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Thursday, 23 October 2014

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Focus on the little things

Buzz words are good – or at least they used to be. They’re cool. They make you sound clever, of the here and now, totally switched on... to mention but a few current buzzes.

andy rosecentral
School of hard knocks: Richard Rose Central has been put into special measures

But they are, of course, meaningless. Worse still, while carrying no benefit of clarity, they mask what is the central matter requiring attention. They’re a smokescreen.

Why else would every politician known to man, start every answer to every question with: “Let me be absolutely clear on this...” And then answer a different question altogether – unclearly.

They come and go – buzz words, not politicians, so don’t get excited. Blue sky thinking used to be a talent every imaginatively creative person wanted to have. Now so old hat, it’s more akin to daydreaming after suffering the affliction of too much strong liquor and not enough sleep.

Thinking outside the box is another buzz that’s long since had its day. Nobody knew what or where the box was and none could say whether, on reflection, inside the box might have been a better option.

Then there’s the bigger picture. We’re urged to see the bigger picture all the time – usually by people who want to prevent us from paying attention to worrying detail.

Bigger picture? No thanks. Not any more. I’ll stick with the little one that frames the life of me and mine.

Take, for instance, the truly disappointing return into special measures by Carlisle’s Richard Rose Central Academy, following another damning Ofsted inspection.

A great shame but we are asked to consider the bigger picture of a government hell-bent on fast-tracking the country’s education system into accepting academies and free schools in order to cut costs to the taxpayer.

We are asked to concentrate on the disruptive and troubled times of transition from dumbed-down exam results and poor class standards to achieving the learning advantages enjoyed by the rest of Europe and beyond. They need to be taken into account when schools fail to meet ambitions of adequacy. Get it?

Costs. They’re better spent on managers, rather than teachers and pupils. The bigger picture has a process, see? Keep both eyes focused on it. Like in hospitals, where managers, PFI mortgage agreements and systems in triplicate swallow up the money – and what’s left goes to wards and operating rooms.

No thanks. The smaller picture is sharper and in every way more relevant to the students of beleaguered schools and local health services.

And when pupils point to the local picture being badly drawn we should sit up and take notice. Those young people are our future.

Academy students are begging us to take notice. One told the News & Star yesterday that those people in charge of the failing Carlisle academy were jeopardising pupils’ futures.

He said: “I think some of my friends have had their futures put in jeopardy because of the school. The school has let them down.

“I believe my year has been particularly disadvantaged – if we had been at a steady school, with good foundations, then my year would have received better GCSE results. This would obviously set us up for better things in life.”

He went on: “When the school finds out it is getting an Ofsted inspection it totally changes – especially in how the teachers present their lessons.

“If Ofsted turned up at school on Monday morning with no prior arrangement, they would find that the school is much worse than (it had been) when they inspected in January – teachers actually have a lesson plan when Ofsted are in. When they are not they don’t.

“I don’t want to see other children end up in the same position we are in.”

That’s the distressing little picture. Painted from the inside, with no frills, no embellishments, no excuses laid at the doors of ministers’ politics, government policies, misunderstood managers’ systems.

And it’s a heartbreaking picture of young people missing out on their one chance of an education to equip them for the best life possible.

Keep the bigger picture for a dictionary of buzz words. Look at the little picture’s intensely local challenges and meet them head on – before it’s too late.

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