Ooh I was terribly excited. Being invited to the DfE to discuss…well something educational I guess. I didn’t really know anything about it. Who was going? Why had I been invited? What was the purpose? What on earth could I contribute? Would lunch be provided?
The night before I got a DM from Tim Taylor saying that some of the other invited Twitter folks were meeting up in a pub beforehand and would I like to join. Would I? You bet – this was starting to sound like a right old jolly. In the morning I made my sandwiches and went to the train station, picked up my tickets (69 quid that I was told I could claim on DfE expenses – this is the bloody life I thought) and soon I was sat on the train zooming to London.
On the way, I thought I should probably brush up on the National Curriculum, so I read that for a bit. Then I got bored and ate my sandwiches. Pulling into Paddington I skipped to the underground and got to Westminster. By this time I was running very late to meet the gang in the pub but I googled the address anyway. I arrived just in time to shake hands with @imagineinquiry, @cherrylkd, @debrakidd and @educationbear; grab a soda and lime (75p…come on London, behave!) before I was back out the door walking towards Sanctuary Buildings.
Upon arrival we were ushered in to the DfE waiting lounge, where @emmaannhardy and @heymisssmith were also waiting. Luckily it seemed that none of us had any clue what this meeting with the DfE minister and policy men was about and when @thought_weavers completed our group and also said they weren’t sure what to expect we were badged up, crammed into a lift and were soon sitting around a table. There was no lunch but there was a tray of cookies. I positioned myself next to those and thought, well if nothing else, I’ll probably eat more cookies than anyone else so it won’t be a day completely wasted.
From the DfE we were met by Vince Jacob (and later) Jim Magee who as far as we were concerned actually wrote the national curriculum word for word (they seemed quite intent on confirming and then denying this in equal measure…I think they did). There was also Caroline Barker who was solely (well as far as we were concerned) responsible for the abolishment of levels. We chatted about implementing the new curriculum, assessing without levels, our own thoughts and experiences of educating in the current climate. Then, in a whirlwind of mobiles and whispering assistants Elizabeth Truss MP joined, left and came back again. While she was there we repeated stuff that we’d already said, explained what differentiation was, I very nearly got her to answer a very important question that I had come up with but she had to leave to go and vote on something. I tried to get her assistant to vote for her but, as you would expect from a committed MP, she did her duty – albeit by promptly leaving the meeting she had presumably set up in the first place.
When she came back from her vote – a distraction to the group that I used to my advantage by swiping another biscuit – it was getting near my return train time. So it was my turn to say that I was very sorry but I had to leave and go and vote on something back in Bristol. She can’t have heard otherwise I’m sure she would have laughed. I flew out of DfE – oh thanks to Cait Mellow, who I think had been the person who set it up as she is in charge of the DfE social media team leader, and pointed me in the direction of the nearest Tube. I missed my train as it turned out. I couldn’t get on the actual next train because that was a ‘peak time’ train and my ticket was not valid. I asked if I could pay the difference and was told that to pay the difference between my original ticket and a peak time ticket would cost £128 but if I bought a new peak time ticket it would cost me £96. I failed to see how this was mathematically possible but I really wanted to go home. Two things popped into my head at that moment: the first was I hoped that the DfE expenses claim form would cover this unexpected additional cost to my day out and secondly, I thought maybe the incredibly prescribed maths curriculum wouldn’t be a bad idea and could someone give a copy to the ministry of transport.