At the chalkface: Get up! Stand Up!

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Relentless management meetings. Dear me, they do go on. You must construct a rictus of rapt fascination, while fools point their suits at you and purr perky banalities in a mumbo-jumbo of databases, spreadsheets, statistics and an imminent Ofsted raid.

But it’s not easy to keep up this mood. Bad things are brewing – like the relentless management meetings. Dear me, they do go on. You must construct a rictus of rapt fascination, while fools point their suits at you and purr perky banalities in a mumbo-jumbo of databases, spreadsheets, statistics and an imminent Ofsted raid. You may even be in such a meeting now... ssh ... you’re better off with this column...

But there’s no escape. Sooner or later a headteacher will feel compelled to unleash New Year Speech at you. A Mission Statement, a Vision Thing. It may be original, brave and philosophically thrilling. Or not. It may more likely be just another craven acquiescence to our Testing Culture.

Now here’s the crunch. How many of you really believe in this stuff?

Rachel Tomlinson, a primary head in Burnley, doesn’t. She recently wrote to her own pupils about it: “The people who create these tests and score them do not know each of you the way your teachers do, the way your families do. They do not know that many of you speak two languages or can play a musical instrument or you can dance or paint a picture. That your laughter can brighten the dreariest day.”

She was overwhelmed with support and some suggested that she should replace the Gove. The message went viral and was much twittered. She was echoing American educationalist Kimberley Hurd: “The current testing culture personally drives me crazy!” And how many others? Most of us? We dotards go daft and fabulous young teachers just pack it in. They didn’t join up for this. Shrinking children into measurable outcomes is criminal. I’d like to think that these views are widely held.

There are certainly reasons to be cheerful. Professor Ken Robinson was on the radio yesterday dissing this whole testing culture. Like Rachel Tomlinson, he’s bigger on dancing and music. Check too his TED talk. Subversive stuff, which has 27 million views! Yikes! Check also a video of Michael Rosen reading his poem last month, “We’re going on a bear hunt.” It broke the Guinness World Record for the biggest ever reading lesson.

“We’re not scared!” nearly 1,500 tots yelled. Nor should we be. Surely it’s time to take on this wretched testing culture, to stand up and reclaim our classrooms – and thereby have a much happier new year.

  • Ian Whitwham is a former inner city London teacher.

 


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