June 06, 2003
The headmaster shrugged

Whatever else you read about education in the next few days, read this (from the latest Spectator), if you haven't already. Sample paragraph:

It isn’t just the ‘papersomeness’ (to quote the latest buzzword) of my job. It is the accountability. Fair enough, somebody needs to check on my competency and make sure that I am not financing my own extravagant lifestyle with school funds. But with so many stakeholders I can build my own stockade. I am accountable to the parents, who can blame me for anything and everything that goes wrong in their lives, because I am an easy target and expected to be accessible. I am accountable to governors, who have immense responsibilities but are not required to undergo any training whatsoever to equip them to discharge them. I am accountable to the LEA in County Hall, who seem to think they can dictate how I spend my time. I am accountable to the editor of the local newspaper, to all the solicitors in the town, to the consultants in the local hospital, to the police, to social services, and to the people who live nearby, all of whom have told me in no uncertain terms how to do my job. I am accountable to Mr Clarke. I am accountable to Ofsted, who come every two years on average and settle in for a week. The only people it appears I am not accountable to, whose lives I am directly affecting day in day out, are the pupils themselves. Yet it is they who are suffering from the actions of everybody else. So from now on I will be accountable only to myself, to my wife, and to God, because I have resigned.

I don't often refer approvingly to the novelist and philosopher Ayn Rand, if only because so many others with opinions similar to mine seem to do this all the time. But for the experience of this headmaster the phrase "Atlas shrugged" (the title of one of Rand's most famous novels) does seem very appropriate. This really is like one of Rand's put-upon railway workers quietly slipping away into the countryside, never to work on the railways again until sanity is restored.

Who was the Greek god of teaching? Or the teaching equivalent of Atlas? Anyone? Whoever he was, he is shrugging.

Posted by Brian Micklethwait at 12:39 AM
Category: Sovietisation