A Flat Spin

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Open Evenings eh? What a palaver! Time for the air steward rictus grin, the caring stare, the perky suit from the Autograph range of M&S, and, of course, the mellifluous flannel of the whizzo head's keynote...

Ditto as you contemplate the whizzo Prospectus. You know how it goes: we at St Custard’s passionately believe in the whole child and lots of excellence and learning things and Tolerance Zero and meeting the challenge of a changing world and no child is left behind in a deeply caring, pastoral environment ... and our teachers are so “industrious, creative and inspiring” that the dimmest of wits will morph into Russell Group flyers. Marvellous.

My old school takes the biscuit. I gaze at the 2013 prospectus. Yikes, but it’s sophisticated. It peddles a modern Downton Abbey/Apprentice ambience. There are pictures of rowing and cricket and beady scholars in bow ties and lots of glass and lights and escalators. A palace of learning, whose walls are littered with banal gobbets and a lot of posh Latin. Things like – fluctuat nec mergitur – esse quam videri. Not half. The Leadership Group – in cool black and white – seem to be going for a sort of mimsy, Messianic look.

The school’s speciality is English. This is communicated in imprecise, motivational, meringue prose – “souls are cherished”, “reflection enriches” and “study scaffolded”. That area. Gibberish is fiercely embraced. “Success is better than rest.” opines the demon head. A typo? An absent definite article? Or deliberate balderdash? Success is better than snoozing? Who know eh? The prefix “en” is everywhere – enhance, encompass, enrich. One line manager puts in at least 80 hours a week and finds it all terrifically “enervating”. He does not mean this. Another bigwig is very keen “to repair infraction”. He does not mean this. He does not mean anything. He is a clot.

Pupils, too, passionately embrace this drivel. Scrubbed up cherubs speak a language unknown to any infant in human history. They drone on like hostages about how their teachers are “truly inspirational”. They uniformly relish originality. Where are the real, troubled, visages of my day? Of Dave Mania and Decibelle? “Wigwam? He the man!” doesn’t cut it anymore. Don’t you feel uncomfortable to be complicit in this spin? Education is about telling the truth. Surely potential parents can rumble these designer fibs?


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