Sorry seems to be the hardest word

It could have been simpler. I mean, usually, you admit an error, apologise, make amends and then apologise again for good measure. Even if, whisper it, you don’t actually feel like apologising, you sometimes do it. In these cases, you can issue, what I like to call, a casual apology. This is similar to idiots who are often forced to apologise for a choice bit of casual racism or sexism; you know, where the person apologising doesn’t really see what everyone else is upset about but they realise that they might have to acknowledge the presence of upsetness in others. A racist, who has declared that they have an unexplainable problem with people who have ‘negroid features’ may wish to apologise, not for what they said, but for the offence their comments have, apparently, caused. The everyday sexist who is surprised that his ‘cuddly‘ nature is misinterpreted as opportunistic, inappropriate and unacceptable groping by the poor and undeserving pretty girls in his office, may, grudgingly, admit that he can see how his actions may have been misconstrued as deplorable and offer an apology, but, you know, they were different times.

Now, I’m not calling Nick Gibb or Nicky Morgan sexist or racist. I’m not. I’m just saying that they might want to learn a thing or two from recent sexists and racists. Or to be more accurate, take the advice that publicists and agents have given recent sexists and racists. So, to be clear, I am not calling Nick Gibb or Nicky Morgan sexists or racists. I’m just saying, maybe they should apologise like recently exposed sexists and/or racists.

Because, let’s be honest, they have made a mistake and they should really apologise. To be fair, we don’t know if they intentionally went out and made the mistake or if the mistake was made by the sheer magnitude of their incompetence. Either way, they’ve gone and done it and the world has been awaiting their apologetic volte-face ever since.

Not Nick Gibb and Nicky Morgan though. That isn’t their style. I mean there isn’t a paper towel absorbent enough to clean up the mess they’ve made over end of year assessments, but by jingo they’re committed to saving face. It’s like seeing a puppy sitting next to a hefty turd, steaming away and slowly melting into the carpet, looking up at its owner with an expression of pure innocence whilst wagging its tail. It’s almost like they’re proud to be racists or sexists, or puppies that have defecated all over my new rug, or, in their case, appalling bastions of education.

It hasn’t been a good year but most of us were cracking on with delivering a new curriculum hoping that, at the end of the year, any test would provide us with a fair reflection of our children’s levels of attainment. We were assured by the DfE that expectations would be similar to previous years’, give or take the odd exclamation mark. And then the news broke that the expectations were significantly higher than we had been led to believe. All over the land, educators were faced with a dilemma: to enable our children to make months’ worth of progress within a couple of weeks we must either begin hot-housing or begin building a time machine big enough for 60 kids.

I was half-way through fixing an electric cable between the local church roof and the school’s mini-bus’s flux-capacitor when I got an email from the NAHT saying that an ultimatum had been sent to the government to either recalibrate the expected standard or delay the date of data submission. Then I heard that all the major unions were going to meet up and discuss the possibility of suspending SATS. Online rationale and emotions rose; I put away my blue-prints for time-travel and I was suddenly filled with hope, as well as a sudden understanding of why I should never be the leader of a union.

The next morning, as I feverishly told my Year 6 teachers all about the union action, I felt certain that the ‘powers that be’ would come to their senses. They would issue a full and frank apology, sort it out and we’d all move on, the best of friends.

Not quite.

A concession has been made. And for that, I thank Nick and Nicky from the bottom of my heart. We now have a few more days to submit teacher assessments. If my teachers started ticking the boxes yesterday, we’ll just about make it.

But they have gone about it in the mealiest mouthed way imaginable.

First we get Gibb’s letter where he graciously tells us that he is ‘prepared’ to ‘relax’ the deadlines for ‘one year only’. What do you mean relax? I think you mean change. I think you mean that you will admit a lapse in judgement and move the deadlines to a more appropriate time that supports and respects the amount of time and effort we’ve put into your new curriculum and recent upping of the ante. Relax indeed. I bet there was a great deal of whooping and high-fiving when that word was hit upon during your multiple advisor led letter writing process. Yeah, don’t say ‘change’, it sounds too weak. Say ‘relax’ instead; that makes it sound like we’re in charge but, you know, we’re wearing slippers. Oh, and ‘for one year only’. Well thank you Gibb for being of the generous opinion that we’ll manage to grasp all of your subtle curriculum changes within the next twelve months. I think you’ll find we might have been alright with your original deadlines had you not moved the goalposts to sometime next academic year.

I was about to get onto the fact that you decided not to issue an apology, not even a pretend one like a good racist or sexist, but then along came Nicky Morgan’s hostage video.

Up against a black background, Nicky Morgan’s face emerged and she began talking to someone. I’m not sure who. It certainly wasn’t me but she seemed pretty sure that she knew them personally. She kept telling this person that they agreed with her. She kept telling them that they, like her, wanted to raise standards and that other people (I assume she meant people like me) were being disingenuous by thinking that they should follow the advice she had given us through the exemplification materials. She kept telling whoever she was talking to that this was scaremongering, as if she had only released the exemplification materials to weed people like me out. She assured us that schools should be able to prepare children for the tests by focussing on making sure each child reached their potential regardless of where the standard is set. At this point in the video her eyes go even wider as if to suggest that her internal monologue is screaming ‘But that doesn’t make any sense!’ You’re right Nicky’s internal monologue, it doesn’t. It doesn’t make sense that you can prepare a child to succeed in a test when no one knows what a good score in the test is. Sadly, although I know to you and your imaginary friend it sounds very worthy, getting a child to achieve their potential doesn’t provide any comfort because your recently released materials have invented a new level of potential that will be extraordinarily challenging for a lot of children to reach. Although, I am painfully aware, by your smugly written piece to camera, that any resistance to these higher standards will be judged as low expectations.

Again, like Mr Gibb, you offer not one jot of an apology. You make it sound like you are making concessions to mollify the troublemakers. You sound as if this was all rather tiresome and couldn’t we just crack on with getting eleven year olds to write like post graduates. How frustrating! (Sorry that use of an exclamation wouldn’t get me a point at KS1.) How frustrating that is! (Much better.)

It’s such a shame because saying sorry can really help mend relationships. Even some ex-sexists and/or ex-racists, whose new best friends are black and/or women, have said sorry and are now living happy and indiscriminate lives. It’s just a shame that neither Nick Gibb nor Nicky Morgan are interested in learning from their own mistakes. They seem more concerned with playing down their errors of judgement and ploughing their mistake deep into the ground. At what point, I wonder, will they cease and desist and stop hiding under a pretence of improving standards in favour of coming out and valuing the profession above anything else?


12 thoughts on “Sorry seems to be the hardest word

  1. julietgreen February 19, 2016 / 11:00 pm

    Spot on. Actually it’s like the puppy growls at you and bites your hand when you deign to point out the crap on the carpet.

  2. Gill Evans February 20, 2016 / 11:44 am

    A brilliant piece. This whole assessment ‘shenanigans’ I think is designed to teach teachers how to teach KS1 exclamations properly. The subtext of the Ms Morgan video is still ‘I don’t care’ and the ‘flappy hands’ obviously just a distraction.

    • Kate Keller February 20, 2016 / 12:29 pm

      They haven’t apologised because they have no idea about the consequences of this ill thought out curriculum and asssessment process which has been written and planned on the back of a fag packet. It is not fit for purpose.
      My poor year twos,this includes the children and staff.

  3. Susie February 20, 2016 / 4:37 pm

    This made me laugh out loud in a ‘If I don’t laugh I will cry and/or punch something’ kind of way. What on earth is wrong with our education system?

  4. bazzer February 20, 2016 / 6:12 pm

    Perfect post.

    As is said…”absolute power corrupts absulutely”

  5. suecowley February 20, 2016 / 8:35 pm

    That is a brilliant piece of writing. Totally spot on. Thank you.

  6. BekBlayton February 21, 2016 / 8:00 am

    Agree, agree agree. Where is the professionalism?

  7. fish64 February 21, 2016 / 8:08 pm

    “It doesn’t make sense that you can prepare a child to succeed in a test when no one knows what a good score in the test is.” I know we’re obsessed with so called success criteria these days, but isn’t Nicky Morgan trying to say that instead of encouraging children to pore over “success criteria”, teachers can start to focus on the content? Would that be such a bad thing?

  8. Andrew February 23, 2016 / 11:16 am

    The point is not that leaving levels behind is wrong, or that teaching content is not good. The point is the utter shambles they have made of the change. After years of being held accountable by OFSTED primarily through data, we now have no idea at all what the data might even BEGIN to say about us; and this two months before it will be too late. It takes a great leap of faith to feel confident that OFSTED have changed their tune.
    It feels far more like we are being stitched up.

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