Wednesday, 13 April 2011

Want to make some cuts? You could cut out the private sector

It was a while back; it was a Yr 7 Music class new to me; and it was after some difficult weeks that we got used to each other, and I think it was a shock on both sides, I had just arrived at a point in our discussion of the following morning's concert, in which we were to present our tunes. Whole class: steel pans, glocks, xylophones, hand percussion.

Well you can rehearse all you like in class; they rock, they dance; they laugh and joke; mostly they get the notes right; or if they make a mistake, they handle it; they forgive themselves and each other. But put these same 28 children in front of 100 of their peers, and suddenly they are rabbits in headlights.

So you practise it out; you practise going wrong; you practise handling not being perfect; and you discuss nerves and stage nerves. And there we were, on this Thursday afternoon, having one of those moments that makes teaching so special. Someone made a confession about nerves and mental health, and someone else had laughed, and the rest of the class was quiet and waiting, and I started on the 1 in 4 bit, and how it was common, even normal to have a breakdown; and then the technician walked in, and he had to sort out a computer on the other side of the room.

Obviously, I enquired did he have to do it right then, because I was teaching. Oh yes, he did have to do it right then. The class and I waited, a sort of suspended collective hope, but the technician sat down at the computer and the moment was lost.

I checked with another friend from a different PFI school, and this is how it works. School A in Leeds puts in a technician request for a computer to a central office in Reading, and when the Reading office okays the request the techician in the Leeds school has to go in and sort out the problem. Now what I think about this is to some extent unprintable. But what it demonstrates to me, and in spades [old-fashioned bridge term] is that PFI has no understanding of education, and, in particular the disjunct between the carers for the school building and the carers for the school children is bad news for education, and bad news for children. And once this unspeakable practice is more widely known, I hope it is bad news for the private ignorant and uncaring sector trying to nose its way into public education.

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