William Ernest Henley (23 August 1849 – 11 July 1903) was an influential English poet, critic and editor of the late Victorian era in England.
Back in July, just before the very end of the Summer Term when outdoor manoeuvres (AKA school trips) are in full swing, the Twittersphere exploded over a short video showing a group of young teenagers from THAT school in North East London – the one that seems to believe ‘All You Need Is Knowledge’ – standing on an above-ground underground platform vociferously and enthusiastically chanting their school poem: W. E. Henley’s ‘Invictus’. Some of those who saw the video online apparently responded with a salvo of abusive tweets, and consequently the teacher in charge felt the need to delete the video and make her account private. But the real flack came from the assembled ranks of shell-shocked traditional teachers expressing their undying support for the teacher, that teachers should be free to celebrate the pupils’ achievements, and that performing poetry in public was a fine and worthy thing to do. Which, of course, in itself is fair enough. Up to a point.
Now, to be quite clear, this post is not intended to be written as an angry attack on Michaela students, their hard work, politeness and consideration for others, their backgrounds or their success at gaining GCSE results – but it is meant as a considered critique of the school’s narrow conservative academic curriculum and strict behaviour policy.
At the same time, All Change Please! wishes to make it quite clear that it does not in any way support abusive tweets, although surely anyone who publishes anything on the internet should perhaps not be too surprised that they become liable to receiving such responses and then find themselves having to deal with the fall-out. And if the Headmistress wants other people to ‘LEAVE MY KIDS ALONE’, as she often Tweets, she should not be exposing them on social media in the first place.
Meanwhile in the Trads’ responses on Twitter it was apparent that none of them seemed in any way interested in discussing or even thinking about why some people might not have been as impressed and delighted by the public performance as they were. They seemed unwilling to accept that others might have a different viewpoint, or that there are complex politically motivated and culturally-infused issues involved.
However, All Change Please! did actually manage to catch the video before it was deleted, and has to confess it did find it somewhat sinister, and has since been wondering exactly why it felt so bothered by it?
Let’s change the scene slightly. In this version a group of similar aged school-children are huddled together in a group singing a popular song. A few more are standing apart from the group chatting, not wishing to join in. They are dressed, like the majority of school children today, in slightly subverted versions of their school uniform – formal blazers and ties are not terribly fashionable at present, even in the workplace where smart casual is now more the expected order of the day. All Change Please! can’t imagine anyone being in any way particularly offended by this scene, whatever school they came from.
But the actual video showed the children in the semblance of a straight line along the platform, facing the front, all very smartly turned out in their extremely neat and tidy uniforms. Their teacher was visibly conducting them, making sure they were chanting the poem to the beat.
And then there is the poem itself: ‘Invictus’ was written by Henley in the early 1870s as he was recovering from a tubercular infection that resulted in the loss of one of his legs. As such it’s typically full of dark and disturbing Victorian style and sentimentality and in particular is about the prospect of death and having the courage to gloriously fight on regardless.
The last two lines are the most frequently quoted as they potently remind us that we need to take responsibility for making sure we make the most of things whatever the circumstances. However the rest of the poem is not generally well known. It’s along the lines of Kipling’s ‘If’ or Tennyson’s ‘The Charge of the Light Brigade’ – verses best suited to being learned by heart and taking a moral message from, as opposed to the study of more challenging poetry that explores more conflicting and ambiguous impressions and themes. Of course that’s not to entirely object to children studying it in the classroom and understanding it in the context of the time and religious culture it was written in – but to promote it as a celebratory ‘school poem’ with its dark, disturbing imagery of the darkness of hell and bloody bludgeonings that will be deeply embedded in their minds for the rest of their lives, seems somehow rather inappropriate.
Now perhaps All Change Please! has a rather over-active and vivid imagination, but the video clip it saw was somehow a scene from the turn of the early 20th Century, and these weren’t schoolchildren of Today, but regularly and neatly-uniformed, subservient foot soldiers lined up about to board a train for the front, keeping their spirits up under the stern leadership of their Sergeant Major, in preparation for the grim adversities that lie ahead, and the courage and fighting spirit that will be needed to conquer them. Is this the image of the future we want to project of what life is going to be like for these children in the 21st century?
Colourised photo of soldiers leaving Letchworth, 1914
While it’s not a scene that deserves social media abuse, it is one that deserves discussion as to whether it is an appropriate approach to education in this day and age, and to the imposition of supposedly ‘lost’ British values from Victorian times, that many would prefer to see remain lost. Do we really want to recreate and reinforce 150 year old Victorian values and behaviours in our children? Surely our children need to learn from the past to understand the present and prepare for the future – not to just blindly repeat it, line by line.
The worry is that Michaela’s children – and indeed all those from the growing number of similar schools that aim to follow their lead – will not be well prepared to deal with the values, behaviours and ambiguities of the real, complex, inconsistent, unstructured modern technological world that they will discover when they find themselves on their own, far outside the comfort zone of their safe, friendly and nostalgic school environment. Perhaps it might help if the school included some technology-related subjects in its curriculum (children do not study IT/Computing, or D&T) and aimed to teach their pupils when and how to use smart phones and iPads for appropriate and effective learning and communication, instead of just banning them outright?
Clearly there are a number of politicians, teachers and parents determined to live in the past and ignore the fact that we now live in a global, technological age. While there is choice in the system for those teachers, parents and children who do or do not wish to belong to such a school, then perhaps it doesn’t matter. That is as long as there is still such a choice in the system…
Meanwhile, the members of the Michaela Community Free School Fan-base seem to believe that their successful GCSE results are a worthy vindication of Michael Gove’s policies that will provide more than enough ammunition to silence the guns of their more ‘progressive’ critics: they are likely to be disappointed. Indeed just the other day this highly apposite cartoon appeared as a comment on the Df-ingE’s widespread use of the Michaela school’s GCSE results to promote its highly controversial Free School Movement:
Unsurprisingly it drew a ballistic response from Michaela’s Headmistress who continues to see any criticism as an attack on ‘her’ children rather than the values and methodologies of the institution itself and of the Df-ingE – and to fail to accept that there’s more than one way to change the world for the better.
‘If we teach today’s students as we taught yesterday’s, we rob them of tomorrow’
John Dewey, 1915
With thanks to Stan Dunn for his cartoon, currently appearing on Twitter, and AJ.
Image of WE Henley: Wikipedia
Image of soldiers at Letchworth: DanHillHistory on Twitter
Following recent reports in the TES, Nick Glibbly appears to be preparing for a new role as a stand-up comedian for Comic Relief.
“Ladies and Gentlemen, please give a warm round of applause for a former politician and newcomer to the Comedy Club – I give you Knickers Glibbly “
Polite applause, and a titter or two at Glibbly’s Red Nose
“I say, I say, I say… Did you hear the one about PISA? Yes missus, that’s the Programme for International Student Assessment. I don’t believe it – they are trying to politically influence the international rankings! Of course, here in England we would never dream of letting politics determine our educational policies, would we?!”
Mild laughter as the audience absorb the irony
A funny thing happened on my way here this evening. As usual I was licking the boots of Andreas Schleicher – the head of the The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) that runs the PISA tests, and whom Michael Gove once described as ‘the most important man in English education‘ – wrong again Michael, you know that’s really me, don’t you? – when all of a sudden he tells me about his latest plans for the tests.
Now in the past, the PISA tests were just about regurgitating facts and figures. Therefore in order to improve our world rankings we changed the entire curriculum to ensure our children would receive teacher and knowledge-led instruction and thus achieve better marks and climb higher up the league table, because after all that’s what educational achievement is all about, isn’t it? Boom! Boom!
Some polite applause
But now it seems PISA are introducing a more progressive approach to education, called ‘the 21st-century incompetence-based curriculum’, and so they are introducing new tests in things like creativity and collaborative problem-solving, which of course we’ve been completely ignoring in our schools! And so, ladies and gentleman, here comes the punch-line – yes that’s right – we’ll be back down the bottom of the league table again! What a joke!”
Laughing out loud and occasional whooping – or is it weeping?
“Of course, because I don’t understand anything about these 21st century incompetencies, what I’ve not realised is that the OECD doesn’t either and their tests are extremely limited and ineffective, so it’s really not going to make much difference at all!”
Increasing laughter and applause as the audience begin to realise the true extent of the incompetence of the 21st Century Df-ingE
“What’s really strange though is that when I challenge the the OECD about it, it seems I’m the only one who disagrees, so obviously that means I must be right!” Am I bovvered? In future that stupid boy Andreas Schleicher can lick his own boots!
Hysterical laughter brings the house down.
“My name’s Nick Glibbly. And I’m the Most Important Man in Education! Thanks for learning, and it’s Good Night from me!”
This Christmas Nick Glibbly is appearing in Pantomime at the Df-ingE, where he will play the comedy role of Michael Gove. He has also been nominated for a Derrière Comedy Award at next year’s Edinburgh Festival in the ‘Least Likely Politician To Succeed In A New Career As A Comedian’ category.
You couldn’t make it up, could you?
The numbers racket is a form of illegal gambling or lottery played mostly in poor and working class neighbourhoods. The punter attempts to pick three digits to match those that will be randomly drawn the following day from sources such as horse races, the stock market, or perhaps even… the new GCSE numbered grading system that now goes from 9 to 1 instead of 1 to 9?
Senior citizen Joe Blogs today celebrated his grandson’s success with his GCSE grades. “He achieved eight grade 1’s!” he boasted to disbelieving friends at the local pub.
“We never expected him to do that well, especially as his teachers kept saying how unsatisfactory his work was, and that he wouldn’t get his E back. Mind you I wasn’t surprised they had confiscated it – I kept telling him not to take drugs into school – but I expect his teachers needed it themselves.”
When I took my exams back in the 1960s I only managed a couple of grade 3’s and a bunch of 5’s. I expect next he’ll be applying to Oxbridge, wherever that is – I’ve never been able to find it on any map. I can’t see him joining this Russell Pop Group thing though because he’s got no musical ability whatsoever.
Apparently he also won’t now need to bother with these daft new Tea-levels. I mean, I know we’re a nation of tea drinkers, but I can’t see why we need a qualification in it. Instead I’ve been told he’ll become a ‘neat’ – whatever that means – but we’ve always insisted he must be smart and tidy at all times, so I would have thought he would be one already.
It’s all thanks to that nice Mr Gove and that Glibbering idiot assistant of his. Without them I’m sure my grandson would have failed all his GCSEs. It’s just a shame he didn’t get to take any practical arts or technical subjects though. At least they might have helped him get a job.”
Meanwhile Emily Posh’s grandmother was in tears:
“We paid all that money to send her to an exclusive private school, and all she got was a string of 9’s. What use is that? In my day, with results like those we’d be lucky to end up as a washroom assistant cleaning toilets.”
However Joe Blog’s grandson and Emily Posh join an increasing list of youngsters now successfully applying to join companies where the human resource managers don’t yet understand how the new GCSE grading system works. Fred Post of ACP Recruitment Ltd commented:
“It’s all a bit confusing, but to be honest we’re not particularly bothered what grades applicants get at GCSE – I mean the last thing we want is someone with academic qualifications coming in and lecturing us on the theory of business management. Not spilling my tea as they bring it to my desk is probably the most important thing I look for in a school-leaver. So, as you can imagine, these new Tea-level qualifications are going to be really helpful.”
A spokesperson for Ofqual stated that changing the GCSE letter grades for numbers in the reverse order “confusing be not would”, and that the easy way to understand them was “734829 549 3355”.
Joe Blog’s grandson’s school was contacted for comment but it was explained that the Multi Academy Trust’s Senior Management Team were currently unavailable as they were all on holiday high as kites on the school’s luxury yacht in the Med.
Now that’s what All Change Please! calls successfully running the numbers racket…
Yes, as unbelievable as Brexit sounds, today, the 28th October 2017, is All Change Please!‘s Magical Eighth birthday. And that means it’s time for All Change Please!’s surprisingly regular annual Review of the Year post…
To begin with, regular readers might have noticed that All Change Please! has been a lot less prolific than in previous years: instead of an average of posting once a fortnight, it’s been more like once a month. Except for February, April and May when seemingly absolutely nothing happened to inspire All Change Please! to take pen to paper, or rather finger to keyboard. However the world of education seemed to come back to life a bit more during September and October…
So what were All Change Please!‘s greatest number of hits of 2016-17?
Way out ahead in the prestigious Number One ‘Top of the Posts’ spot was the runaway ‘The Blunders of Government’ which featured a dialogue between Sir Humphrey Appleby and a compendium of Education Secretaries from the past 7 years.
Some way behind was All Change Please!’s Christmas special which identified the close connection between Mrs May and Alice, with Nigel Farage in the role of the Cheshire Cat, and The Queen of Hearts (deftly played by Angela Merkel) boasting that sometimes she believed as many as six impossible things before Brexit.
In which it was revealed that students place little value on creativity and problem-solving, largely because the schools they go to don’t either.
But as always, what appeals most to the bloglovin’ public rarely reflects All Change Please!’s own favourites of the year which included:
Cool. No problem. Read again?
Your cut-out and weep guide to D&T…
Meanwhile, All Change Please! got to wondering about who invented the Magic 8 Ball and when, and how it worked – and not for the first time managed to find everything it wanted to know on Wikipedia.
“The Magic 8-Ball is a toy used for fortune-telling or seeking advice, developed in the 1950s and manufactured by Mattel. It is often used in fiction, often for humor related to its giving accurate, inaccurate, or otherwise statistically improbable answers.
An 8-ball was used as a fortune-telling device in the 1940 Three Stooges short, You Nazty Spy!, and called a “magic ball”. While Magic 8-Ball did not exist in its current form until 1950, the functional component was invented by Albert C. Carter, inspired by a spirit writing device used by his mother, Mary, a Cincinnati clairvoyant.
The Magic 8-Ball is a hollow plastic sphere resembling an oversized, black-and-white 8-ball. Inside a cylindrical reservoir contains a white, plastic, icosahedron floating in alcohol dyed dark blue. Each of the die’s 20 faces has an affirmative, negative, or non-committal statement printed in raised letters. These messages are read through a window on the ball’s bottom.
To use the ball, it must be held with the window initially facing down. After “asking the ball” a yes-no question, the user then turns the ball so that the window faces up, setting in motion the liquid and die inside. When the die floats to the top and one face presses against the window, the raised letters displace the blue liquid to reveal the message as white letters on a blue background.
The 20 answers inside a standard Magic 8-Ball are:
● It is certain
● It is decidedly so
● Without a doubt
● Yes definitely
● You may rely on it
● As I see it, yes
● Most likely
● Outlook good
● Signs point to yes
● Reply hazy try again
● Ask again later
● Better not tell you now
● Cannot predict now
● Concentrate and ask again
● Don’t count on it
● My reply is no
● My sources say no
● Outlook not so good
● Very doubtful
All of which leads All Change Please! to the inevitable conclusion that it’s Mrs May’s Magic 8 Ball which undoubtedly forms the basis of current government policy-making and Brexit negotiations…
If you have been… keep watching this space!
Image credit: Flickr/David Bergin
Before All Change Please! begins this post, it can exclusively reveal that it has acquired clear evidence that can lead it to accurately and amazingly predict that in March 2019, Dominic Cummings will write a post in which he will appear to accurately and amazingly predict a Corona Virus pandemic. It will be fascinating to see if All Change Please!’s prediction proves to be equally correct….
OK – back to the post.
Cleverly disguised as a fly on the wall, last July All Change Please! was able to listen in to a conversation between Sir Humphrey Appleby and the Minister in a State about Education.
Ah Sir Humphrey, what can I do for you?
Well Minister, you remember that consultation we did on the EBacc, asking people for suggestions as to how we should best implement it?
Yes, yes, the one I told you to hide the results of somewhere that no-one would ever find them?
Well it’s just that an awful lot of people responded and have been asking when the report is going to be made available, and I’m rather afraid an over-enthusiastic unpaid intern has managed to find and publish it.
Oh well, it can’t be helped I suppose? Can it? Did anyone make any helpful suggestions as to how to make the EBacc work successfully?
Not exactly Minister, no. It rather seems as if most of the responses were more in the form of a suggestion that perhaps the EBacc wasn’t actually a very good idea and would be impossible to implement anyway.
Well that just goes to show how ungrateful the teaching profession is, doesn’t it? We spend our long expenses lunches dreaming up vote-winning policies, and all they do is complain.
Have you read this new book ‘The Wonders of our Government’ Humphrey? It explains that “British politicians meet, discuss, debate, manoeuvre, read submissions, read the newspapers, make speeches, answer questions, visit their constituencies, chair meetings and frequently give interviews.” I mean, what more do people expect us to do?
Err, I think you’ll find the book is actually called ‘The Blunders of our Government‘ Minister, and the suggestion is that politicians don’t “deliberate and take the time to weigh the claims against the evidence, to ask for more information, to reach out and consult other parties who knew more or would also be affected by the action that might be taken. The consequence could be off-the-cuff decisions, made in isolation, in a hurry.”
Well of course I couldn’t be expected know anything about that, could I?
No Minister! It’s just that I think they may have a point… Our hastily implemented EBacc policy has meant that the latest GCSE results show for a fact that the number of secondary school students taking art and design qualifications in the UK has fallen to the lowest level this century.
How many times must I tell you Sir Humphrey, there’s no such thing as facts, just cleverly selected statistics. So for example we simply state that there is no evidence of entries in arts subjects declining as a direct result of the introduction of the EBacc, and that the proportion of state school pupils taking at least one arts subject increased from 45.8% to 48% between 2011 and 2016. There, that sounds rather strong and stable doesn’t it?
Yes, but there’s also the matter of the rise in the number of students failing the EBacc subjects they’ve been forced to take, when they might have taken other subjects they could have passed. I suppose we could use the diversionary response approach and get Nick Glibbly to state: “These reforms represent another step in our drive to raise standards, so that pupils have the knowledge and skills they need to compete in a global workplace.”
By George Osborne, I think you’ve got it!
One final thing Sir Humphrey, I would suggest a further delay in publication of the EBacc report. They’ve waited this long so I’m sure they can wait a bit longer. Make it towards the end of July, just as Parliament breaks up for recess and all the pesky teachers go off for the summer to their villas in the South of France – then it will all be old news by the time they come back in late September and everyone will be more interested who is going to replace the MayBot before the Party Conference, and what will happen in the subsequent cabinet reshuffle…
Indeed yes, Minister….!
Of course, it’s just possible that some of these annoying education blogs will wait until the Autumn term is just underway before writing about it, but we’ll just have to hope that all those ungrateful teachers won’t have time to read them as they will be too busy having to explain the new grading system to parents and coming up with good excuses as to why most of their students failed our new more rigorous A levels and GCSEs…
Ah, yes Minister, that reminds me. Well, it’s just that you perhaps ought to know that in the end the new exams were so difficult that actually no-one managed to get a pass grade, so we, err.., err..,
Well, out with it..
You did what? Why did no one tell me?
Well, err., I think it probably happened last month while you were away in your villa in the South of France, Minister.
But my policy was that by making the examinations more difficult, children and teachers would work harder and standards would rise. This makes just a complete nonsense of my reforms.
Yes indeed, minister. Oh, and could I just warn you that your consultative-sounding ‘Putting our policies before the people‘ slogan could be taken more than one way?
Thankfully, the Festive Season comes but once a year and, as surely as Christmas means Christmas, it’s time for All Change Please! to delve into the world of literature and present its own special pull-out double issue, long-read, twisted, fractured and satirical updated version of a well known classic, such as it has done in years gone by with Twenty Fifty One and The Gove of Christmas Present. So without further ado – look out behind you! Here’s All Change Please!’s annual political pantomime…
Once upon a time, not so very long ago, it was a warm and sunny July afternoon and Theresa was sitting lazily in the beautiful back garden of the house in her Maidenhead constituency, contentedly admiring her new pair of very expensive summer sandals.
All of a sudden, and much to her surprise, a white rabbit with pink eyes ran by exclaiming ‘Oh my ears and whiskers, how late it’s getting. I’ll never get to be PM’. That’s curious, Theresa thought – That rabbit looks just like Michael Gove. She strode purposefully across the garden just in time to see it pop down a large rabbit hole. Just in front of the hole there was a small sign that read ‘BREXIT’, and pointed towards the hole. In another moment down she went after the rabbit, never once considering how in the world she would ever get out of it again. Suddenly she found herself descending at great speed. As she fell she began to worry that when she reached the bottom she was probably in for a very hard Brexit indeed.
Down, down, down Theresa fell until she could go no further, when suddenly there was a thump and she found herself in a long, low hall which she recognised as the corridor of Number 10 Downing Street. There she came across a small three-legged table on which there was a bottle marked Blue and Yellow Brexit. I’m certainly not drinking that, she thought, but perhaps if I give it a good shake and mix it up it will turn in to a nice Red, White and Blue Brexit? Or even better, an Amazing Technicolour Dreamcoat Brexit that one day will become a successful West-end musical. What a shame I didn’t study more art in school then I would understand how colour theory works.
In the distance Theresa caught a glimpse of what she first assumed to be Larry, the Downing Street cat, sitting at the top of the stairs. As she approached him however, she realised she had been mistaken. This cat had very long claws and a great many teeth.
‘What’s your name?’ Theresa asked politely.
‘Why, I’m Nigel, the UKIP cat.’
‘Ah!’ said Theresa. ‘Would you tell me please, which way I ought to go from here? What sort of people live about here?
‘In that direction,’ the cat said, ‘lives a Hatter, and in that direction lives a March Hare. Visit either you like: they’re both mad. But at least they are not immigrants.’
‘But I don’t want to go among mad people,’ Theresa remarked.
‘Oh you can’t help that,’ said the cat: ‘We’re all mad here. I’m mad. You’re mad.’
‘How do you know I’m mad?’ said Theresa.
‘You must be,’ said the cat, ‘or you wouldn’t have come here.’
Suddenly the cat vanished and then re-appeared as UKIP Leader several times, finally beginning with the end of the tail and ending with just the grin, which remained some time after the rest of it had gone off in search of America.
At the top of the stairs Theresa found herself in front of a door marked ‘Cabinet Room’ How curious she thought, to have a room specifically to keep a cabinet in. She opened the door and entered. At the end of a very large table, the March 31st Hare and the Mad Hatter were having tea: a Dormouse was sitting between them, fast asleep. Theresa couldn’t help noticing the uncanny resemblance that the Mad Hatter had to Boris Johnson, that the March 31st Hare had to David Davies, and that the dormouse had to Philip Hammond.
‘No room! No room!’ they cried out when they saw her coming.
‘There’s plenty of room!’ said Theresa indignantly, and she sat down in the large, important looking chair in the middle, reflecting that this was now indeed a post-truth world. Theresa lifted the pot to pour herself some tea, but the tea dripped out from the bottom onto the cabinet table. Ah!, she thought, at least now I know where all the leaks are coming from.
‘Well,’ said the March 31st Hare. ‘What do you have to say? Say what you mean.’
‘I do,’ Theresa replied hastily. ‘At least I mean what I say – that’s the same thing you know.’
‘It’s not the same thing a bit!’ said the Hare. ‘You just announce policies that come into your head, and a few days later say you never meant them.’
‘So,’ said Theresa, ‘you mean that if I say ‘Brexit means Brexit’ I don’t mean what I say?’
‘Exactly!’ replied the Hare, ‘What you really mean to say is that Brexit means whatever the EU decides it means.
‘That’s curious’, interrupted Boris the Mad Hatter. ‘Whenever I say what I mean, No 10 always says I didn’t mean to say it. Which is a very mean thing of them to say. But enough of this nonsense. Let me ask you a riddle instead. Why is a Grammar School like a White Elephant? Can you guess?’
‘No I give it up,’ Theresa replied. ‘What’s the answer? ‘
‘I haven’t the slightest idea,’ said the Hatter. ‘Well, except that perhaps a white elephant is also something that isn’t worth having but still costs a lot to maintain?’
Theresa left the cabinet room, declaring she would never go there again and that it was the stupidest meeting she ever was at in all her life! Just as she said this she noticed a tree with a door leading into it. That’s very curious, she thought, but everything’s curious these days. I think I may as well go in at once. She found herself at the entrance to a garden, and noticed that there were 27 EU leaders all in a bit of a state, dressed as playing cards. She introduced herself to the Queen of Hearts:
‘My name is Theresa, so please your Majesty,’ she said very politely, but added, to herself, ‘Why, they’re only a pack of cards, after all. I needn’t be afraid of them!’
After a game of croquet, the Queen of Hearts, whom Theresa couldn’t help but notice bore more than a passing resemblance to Angela Merkel, offered her some bread and jam and a piece of cake. Theresa declined the JAM, saying she could just about manage to afford her new leather trousers perfectly well without it, even though she knew very well that there were many others who couldn’t.
‘You couldn’t have it if you did want it anyway,’ the Queen said. ‘The rule is JAM tomorrow and JAM yesterday but never JAM to-day.’
The Queen then demanded that she played a game with her. Theresa studied the cards in her hand and saw she held the Joker – I’ll have to play my Trump card very carefully, she thought.
Suddenly the Queen shouted out: ‘Now show me your cards!’
‘But if I show you my cards,’ Theresa explained, ‘then you will have a considerable advantage and will easily win the game.’
‘Hmm! I suppose you believe you’re in charge around here?’ said the Queen sarcastically.
‘Well I am the Prime Minister of Wonderland.’ said Theresa, which quite surprised her because up to that moment it hadn’t really occurred to her that indeed she now was. At this the Queen got very annoyed and muttered something about making sure that Teresa might still have her piece of cake, but she certainly wasn’t going to eat it too.
‘I’ll tell you something to believe,’ the Queen continued: ‘I have twice been named the world’s second most powerful person, the highest ranking ever achieved by a woman, and the most powerful woman in the world for a record tenth time. I am the longest-serving incumbent head of government in the EU, the senior G7 leader and I’m seeking re-election for a fourth-term.’
‘I can’t believe all that!’ said Theresa.
‘Can’t you?’ the Queen said in a pitying tone. ‘Try again: draw a long breath, and shut your eyes.’
Theresa laughed. ‘There’s no use trying,’ she said: ‘one can’t believe impossible things.’
‘I daresay you haven’t had much practice,’ said the Queen. ‘When I was your age, I always did it for half-an-hour a day. Why, sometimes I’ve believed as many as six impossible things before Brexit.
Then the Queen asked Theresa: ‘Have you seen the Mock-exam Turtle yet?’
‘No,’ said Theresa. ‘I don’t even know what a Mock-exam Turtle is.’
‘Come on, then,’ said the Queen, ‘and he shall tell you his history,’
The Mock-exam Turtle duly told his story and spoke of his education: ‘When we were little we went to school in the sea. The master was an old Turtle—we used to call him Tortoise—’
‘Why did you call him Tortoise, if he wasn’t one?’ Theresa asked.
‘We called him Tortoise because he taught us,’ said the Mock Turtle angrily: ‘really you are very dull!’
‘And how many hours a day did you do lessons?’ said Theresa, in a hurry to change the subject.
‘Ten hours the first day,’ said the Mock Turtle: ‘nine the next, and so on.’
‘What a curious plan!’ exclaimed Theresa.
‘That’s the reason they’re called lessons – because they lessen from day to day.’
Presently, Theresa found herself attending the trial of the scurrilous Knave of Hearts who was accused of stealing the Arts from schools one summer day and taking them quite away, and who looked suspiciously like Nick Glibbly. Glibbly read out various items of fake-news press-releases claiming that the Arts were still flourishing and GCSE entries had increased, except of course he carefully neglected to mention that the figures he was quoting included AS levels. After Glibbly had presented his evidence the King announced that the jury should consider their verdict.
‘No, no!’ exclaimed the Queen. ‘Let’s write the front page headline of the Daily Mail first – verdict afterwards.’
‘Stuff and nonsense,’ said Theresa loudly. ‘The very idea of it. You can’t have the sentence before the verdict.’
‘Hold your tongue,’ said the Queen turning a shade of UKIP purple.
‘I won’t!’ said Theresa defiantly. But at this the Queen completely lost her temper.
‘Off with her shoes!’ she shouted furiously at the top of her voice.
But Theresa found the thought of losing her shoes so traumatic that it bought her to her senses with a jolt, and she suddenly found herself back in the garden, where her strange adventure had begun. She immediately looked down and to her great relief found her shoes were still firmly attached to her feet.
‘Ah! there you are Theresa dear!’ said her husband. ‘Why, what a long time you’ve been away!’
‘Oh, I’ve had such a curious dream!’ said Theresa. ‘I had begun to think that very few things indeed were really impossible. Would you believe I dreamt I was Prime Minister of Wonderland?’
‘But my dear!’, said Philip kindly. ‘Don’t you remember? You are the Prime Minister of Wonderland…’
Christmas Day Quiz Question. How well do you know your Lewis Caroll? All the quotations and references above were based on text taken from ‘Alice in Wonderland’, except for two which were from ‘Through The Looking Glass’. But which were they?
“Give me a child until he is seven and I will give you the man”
It’s astonishing to think that back in the Autumn of 2009 – around the time that All Change Please!’s first post was published – a child starting secondary school in Year 7 will now have completed their A levels and be either commencing a degree course – or of course, more like All Change Please!, becoming another Not in Employment, Education or Training statistic.
Yes, it’s exactly seven years since All Change Please! published its very first post, and as usual it decides to nostalgically wallow in its archives from the past twelve months to visit some of its most read and best loved words of so-called wisdom.
But before it does so, there is another cause for celebration, because by delightful coincidence this is also All Change Please!’s 300th post.
This year’s Top 3 most read posts were:
In which it is revealed that both less and fewer pupils are now taking GCSE subjects in The Arts, despite Nick Glibb claiming otherwise before being finally proved wrong by the 2016 entry figures.
In which it is suggested that Nicky Morgan didn’t really care what she was saying at the NASUWT Party Conference because she knew she’s be in a proper cabinet job by September, except that now we know it didn’t work out quite like that.
In which a passionate appeal is made by means of the Df-ingE consultation for it to abandon its intentions that 90% of pupils should take the EBacc to GCSE, even though the results of the consultation have never been made public.
Meanwhile All Change Please!‘s personal favourite Top 3 were:
In which Wilshaw asks Marlowe for help after he realises he’s made an enormous mistake backing the EBacc, despite the fact that there’s not a shred of evidence to back up the Df-ingE’s ideology.
In which we learn all about the brave new world of Fantasy Politics in which politicians make up any old stuff that comes to mind – something that All Change Please! has been successfully getting away with for years.
In which we revisit George Orwell’s classic story 1984, and realise it’s just that we haven’t got there yet – despite the fact that we’ve since taken back control and given it all to just one person who thinks she can run the country on her own. Big Sister Is Watching You…
“Give me a blog until it is seven and I will give you the Pulitzer Prize for Journalism (or not)”
Let’s try a different kind of 7up instead…
7up image credit: Flickr/Kevin Dooley
L.H.O.O.Q., Marcel Duchamp (1919)
What? Look, someone has attacked a work of art – they’ve drawn a moustache and beard on the Mona Lisa. Quick! Call Security…
Calm down dear! It’s only a postcard. That’s one of the artist Duchamp’s found object ‘readymades‘, created in 1919.
Oh well you would know that wouldn’t you – you took Art History at A level. So, clever clogs, what do the initials in the title stand for?
I couldn’t possibly tell you that here – this is family tea-time blog post, but you could look it up here.
As an artist I know you’re probably can’t read, but I expect you’ve heard that the History of Art A level is to be axed and become a museum exhibition piece of the future, along with Archaeology and Classical Civilisation?
Ah yes. I blame that cheeky Michael Gove chappie.
Well apparently lip-smacking, cool-talking, brexit-lying Mr Gove has denied that it was anything to do with him, and said that he’s always supported such subjects, even though as Education Secretary he did absolutely nothing to help save them. And by introducing the EBacc he has caused a reduction in the number of students taking Art&Design at GCSE.
So whose fault is it then?
Most writers are blaming AQA – the last Awarding Body offering the subject – who have claimed that, unlike other leading brands of History, accurate and reliable marking of such a wide-ranging subject is impossible. And anyway they can’t recruit enough examiners with appropriate teaching experience. Or to put it another way, there are not enough entries to make it commercially viable and increase their overall market share.
Just a minute, you’re making it sound like examining is a business. I thought it was something run by the universities, and that their role was to support and promote the accreditation of the widest possible range of academic courses?
That’s what it used to be like in the good old days, but not any more I’m afraid. And anyway, it’s not strictly speaking entirely the exam board’s fault.
Proceed, I prithee. I’m listening…
Well the real question is, why has demand for these subjects fallen so low?
Forsooth! I trust the answer will be shortly be forthcoming, my Lord.
Give me chance, and drop the fake historical Ye Olde-English One Foot in the Past act will you? Back in the 1970s and 80s schools with expanding sixth forms were able to run courses such as The History of Art with relatively small numbers of students, but now, unless a certain number opt to take an A level subject to make it ‘viable’ in terms of the cost of employing a member of staff, the course just doesn’t run and then isn’t offered in subsequent years.
And with regards to the History of Art there’s another factor that most writers have failed to mention, and that is that GCSE and A level courses in Art&Design already contain a significant coverage of study of the historic and contemporary artists and art movements. So most students who have opted for an Art&Design A level are encouraged to choose other more ‘facilitating’ subjects that don’t contain the word Art in their title in order to increase their chances of getting into a good university. And of course at the same time improving the school’s qualifying position in the Df-ingE Champions League Table.
But what about the Sixth-formers who know they want to become artists or designers, and don’t want to go to an academic university?
Sorry, I don’t quite understand the question. What do you mean ‘don’t want to go to an academic university’? What other purpose is there for going to school?
Well, it’s just that if you know you want to be an artist or designer it’s actually quite difficult choosing A level subjects that you might be interested in doing, and taking an A level in History of Art as well would help prepare you for the history and cultural study elements of your college courses, as well as looking good on your applications and in interviews as you discuss the influences that have informed your portfolio of work.
As an Oxbridge PPE scholar I have absolutely no idea what you are going on about. Surely if you want to be an artist or designer you need a string of A* grades, just as you do in any other subjects?
Not really. There’s a lot more to Art & Design than just being able to write essays. Actually many colleges of art are cautious about applicants with high examination grades as they tend not to be very creative, self-motivated, risk-taking students.
Well, if you say so. You’re not one of these Bremoaners are you by any chance? Whatever next?
Just one other thing. While dropping Art History as an academic A level subject is bad enough, I can’t help wondering why it is getting so much media coverage when there are a lot more serious concerns about the curriculum. How often do we see concerned articles reporting the emerging crisis in the lack of our children’s experience in the skills they will need to survive in a highly automated post-Brexit economy where things like experience of open-ended project-based problem-solving, collaboration, business and marketing will be urgently needed?
Hmm. Have you seen the latest Tate Britain exhibition? It’s awfully good, the paintings are so realistic – artists had real skills in those days. And I’m glad to say there’s none of this 20th Century Modern Abstract Art nonsense on show.
Do say: Wait, I hear there’s a possibility a different exam board might start to offer A level Art History again.
Don’t say: I wonder if it will be a readymade specification?
The Govinator updates his Facebook page
First of all, All Change Please! would like to bid a not-so-fond farewell to Michael Gove who has single-handedly dedicated his career to provide the source of much satire and amusement over the past 6 years. It’s a bit late, but at least now he’s discovered what it’s like to fail to reach the expected standard in a subject he apparently never wanted to do in the first place.
Meanwhile, back in the real world…
Management for Dummies: it’s as important to Plan and Check as it is to Do and Act…
Total Quality Management, or TQM, consists of organization-wide efforts to install and make permanent a climate in which an organization continuously improves its ability to deliver high-quality products and services to customers. TQM was one of the buzzwords of the late 1980s and early 1990s.
In its time working in the public and commercial worlds All Change Please! encountered some amazingly inept management that usually involved ill-advised human resource appointments, over-investment in inappropriately specified technologies, under-spend on marketing, systemic communication problems, inflexible administrative procedures and layer upon layer of blame culture – all of which contributed to a climate of complete inability to produce high quality products and services. So much so that All Change Please! decided to name it, and came up with the alternative acronym TCM, which stood for Total C**p Management. Thus the letters TCM became appended to many management announcements and directives posted on notice boards, and while it meant nothing to the management teams, communicated plenty to the work-force members in the know.
But in all All Change Please’s! lifetime of experience it has never encountered anything on the grand scale of the current omni-shambles that laughingly likes to call itself the UK parliament. Yet our politicians continue to carry on as before – concerned more with fast-moving Strictly Come X Factor Game of Thrones style contests to decide who will be the next party leaders rather than to actually doing anything in the immediate future to sort out the major meltdown they have collectively fueled. What the referendum revealed was the scale of the underlying problems of unemployment, low-pay, lack of affordable housing, underfunded public services and the depths of racism, all of which the majority of politicians seem happy to continue to ignore.
This is surely TCM of monumental proportions, and while certain media-savvy personality politicians have since resigned – without taking any subsequent responsibility for their actions – our government and democratic management structures and procedures remain completely unchanged. We live in age of highly toxic, compassionless, just deal with losing and move on ‘F**k You‘ politics where all that matters is who is best at lying, threatening and gambling to gain power though fear, intimidation and destruction, and at present there does not seem to be any mechanism for changing it.
Indeed as Tory MPs and the press successfully use Mothergate to rid themselves of Andrea Loathsome before the grass-roots party members have a chance to vote for her, Theresa May or May Not sort everything out – the only remaining applicant – has been offered the post of ‘morning-after woman’ tasked with the unpleasant and unenviable job of cleaning up the horrific mess left by the last administration after the previous night’s riotous shindig before all disappearing off to have a quiet lie down. As the media report May ‘sweeping’ into Number 10, as soon as the door shuts behind her she’ll be given a broom and told to start with the cabinet room floor.
Despite all this, things in the world of education seem to muddle along as usual. In the recent EBacc debate Nick Glibb continued to just keep repeating the same old out-of-date statistical nonsense and never actually answering the questions posed or seem to express any admission that there was perhaps the need to consider and discuss the issues being raised. Then the recent SATs test results revealed that, by a remarkable coincidence, while something in the region of 48% of 11 year-olds have now already been branded as failures and want to Leave school as soon as possible, 52% were on course for Oxbridge glory and voted to Remain. The problem is that, following the principles of FU politics, while the 52% will be rewarded with lessons leading to the narrow, highly academic EBacc, the 48% are also destined to spend five years following the same curriculum that the SATs have just demonstrated is entirely inappropriate for their needs, before eventually being forcibly relocated to a College of FE to undertake what will be seen to be lower-status vocational courses.
As All Change Please! writes we wait nervously to see who will be the next Education Secretary in a State, hoping and praying it won’t be offered to Ms Loathsome as an olive branch – after all she has had children and went to school once herself, so she’s eminently qualified for the job. And, even more importantly, will All Change Please! be able to come up with a suitably satirical new name for the lucky incumbent?
What we don’t know is whether the new appointee – and indeed Team Df-ingE – will simply continue with more of the same destructive ill-informed ’spin now and explore the consequences later’ approach, or take the opportunity to provide a much needed review of education problems and policies, and a fresh start. With Gove’s demise and the evidence of the extent of his mis-judgement and complete loss of credibility over Brexit, perhaps his equally absurd education policies can now be challenged more effectively?
Photo-montages by All Change Please!