Alas Schools & Journos: Beginners Please!

alas-smith-and-jones2Once more, All Change Please! is privileged to eavesdrop on Mel Smith, as the man who thinks he knows everything, and Griff Rhys Jones, as the man who knows he knows nothing, as they discuss the latest developments in education.

As the scene opens, Mel Smith is reading his newspaper – the Evening Standard – and speaks in a posh voice:

Smith: “Ah have you seen, there’s a new Stoppard opening at the National, I must book”.

Jones: “A new what at the where?”

Smith:“It’s a new play by Tom Stoppard – you know he did ‘Jumpers’ and ‘Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead’.”

Jones: “No, I can’t say I do.”

Smith: Well there you go then, that proves Nick Glibly’s point, you haven’t had a proper education unless you can appreciate the sort of plays they put on at the National Theatre.

Jones: Oh, the National Theatre, I thought you meant the Grand National and there was a horse called Stoppard who was a good jumper, and there were two other horses they’d had to put down.

Smith: No No No! What old Nick Glibly said the other day was that studying English at GCSE was crucial to enable people to enjoy the theatre as adults.

“I think it’s hard to really appreciate a play at the Donmar [Warehouse] or the National Theatre if you haven’t studied English to GCSE…Studying English literature to the age of 16 helps you to understand a demanding play by David Mamet”.

And he also said that schools must teach pupils the “fundamental principles” of core subjects in a way that will enable them to read around the subject for leisure as adults.

“That’s the purpose of education in my judgement, in every subject. Can you read a geography book after you leave school, can you read further history books by famous historians after you leave school?

“The purpose of school is to provide that grounding to indulge and read around those subjects as you go through adult life.”

Jones: But I always thought the purpose of education was to learn useful things, get some qualifications and then a job serving coffee somewhere?

Smith: Well, not according to him. Apparently the core EBacc subjects are ‘the primary colours of an educated person’s palette’, which makes it a bit strange that they’re not including Art as one of the subjects.

Jones: He doesn’t know what he’s talking about does he?

Smith (losing the posh voice): No, you’re absolutely right, he’s obviously got no idea at all. In fact he’s stark, raving bonkers. The whole education policy is a complete farce, and he’s just an understudy behaving like a prima donna, trying to upstage Nicky Morgove to put himself into the limelight by making a scene. I wonder who prompted him to do it?

Jones: He’s really not thought this through, has he? I mean let’s face it, if everyone in the country wanted to go to see plays at the National or this Doner Kebab Warehouse place, they’d get booked up so far in advance it would be donkey’s years before anyone could possibly get a ticket. And anyway, as Drama isn’t included in the EBacc there won’t be any actors around to play the parts will there?

Smith: Still you can’t blame him for jockeying for position, even if he has fallen at every hurdle.

Jones: No I suppose not. Anyway, can’t hang round here chatting all day.

Smith: Where are you off to then?

Jones: I’ve got a ticket to see Warhorse run in the 19:45 at the National…

 

Blackout

Curtain

 

What, do you mean you’ve never been to the Donmar Warehouse in Covent Garden? Or never seen a play by David Mamet?

Alas! Schools and Journos: Have you ever Bean Green?

alas-smith-and-jones2

Mel Smith, as the man who thinks he knows everything, and Griff Rhys Jones, as the man who knows he knows nothing, return to catch up on what’s been happening in education, ill-informed as always by the Great British Press.

Smith: Haven’t seen you around for a while then?

Jones: No, not much has been happening recently has it, especially now that Gove chappie has been permanently excluded from schools?

Well, my friend, just wait until you see this in the papers – apparently last summer not nearly as many children managed to pass their GCSEs

Oh, so weren’t they very bright then?

No, no, no, it wasn’t that at all.

All their teachers went on strike then?

No, no. Listen, what happened was that the Tories made the exams they sat much harder to pass. They thought that would make all the kids cleverer.

Oh. That wasn’t a very clever idea then, was it?

Precisely.

And it’s a bit unfair on a whole generation of teenagers who now won’t have as good qualifications as their elders? And I expect all the schools requiring improvement will be given those special tape measures now?

What? Anyway I’ll tell you something else. You won’t believe this. Listen, it says in the paper that apparently a lot of your posh public schools have gone right off the boil and are now at the bottom of all the league tables.

What you mean they are in the Vauxhall league?

Yes, sort of, except it’s now called the Vanarama League.

Vananarama? Is that a new girl-power band or something then?

No, apparently it’s a van leasing company, but that’s not got anything to do with what I’m telling you.

So Eton and Harrow have gone into the van-hire business now then?

No, no, no. Do try and pay attention. It seems their students were all taking the wrong sort of exams that didn’t count in the league tables anymore.

Why were they doing that then?

Because the public schools say the exams their students did were harder than the GCSEs, but the DfE says their new exams are now the most difficult.

Ah, they’re both playing hard to get then?

Yes, I suppose you could say that.  Well it just goes to show you only get what you Gove, don’t you? Anyway, what’s more Camoron wants all schools to be above average in Maths. That’s going to be a bit of a challenge. And then there’s this Little Missy Morgan who’s all in a spin and is going to sack headteachers if they don’t improve their children’s literacy.

Well, it’s important kids learn to throw their litter away in a bin isn’t it?

Exactly. And then there’s their numeracy.

What’s that then?

You know – learning their tables.

Oh, you mean like the difference between a dining table and a bedside table? Why’s that important then?

Well I suppose if you went to IKEA, you’d want to be sure you were buying the right sort of table wouldn’t you?

Yes, and they could use those special tape measures to make sure they were getting the right size.

Anyway after the election in May everything will be different when the Greens get in.

Who are these Greens then? Are they from Mars?

No, don’t be daft. Well I don’t think they are anyway – though looking at some of their policies…

You mean our politicians will all be like green vegetables – sort of limp and tasteless and foul-smelling?

Yes, I expect so.

Oh.  No change there then?

Anyway, I suppose at least they will have a lot of posh vans and drivers to move them around in.

Alas! Schools and Journos

Mel Smith, as the man who thinks he knows everything, and Griff Rhys Jones, as the man who knows he knows nothing, discuss new TV technologies in the 1980s.

Meanwhile, some 30 years later, they are discussing education…

Smith: You know something?

Jones: No, I can’t say that I do really.

Well you know what a terrible mess all our schools are in and how apparently Mr Gove is sorting them out and making them better again.

Oh, is he then?

Yes. I mean ever since the 1960s kids have been just running round doing exactly as they please in the classroom, and no-one ever tells them off or gets them to learn anything. And apparently it’s all been the fault of this ass Neil chap who opened this school called Summerfield.

Oh, was it one of these schools sponsored by a supermarket then?

Yes, that’s it. Anyway apparently at this school all the children went around naked, smoking and drinking, taking drugs and having sex with their teachers. And of course the teachers all realised they were on to a jolly good thing, and so that’s what our schools have been like ever since.

That’s a bit odd. I mean I attended a comprehensive school in the 1970s and it wasn’t at all like that. The teachers were pretty strict and pushed us hard to pass our O levels and CSEs. And my children were at similar schools in the 1990s, and they all wore a school uniform and were expected to do what they were told.

Well I expect you were at a special school of some sort. Well, anyway that’s what it says in the Daily Mail, and they wouldn’t print it if it wasn’t true would they?

The-worst-behaved-pupils-world-Youd-better-believe-As-study-says-schools-anarchic-thought-shocking-testimony-idealistic-young-teacher.html

No, I suppose not.

Anyway this Gove chap is trying to make sure that in the future all children have an e-Back

What’s that then?

Well, it’s obvious isn’t it. It’s a clever electronic device that you wear and it straightens your back and stops you from slouching around.

Oh. Right.

Look if you don’t believe me, here’s an article in the Guardian, now they certainly wouldn’t print anything that’s not true would they? According to this Nick Glib, it’s not so much the teacher’s fault, it’s all to do with this secret organisation called The Blob. They believe they come from outer space and are devout followers of this ass Neil. And what they’ve done is secretly taken over all the teacher-training colleges where they just tell new teachers to let the kids do whatever they want.

Is that so? Again that all sounds a bit strange because my daughter has just finished her teacher training course and she says it was all about things like your subject knowledge, how to plan and prepare lessons, manage classes, and use IT.

Well, perhaps she was a bit confused, because that’s not what is says here, is it? Look, here’s some more in the Telegraph. Apparently teachers don’t bother teaching children from poor backgrounds because they are going to be failures anyway. And the proof is that while there are more poor children in places like China and South Korea they still do better than us in the Pizza tests.

Are these tests something they do in their Home Economics lessons, then?

Don’t be daft. No-one does Home Economics anymore.  No, they do them in their Food Technology lessons.

But I thought the reason the Chinese and South Koreans did better than us was because they only put their cleverest children in for the test?

Exactly. That just goes to show how much smarter they are than us, doesn’t it?

You don’t think that all this stuff the journalists write in the papers isn’t really news at all but just right-wing capitalist political propaganda, do you?

Good lord, no. I mean no-one would buy them if it was, would they?