Wednesday, 20 July 2016

It may be the wrong bus stop, but hey, that's cool

At this point in the last two years, having reached the eve of another year's conclusion, I have written what some might have considered whinge pieces, wherein I have decried the drop in our standards and generally bemoaned to anyone who will listen how we are so much more than that.  (I have noticed recently how some others, who clearly were not prepared for the joys this year had to hold, have taken up the baton.).  However, I am sure you will all be relieved / delighted / ecstatic to know that you will hear no such wailing or gnashing of teeth from yours truly this year. Oh no, no, no.

At the zenith of last year's leavers' assembly, with only minutes left on the year's clock, I told those still capable of listening that my plan next year was to put it all right, to do more than we've ever done before, to be everyone's "How did they do that???", as opposed to everyone's train wreck.  I even told the assembled throng, when they were all edging towards the door marked holiday, that I couldn't wait to get started.  How they must have dreaded that sentiment.

I sit here now, pondering how to bore the school community through tomorrow's leavers' shindiggery, and am delighted and, in all honesty not a little relieved, that tomorrow's message will be based on a different sentiment ... although may have a fairly familiar outcome.

It is with much joy and pride that I shall tell the assembled throng tomorrow a message of such importance delivered with such startling simplicity that they will wonder if they have misheard.  My message will be simply this:

We did it.

In the year where the powers that be threw the rule book out of the window and ramped the expectation up to a Spinal Tap like 11, we did it.  In a year where the school faced its most severe scrutiny in my entire time here, we did it.  And, in a year where once again the Education Gods decided that, if there were curve balls to be thrown, Badock's Wood should be the target, we did it.  We did it all.  Every key stage.  Every indicator.  Every set piece.  We did it.  And then some.

In the face of massive external pressure, when messages coming out of central government were getting more and more confusing, we did it.  At a time when schools could no longer cling to certain world-acknowledged truths, we did it.  And we did it well.

For those of you who have not followed all our mutterings too closely, you are perfectly entitled to ask, well what is it that you claim to have done?  And you have every right so to do.  Allow me to tell you.

We have improved our outcomes in every single indicator, including having improved outcomes at the end of key stage 2 even though the world has been told by now-deposed Secretary for Education Morgan that the tests were incomparable to last year.  We have moved from being the school people were glad they are not, to the school they phone up and say "Could you tell me how...?".  (I'm not joking - two such calls, and one in the utterly-startled flesh.  Their flesh, not mine.)

We faced highly uncertain challenges, believing passionately in our own brand of teaching and learning, even in the face of external (and one constant nagging source of internal) pressure, to do what we know instinctively to be best for our learners,   In the shadow of an ever looming inspection which never materialized, we did it.We took on a few nay-sayers who almost sounded as if they needed us to fail.  We saw off the advances of several academy chains, chatting us up to be part of their gang.  We did it all.

Most importantly of all, perhaps, is that we achieved all this by being us.  Not accepting this was our lot in academic life, but taking pride in who we are and what we do and what we know we can collaboratively achieve.  At a time when most schools become introspective, we worked even harder at our external partnerships, such as with our amazing friends in the Trym partnership, and our unbelievably talented colleagues at Elmfield School for the Deaf.  We didn't shrink from new projects, we embraced them, launching several whole school initiatives, all of which have borne fruit.
We did it being us.  Being Badock's.  We did it our way.

And that, I think, is the thing of which I am most proud.

And to all of my colleagues in the wider educational world who are either celebrating their results or, dare I say it, bemoaning their fate, I would invite them to look at it like this: we may have traveled this altogether, and we may have ended up at entirely a different bus stop to the one we set out for.  But either way, what a journey.

To my colleagues in the microcosm that is Badock's, may I offer my humble apologies for being a harbinger of doom and, let us not beat around the bush, a bit of a git at times, and can I offer my heartfelt thanks to you all for the unbelievable shift of work you have put in from the first second since 9.00 last September 1st.  I am proud of what we do, and I am proud of who we are, and I am proud of what we achieve as a team; more than anything, I am proud of the team I am fortunate to be a part of.  Thank you all so much.  Although I want you to do as little as is possible over the summer that is school related, feel free to spend some time on the beach / in the pool / up a hill rehearsing that sentence we're all enjoying so much: "Our school is above the national average".  Guess what I'm going to say to you all next...

To our governors and our community, you have put up with a lot, but you have given us your unswerving faith and support, and for this I cannot thank you enough.  If it is of any reassurance, I am now almost beginning to think that it might be time I grew up.  Almost.

To our wonderful, wonderful children.  Never stop being you, or who we are all so proud of.  I hope that, in turn, we have done you proud, and you can appreciate all that we have done for you this year.  To our year 6 leavers, spread the word - you were part of something special.  You did it.  My word, how you did it.

To all of those who wanted to see the public fall of Badock's, and took too much pleasure in our low points, we'll talk it over soon.  Very soon.

Finally, to my gorgeous wife and beautiful children, I am sorry.  For everything.  I promise to spend the next 5 weeks listening, watching, sharing in everything we do, and not silently rehearsing my next argument / pep talk / assembly. I love you all very much.  The pink book is staying at home.  Possibly.

Nothing is ever, ever straightforward. And isn't that what we all love so much?

From the soon to be unloved kitchen table where I have spent too many hours this year, with a heart bursting with pride and nothing but good wishes, for another year, that is very much all.

Saturday, 2 July 2016

More of that homework no-one wants to read ... album of the year

The beginning of July finds me in a self-indulgent mood.  We have completed reports, we have 75% of a School Improvement Plan, and we are well on the way to looking something close to prepared for next year, whilst hopefully finishing this one off in some style.

The first of our results are beginning to hit the deck and I am pleased.  Still the big one to go on Tuesday, and I'm still, how does one put this politely, bricking it, but am more than ready for what comes along.  However, having blogged at exactly this point over for the last two year's bemoaning all of my woes, I am determined not to be that guy this time around.  To put it more simply, fir the first time in many years, I feel content, as opposed to let down.

So what's the topic this time?  How will I avoid the whole "Is it the world's biggest, or is it just standing on a box?" debacle?  Well, the blog I really want to write contains that many expletives and asterisks that my (rubber-band-and-a-calculator) laptop won't handle it without crashing at least twice.  What I'd really like to talk about is the utter futility, crass arrogance and selfish sadness of the actions of a certain teaching union this week, who still appear to think that 19th century industrial actions are effective in the 21st century.  However, for all my faults, I surround my self with people whose counsel I trust wholeheartedly, and one of them told me yesterday to "Man up".  She followed this with a "Suck it up Princess," and so, firmly back in my box, I will instead write about something far more ... pleasant.

A few months ago my late night twitter meanderings alerted me to some very exciting news.  A new Metronomy album was on its way - hurrah!  No, I know I am the last person in the world to say hurrah, but it seemed apposite at that moment.  Okay, I'll delete it.  It appeared that this new offering, Summer 08, would drop on 1st July.

If you have been unfortunate enough to suffer some of my indulgent mumblings before, you will know how much I love my electronica, and, in that field, how highly I esteem the work of Metronomy.  So, I did the only thing a true man would do: pre-ordered it on vinyl for myself, telling my wife it was a "Well done on SATs" present for our son.

It is awesome.  That's my three word review, and I mean every word of it.  What a joy.  Another three worder.  If I'm being honest, it was with a sense of relief that a little dram helped me enjoy the album at first listen last night much, much more than I was expecting to.

The critics have been saying it hails a return to the famous English Riviera Album.  I would agree, but it has huge dollops of Nights Out on there as well.  All in all, I think that it is a joy that someone from the southwest is unashamedly trying to bring disco back out of its faux-velvet lined box of shame in the corner, with several side helpings of it's okay to be a grown up and like this stuff.  And my 11 year old hair bear loves it too, in a very different way to me, which makes it even more special. (BTW, and this is one of many points of reference i this blog for a target audience, it is a joy to introduce the younger generation to vinyl - my son thinks it is, in his words, phat with a ph.)

I have not heard a band do so much so wisely with a bass since Queen, and let's all be honest, with Queen it was all about power struggle.  This is far more about melody, and about complimenting eternal samples that lead you up and up a spiral staircase leading to a loft full of all your greatest memories and darkest thoughts.

Several tracks on this album remind me of everything I love about electronica; a simple, almost hypnotic sample building and building until another synth, or a bass, or a haunting vocal comes in to point the songs direction.  Many of the songs point to disco; one or two of them flaunt it unembarrassingly.  Hovering over it all are a number of techs, spindals, samples and synth devices that would make technology students drool.

I know it's sycophantic (a Prefab Sprout lyric - never forget the sprouts, eh? Also close to a Pet Shop Boys lyric if I recall correctly...) but this really is the best and most complete album I have heard since Love Letters - the last Metronomy album.   It is a joy, from the melancholic lament of Love's Not an Obstacle to the beautifully aggressive Hang Me Out to Dry. I can honestly say, and this is going out to a target audience of blokes my age, but I have not been so mesmerized by side two of a piece of vinyl since I first heard the b side of Actually by the Pet Shop Boys on Christmas evening of 1988.

And no, I am not attempting to get a job as a music journalist.  Although, an occasional review might come in handy if Tuesday goes badly NOOO FATBOY, you promised to step back from that precipice.  And so I shall.  Suffice to say that, school is going well, the profession is once again about to spring a fissure on a tectonic scale, but music and our olive ribbons shall preserve us all.  And a certain album shall be playing on two laptops, two pieces of handheld and a record player for a long time to come.

From the self indulgent side of the keyboard, that is all.