Saturday, 17 January 2015

People versus PFI. Why We Should All Care.

People formally joining campaigns usually do so because they feel so strongly about the issue that not to join the campaign would leave them feeling wanting. Thus, for me with Anti-Academies Alliance, and thus now with People versus PFI

As a travelling teacher and trainer of some years now, I have worked in many different school and college buildings. Before this I worked in one place, and only visited other buildings as a parent, an exam moderator, or as a school governor, not really in any of these cases experiencing the daily delights of staff room four storeys up from Reception, signing in with a hideous mugshot, holding my breath through the post-PE experience with a low ceiling, and the like.

steelband in the enclosed green space
At Foxwood School, Leeds, I taught English, PSE and Music, and when returning from maternity leave anything! This building was situated in the middle of a council estate, then an area of extreme poverty and deprivation. It was one of the first purpose-built comprehensives in the UK, four stories, plate glass everywhere, very light, could be very cold. The Music Room was the size and shape of a small social club, low stage with four practice rooms, large storage cupboards and office, all leading off central room, away from the rest of the school in between dining halls, so several beginners could attack drum-kits at any time of day without Maths going mental!

Deprived children often exhibited challenging behaviour and also got poor exam results, as the rest of city never failed to remind. And league tables closed it. Ofsted passed us at our first inspection but the council didn't expect that, and wrote "in view of failed inspection " blah blah blah in their "consultation" paper. 

Denis Healey visits Foxwood as Lower Building  becomes ELCTB
We were all successfully redeployed as we all had both our qualifications and our behaviour management experience, and I became a peripatetic teacher, at which point I became a connoisseur of good cupboards, well-placed staffrooms, good loading access for music departments, dining halls to accommodate all, and no-nonsense entrances (largely a thing of the past!)
musicians in hall
Of course, my points this: if you only teach in one well-designed and built building, you don't know what the rest of the world is like, you have only the hype to go on. Building New Schools for the future? Building New Slums, more like!

However, any criticism of a school building offends the managers, and affects their and the school's reputation, so campaigning as an active teacher is fraught with difficulties, Damaging a school's reputation damages the working lives of the universally wonderful, but already beleaguered 
UK teaching staff, I know we have to tread carefully across this minefield, but cross it we must, in order to save our children, both now and in the future from having their lives blighted by working in sub-standard premises.
random nice picture of Foxwood Steel Band celebrating arrival of  a famous sailing ship in Leeds

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