their child has had to go through this 1970s education.  Why would you allow your child to be miserable when his friends are happy and are, crucially, being challenged and making progress?

What can we in state education do with this very British attitude, politicians and public, that yearns for the return to their own elite school white British era?  I lose the top 10% of my year 6 catchment annually to the Worcester private and grammar schools yet my top ten year 11 students annually outperform these students in these so called ‘elite’ schools.  The Sunday Telegraph headline of 7th August trumpeting May’s hopes to ‘reverse the block on selective education to promote social mobility’ screamed out a depressing return to educational reality, as I holidayed in Cowes on the Isle of Wight.  This was in the week that the Chairman of Ofsted David Hoare let slip the real thoughts of the establishment describing the island place where this ex banker keeps a Cowes holiday home as a ‘ghetto’ where ‘there has been inbreeding’.  How do you pick your students and parents up from such demoralising, belittling comments?  His inevitable resignation does not mask the contempt some of those in the top echelons of education have for comprehensive education.

All my work is in trying to establish a positive growth mindset.  A return to this outdated education allows a three tier divided system to dominate and may push the top 7% on but will clearly set a limiting bar for some students and worryingly some employers and universities.  I enjoyed a fabulous alumni day with returning five year departees sharing their success and positive outlook with our year 10 students.  This event is better than any careers evening as ex students have sat in the hall and wondered what the future will bring.  Joe, Exeter University PhD in geography; Milly, Birmingham University first class honours; Adam currently performing at Stratford; Austin who has just played the big stage at Glastonbury; Julie now a qualified vet; Beth at Amsterdam University; Jodie a primary school teacher and Scott, Royal Engineer are just some who have achieved against the odds and like many in state education are successful, ‘grounded’ and advocates for my school and the system that helped make them successful.  Grammar schools are not needed.  Proper funding support of education is.  Comprehensive education should not be seen as a dirty phrase but as an opportunity to receive highly skilled comprehensive education that works for so many!

I am angrier than I have ever been.  Thirteen years as headteacher, nine separate education secretaries each with a new initiative, forty four since I became headteacher, chronic under funding that will once again see my Worcester school receive £800,000 less than my previous Birmingham school twenty one miles up the M5.  Same numbers, catchment, demography, additional needs cohort, equating to an unfair £16 million differential since the fairer funding disparity was introduced.  Yet this announcement and predictable media heralding of this initiative has made me more depressed and angry than any other idiotic educational initiative.  Partly because of the sly August timing which has meant my holiday tranquillity has been interrupted by having to once again defend the system I work in to non teachers.  This is a wearing, annual predicament that used to mean I always told new holiday makers I was a postman to stop debate about whether bring back the cane was a good idea!  However, I believe that what this retrograde, uninitiated suggestion highlights is how alone state schools really are, stripped of the buffer of local authority support, ‘battered’ by media criticism, financially castrated, unloved, unsupported and unworkable if this trend continues.  The bottom line is that many politicians do not think state schools are very good and that by having grammar schools some would be good.

Therefore, my resolve is to continue to produce excellent students and go back to my default position of ignoring politicians’ sounds bites and enjoy the many fabulous young people who proliferate all schools, whatever their status.  Maybe an education secretary whose roots are a northern comprehensive can ignore the traditional inbreeding of a Conservative party that is based on a private school system that for the majority of this country is out of reach, whatever the skills test or interview process.  Alternatively, the Isle of Wight must need postmen!