At the chalkface: Tristram’s Oath

Published:

“I promise to deliver a curriculum in which I don’t believe to pupils who don’t want it and to reduce the thrilling complexities of my subject to a cartoon travesty of tick-box answers."

So I stand, senile and dementing before a trinity of Ofsted men. They sit, hatchet-faced and sharp-suited, under a flag of St George or Singapore or is it North Korea? My success is dependent on much swearing. An Oath. The Tristram Hunt Oath – a happy mix of the Cubs, Freemasons and Mormons. Tristram thinks it gives us some necessary moral weight and nobility. It must be hung in every classroom.

“Proceed!” go the grim trinity. I salute a flag and kiss the Gove School Bible.

“Dib! Dib! Dob! Dob!” they go. My turn.

“I promise by all the gods of Ofsted to work at least a trillion hours a week, nay, even to extinction – on lesson, action and learning plans, differentiated schemes of work, lacerating self-analysis and incomprehensible performance management enhancement strategies – while smiling throughout like an idiot.”

“Dib Dib! Dob! Dob!”

“I promise to deliver a curriculum in which I don’t believe to pupils who don’t want it and to reduce the thrilling complexities of my subject to a cartoon travesty of tick-box answers. To embrace with an unhinged passion the Singapore Model, with its core values of rampant capitalism and savage uniformity, and to render my pupils bovine serfs with A*s in lumpen acquiescence and Business Studies Treachery.”

“Dib! Dib! Dob Dob!”

“I promise not to audibly laugh during twilight workshops, keynote speeches or at any expert saying anything at any time anywhere. To welcome the opinions of the likes of saloon bar pundits, consultants, ministers, cabbies, trolls, Toby Young, fruitbats, dogs, absent fathers and to accept that these opinions have relevance directly proportionate to their holders’ absence from any state school classroom. To acknowledge that it’s always my fault that my inner city pupils don’t do as academically well as those of St Custard’s, and to accept that the moronic inferno raging outside my school is as nought. I promise to be scapegoat for it.”

“Dib! Dib! Dob! Dob!”

“And finally to peddle only the finest British Values and to allow less Romanians to swamp my classes.”

“Dib! Dib!” “And Bulgarians!”

“Dob! Dob!” “And no gypsies!”

“Amen.”

I pass. I’m given a mortarboard and gown and a fabulous Tristram Hunt Moral Compass for my darkest pedagogical hours. I click heels, salute a rag and saunter out.

  • Ian Whitwham is a former inner city London teacher.

 


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