Thursday, 25 September 2014

The 100th blog special edition - When Fatboy met Dave

For my 100th blog, and the first of the year, I have been tossed upon the horns of a dilemma.  Should I write a polemic on the state of the nation, or continue with my usual tripe?  Should I attempt to right the ills of nations, or take one of my usual pointless flights-of-fantasy?

As it's my 100th blog, why can't I do both....

So there I was, back in dim and distant August, sat on one of my favourite Cornish beaches flicking through the Telegraph.  Half way through, when you get the distinct impression they've run out of real news, and start showing cute wildlife photos, I saw a picture of David Cameron on a Cornish beach walking back from the sea having been body boarding (cheap wet suit mind).  We had been on that same beach less than a week previously, and it wasn't exactly a million miles from the one upon which we currently lazed. 

So, with the kids in a rock pool and the wife drifting in and out of a mid-morning doze, I was left there all alone to ponder: if he walked past now, if the Prime Minister walked past me that very second, what would I say?  Regardless of your political inclinations, what would you really say if you had the chance?

I decided that, should Dave walk by (see, we’re already on first dame terms) I’d start with “Alright Dave? Fancy sharing a Rattler?”(other cloudy Cornish drinks are available, but, frankly, why would you bother?).  We all know he prefers a pint of the black stuff, but you woulnd't want one of them on a beach now would you?

Naturally, us two being family men, we’d talk for a while about the kids, the wives, how fitting their social calendars into our lives is becoming more and more burdensome.  With both of us being Villains, (supporters of Aston Villa, come on, keep up) we’d talk for a few minutes about the coming season and our hopes for Roy Keane not to mutilate anyone.  At least, not too early in the season. 

We’d then do what men up and down the country do and have a “how’s the job going?” catch up where we’d each claim everything was going okay, except for that one irritating little issue / person / multinational that just won’t go away.

So, we’re now two thirds of the way down the rattler, both of us having politely declined autographs (you can never be too polite, but we’re having a rattler here!) our attentions would turn to the world of education.  “Come on big man”, he would say, as all my friends call me this… or something very similar, “what shall I do with education?”

So, I’d stroke my holiday beard (I’d like to say salt-and-pepper but I think the wife would more likely go for badger’s-bum as a description) and I’d offer the sum total of my considered inexperience.

First, would say I, don’t pat yourself too much on the back for the “promotion” of a certain Mr G.  That would only have been a masterstroke if you had replaced him with someone who could really walk-the-walk and talk-the-chalk.  “After all Dave,” I would muse “ask yourself this: why is Estelle Morris still the most well thought of and liked Secretary of State in recent political memory?”  I have no doubt he would ascertain my deeper meaning: if education is to be so highly politicised, and it would seem that since Blair it must be, then ensure our figurehead is a strong representative.  Challenging, yes, forward thinking and innovative, yes please, but they must possess the credibility of their convictions. 

Secondly, get the unions talking, in order to have fewer of them.  Once you’ve done that, get those two or three groups around the table and thrash out a revised edition of School Teacher’s Pay and Conditions which allows us to reward young dynamic teachers appropriately, and to continue to reward experienced practitioners in such a way that it is the family’s first income.  Also, get them to agree that we need to get rid of the dross much sooner, e.g., when they apply for teacher training because they have nothing better to do with a Philosophy of Sociology degree. 

Finally, get rid of this notion that a primary school’s only job is to make pupils “secondary ready”.  In a world and a generation where childhood is being constantly eroded, surely our job is to ensure that their young years are a wealth of discovery, enjoyment, enthusiasm, creativity, joy, and – yes, in some small but important way – achievement.  Is it not however somewhat Luddite to consider the very purpose of education merely to churn out a work force?  Our children will inhabit a world in which they build complex websites and apps for fun, on devices no bigger than a watch, and not one of them will need to know what 11 times 12 is off the top of their head, nor how and when to insert a colon into anything other than a web browser. 

Leave us to offer them a childhood.  More importantly, leave them to enjoy it.  Is that not a greater privilege than democracy?

Let us make childhood amazing.  After all, wouldn't you rather be the PM who delivered that, than the PM who brought us … some of that other stuff?

He’d nod thoughtfully.  He’d offer his hand.  “Zak, always a pleasure.”

“Likewise Dave, likewise.  We’re planning on coming down to Cornwall next May if you’re not busy…”

That, as they say, might've been all.

PS A brilliant September here at Badock's. Look out for the first ungripping installment next week...