It’s been a long time coming, this end-of-winter-2017/18.

For those very few that await my weekly blog, they’ll have noticed that it went missing this Lent 2018. That’s not to suggest the choice was not deliberate, it’s just that the good Christian in me always reminds me that you are not supposed to wear your sackcloth-and-ashes and moan about them, merely to suffer in silence. Well, now that we are past Maundy Thursday, I can confirm that not only did I stop my blog but I stopped my ‘beer’ as well. After a very genuine 40 days in the desert plus an additional no-beer-on-Sundays-rule, I can say I feel very pleased with myself, and for 2 reasons:

  1. I can take a season of not writing and not drinking without much pain, … and secondly
  2. I no longer feel the need for beer.

However, it’s time to restart the blog, and this Easter break has seen the re-emergence of the ‘Woodpecker’ press, keen to dig out any little soundbite and amplify it to spread doom, gloom and disenchantment.  Try this headline from a recent teachers’ conference, amplified by most of the nationals “Private school parents think they are ‘buying’ exam success for their children, teachers’ leader says”.

The Teacher’s leader mentioned, Dr Mary Bousted of the ATL certainly does not lead me, and the quotes she attributes to teachers are not ones I hear in my staff room. Education is its own industry, regarded by central government as sitting alongside Care and Health. Parents pay tuition fees to my school for an educational offer that includes tuition in core academic areas but in addition education of the ‘whole’ child.  Our offer does include smaller class size, an extended teaching day, additional extra-curricular activities and other imaginative and often innovative ways of bringing learning to life and making it relevant for the pupils we serve.

Of course, parents will have very high expectations of us to provide as promised, and that’s wholly reasonable.  But parents who join Claires Court buy into an offer of aims, values and accountability that often means their children won’t be tested to the hilt and unnecessarily examined. Our pupils will not take part in the Standardised Assessment tests (SATs) that state school pupils are required to take aged 7 and 11, and have to do so for over a decade. At secondary level, our pupils are not given ‘notional’ floor standards against which their progress as learners is measured year on year to age 16, as their state counterparts are given. This statistical exercise, against which children and then used by DfE and Ofsted to determine whether the school has been successful as an institution, or whether it is ‘coasting’, ‘requires improvement’ or ‘inadequate’ embraces a toxic methodology which our sector has not only discounted but actually cannot play any part in, even if we wished.

Anyway back to the headline, what on earth is anyone to gain from making public some private grief shared, as if it were evidence of national discord? Answer, it fits the national press narrative to spread division and gloom, a mood that can only be changed by clicking on the adverts that surround the story.  Try it yourself with the Daily Telegraph on-line story – in my case it directs me to buy Gin from Lidl, find perfect ‘powder’ for skiing, check whether I qualify for PPI and … a link to another article set to spread despondency amongst parents choosing private school, entitled “Eccentric, overpriced and entitled: the former High Master of St Paul’s on how Britain’s public schools must change.” The Daily Mail version invites me to take a punt with the Euro lottery, take out a new mortagage or…well, you choose, I couldn’t possibly.

About jameswilding

Academic Principal Claires Court Schools Long term member & advocate of the Independent Schools Association
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