Less than a year ago I had to sit through a meeting with the Regional School’s Commissioner for the South West. During that meeting, the (then new) RSC, Rebecca Clark, challenged all the Heads in the room to try and think about how to deliberately improve schools. This was brilliant rhetoric because I, for one, had literally never done this. She explained that this was probably because I was a Local Authority Head. This made sense. I looked around the room at all the other LA Heads and I thought, do you know what Bex, you’re right, these guys are chumps. Take that LA Head over there, for example. She went into a school that was in special measures and had never achieved any decent outcomes for the children. I mean, yes, she turned it around and now it’s an outstanding school and one of the top performing schools in the city, but, obviously she didn’t plan that…it just sort of happened. Then, take this guy: his school only recently got ‘good’ and has only recently secured progress measures that any school in the country would be proud of. Coincidentally this all happened once he became Head but he didn’t mean for all that to happen, it’s just a happy accident.
The room was full of these LA clowns. Thank goodness Bex Clark was here to tell us how to do it right. And please don’t think that the RSC was just plugging away at the old Academy agenda. She wasn’t. She was very clear that it wasn’t her job to turn us all into academies. However, if she did her job well, then we would all be in a MAT within the next three years. But in no way was she just saying that MATs are the answer. It’s just that MATs are, you know, better.
They’re better because they are more strategic, more motivated, more cleverer, and more motivated to improve the lives of poor people. I remember that last bit especially. She talked about how LA schools had only cared about disadvantaged pupils when they were properly held accountable for them. When it had been purely down to us feeling a moral ‘purpose’ to help the disadvantaged families in our society things had been terrible for them, but now, through the pupil premium grant, we finally had moral ‘imperative’ and things were finally improving. I’m not sure why MATs feel this moral imperative more keenly than LA schools (with their independent admissions authority and ability to permanently exclude children with no apparent repercussions) but according to Bex, they do and that’s why MATs are better.
I was sold.
‘Sign me up, captain, my captain!’ I said as I stood on my chair and saluted the high priestess of the South West. ‘I want me a piece of that.’
So, imagine my surprise and disappointment when I learned yesterday that Rebecca Clark is stepping down from her role as RSC to become Ark’s regional director for secondary schools. You could have knocked…me…down…with…a…feather. A regional school commissioner leaving their sacred post to go and join a MAT? I think that now brings the tally to four. Four big beasts of the RSC office who have jumped off Big Dave Carter’s magic carpet ride (he prefers to call it his magic MAT ride but that doesn’t really make sense). But why have they abandoned
ship sorry, MAT?
I can only assume it is to do with the amount of moral imperative she was offered. So sensitive these ex-RSCs must be to the power of moral imperative, over moral purpose, that when faced with a truckload of imperative they cannot resist. I can only imagine how much more moral imperative Bex is feeling right now as she takes on her new role. Obviously, I don’t know. Maybe there is no more moral imperative for her at Ark. Maybe she’s taken a moral imperative cut and is going to be working with less moral imperative than when she was wrapped up in Dave’s
rug sorry, MAT. I don’t know. All I know is that she’s gone. She’s abandoned the South West and we must go on without her. How will we do this? I honestly don’t know. We’ll have to get our old moral compasses out and hope they still work. We just have to hope we can continue on our journey to MAT-enlightenment without Rebecca Clark lighting up the way with her moral imperative beacon.
I wonder who will replace her? I wonder who Dave has in mind. I’ve got an idea. It’s a really good one even though it’s borne out of the deep frustration that I will have to soon listen to another tediously weak message from the new RSC about their role in the South West’s education community. I’m not sure I could listen to another speech about how MATs are the ‘answer’ from a person who is likely to sod off the minute a more grandiose offer from an academy chain pops up. It’s enough to make me want to swear, and I’d hate to upset David Didau.
So, my recommendation is for David Carter to employ Siri. She’s a strong voice. She’s portable. She can stay on message. She can repeat that message ad nauseam. She doesn’t react when people get cross with her. She won’t hand in her resignation a year into the job.
More importantly, we can all press mute.