At the chalkface: Core Values


I keep seeing Secretaries of Education – past and present, Gove and Morgan – jogging through the streets of West London. Is this a medical condition? Some kind of post election trauma? A Freudian hallucination? Are they fleeing stampedes of raging teacher

Nicky Morgan has just had a major initiative. One sport, above all, can teach these things. Lacrosse? Croquet? The Eton Wall Game? No – rugby. Its “core values” will be a “core part” of her “core mission” to deliver real social justice in “tomorrow’s Britain”. 

Core blimey! So, what are these values? Things like integrity, respect, resilience, discipline, and grit. That area. She’s very big on “grit”. We seem to be in a world of Lord Baden Powell, cold showers and Kipling’s If. Top rugby stars will be role-models and deliver this stuff to the more disadvantaged in our schools.

Wait a minute! Weren’t top England stars recently arrested? Danny Cipriani on suspicion of drink-driving; Manu Tuilagi for assaulting two female police officers and a taxi driver? And wasn’t Dylan Hartley suspended for head-butting another player?

Doesn’t the modern game involve much mayhem and violence? High tackles, “spear” tackles and biting of the ears. And England’s recent tours of New Zealand weren’t big on dignity, what with the drunken sex scandals of 2008 and the “dwarf-throwing” of 2011. Which core values were being role-modelled here?

Still, she may be onto something. It might be bad for pupils, but it’s rather good for teachers, for the old classroom management. Not the vile, drunken antics, more the malice aforethought, the minor psychosis and the cheating. They’ve certainly come in handy in for me. I played a lot for my school rugby team. We beat most others. Why? Hard training? Sheer talent? Noble characters? Not really. We had two core values. A Machiavellian pragmatism – ankle taps, collapsing scrums, late tackles. And “front”, “bottle”. If you got done, you didn’t show it. When some lumbering thug from Watford GS broke my leg – it clicked like a Twiglet – I kept my game face on. Dignity. Grace under pressure. I’d still like to get the bastard – forget that Kipling stuff.

“Do it to them before they do it to you!!!” said Emlyn, our coach from the Welsh valleys. Core pedagogy for the more “disadvantaged” 8th years. And good for the old “grit”. As indeed is the present appalling social injustice.

  • Ian Whitwham is a former inner city London teacher.


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