Season’s greetings from the DfE


Dear [insert name],

Season’s greetings!

I’m sure, like us, you can hardly believe it’s that time of year again. It seems like only yesterday we were packing away the tinsel and departmental standard-issue baubles, each glittering round globe depicting a past secretary of state for education. (We were certain our Gove bauble got smashed last year and yet when we opened the box there he was, all shiny faced, winking at us, begging to be put back on the tree.)

But here we are! Another year has passed and what a year it’s been. So much has happened, we thought that we’d send out a helpful round robin letter to keep you all ‘abreast’ with our news.

I suppose the big bombshell is that Nicky Morgan left us. This, we’ll be honest, knocked us for six. I mean, one morning she was with us, sat at the breakfast table laughing away about her white paper, then, that same day, she didn’t come home for tea. No warning. No phone call. No text. She just never came home. We rang her civil servants, her colleagues – we even rang her friend – but no one knew where she’d gone. It was almost as if she’d been the victim of a massive loss in confidence and had been told that the only decent thing she could do was to pack her bags and leave. But that doesn’t sound like the Nicky we knew. She was barely aware of anything! We finally gave up looking for her when we saw that she’d left our WhatsApp group.

We tried being single for a bit. We thought that – after Nicky – we’d need a bit of time to adjust. Maybe go through her ridiculous white paper and take out all the bits that were a) mad, b) undoable, c) mad and undoable. We were halfway through this, quite frankly massive, task (seriously, we had hacked the whole white paper down to a single post-it note by the end) when Mummy May suggested we go on a blind date. Now, this isn’t the sort of thing we normally do but we thought, hey, it’s 2016! Plus, Mummy May said that if we didn’t then we’d have to go on Tinder and we couldn’t risk another chance encounter with Gove again.

We met Justine at a Côte brasserie (Justine said that post-Brexit, ministers were only allowed to eat in foreign restaurants to show the public that the government was committed to make ‘it’ work. They were all fine with this, except for Boris, who insisted on only eating at Toby Inns, where he has a special arrangement that gets him access to an English carvery any time, day or night.) It was a quiet night. Justine seemed more interested in the breakdown of the bill, and trying to work out the gratuity to the nearest penny, but, just as we were about to go home, she leant over and asked if she could come back for coffee. We’ve been inseparable ever since.

And the exciting news…

We’re expecting…a new grammar school!

It’s early days, we haven’t had the scan or planning permission yet, but we’ve decided it’s what we want. I originally said just the one but Justine, she wants loads! (That’s so Justine, she’s bonkers!) We’re not sure how we’re going to afford it or whether it’s the right time ‘politically’ but, as Justine said, when is it ever going to be the perfect time? We might as well just go with our heart, cross our fingers and squeeze out as many grammar schools as we can.

Not everyone is pleased for us. Uncle Wilshaw has bored everyone with his views on the matter. He was on Radio 4 the other day, sending the nation to sleep at the wheel, saying that he thinks the idea that grammar schools will help the nation’s paupers is ‘tosh’.  Justine was really funny and said that he had watched ‘I, Daniel Blake’ too many times and that he was soooo out of touch. As if a return to selective education would mean that poor or challenging or socially disadvantaged or needy children wouldn’t be selected. I mean, hello, we’re in the 21st century. And anyway, Justine said that she would make sure that the word ‘inclusive’ was written into the name of the school and that that would sort it. Still, Uncle Wilshaw’s going away soon, leaving us with Aunty Amanda, who hasn’t even been to school, so we should be fine.

In other news, our extended family of School Commissioners continue to do well. Our cousin, David (or Big Dave as he likes to be called) has been doing a lot of running, as those of you on social media will likely be aware. In between runs he’s also found time to raise several new Regional School Commissioners and they are all doing marvellously at big school. They can’t all run as well as Big Dave but they can talk about MATs until the cows come home, or should that be until Big Dave runs home. Bless them, they were all so fired up when our ex promised them that every school will be part of a MAT by the time Article 50 was triggered. The looks on their faces when Justine pulled the rug from under their feet. Priceless. But they continue to tour the country talking as though MATs are the best thing since, well, grammar schools. And we continue to be very proud of them.

Some sad news now though, friends. Grandpa Gibb is still in recovery after his little SATs meltdown earlier in the year. The pressure of inventing new tests and having them leaked all over the internet really took its toll on old GG. He put on a brave face and muddled through it as best he could, but, between you and me, he still finds the whole affair rather embarrassing. Especially when he found out that the boys down at the DfE had played a little prank in the reading paper and had inserted a story about a white giraffe written by Oswald Mosley.

That’s about it really. Oh, our brother Sean is still ‘off grid’ trying to save the world of Ofsted single-handedly, but he texted us last night to send you his love. And Mummy May rang to say that you could look forward to hearing from her later when she’ll tell you why you didn’t receive any money or gift vouchers from her this Christmas. (Word to the wise, don’t mention the word deficit. She’ll go nuts!)

That just leaves us enough time to say, well done you, on all your hard work this year and all the best for the year ahead.

Good luck with grappling with your data and supporting your SEND kids with bugger all money and retaining staff who are working themselves to an early grave and employing staff who haven’t had so much as a sniff of experience of teaching before filling out the application form and trying to fend off academisation and petitioning against the grammar that’s opening down the road and planning for a deficit budget and taking on all the ills of society because you’re the only ones people expect to have responsibility for everything even though you haven’t the time nor the money to do anything but teach mastery (whatever that is) or frontal adverbials (whatever they are) and trying to get through the next Ofsted (because that’s all that matters) without having a massive stroke in the process.

We have every faith that you’ll do marvellously.

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.


The DfE

Top Ten Reasons To Hate Christmas!


Christmas is coming.

The head is getting fat.

Please put a penny in the old Bursar’s hat.

(Unless it’s pupil premium money in which case put it in this one to one tuition sack here or PE funding in which case put it in the ‘Olympic Legacy’ pot which currently has been used to buy some more hoops for playtime and free swimming goggles for the under-fives)

Ah Christmas…the most wonderful time of the year unless you happen work in schools. Please allow me to present theprimaryhead top ten reasons why I hate Christmas.

1. T2 OTT

I imagine that when Jesus was born primary schools up and down the UK gave this event nothing more than an acknowledgement. There may have been an assembly or a bit in the newsletter to wish the school Christians a happy holiday. But somewhere along the line Christmas became a BIG deal. And I know who to blame: Head Teachers. They must have all started going to local heads cluster meetings and started sharing what they were doing in their schools to celebrate the Christmas season.

‘We sing carols to the parents in the evening’ (ooh that’s nice I might get my school to do that.)

‘We have a Christmas Fair on a Saturday’ (Christmas Fair? I like the sound of that.)

‘We make Christmas cards and then sell them’ (Sell Christmas cards: got it!)

Gradually every Head started taking on board everyone else’s ideas but there was one tiny problem: they didn’t stop doing all the other things as well. So now every school tries to do every conceivable Christmas activity you can possibly think of and what’s worse: they try to cram it into the last five days of term. And what does this teach us about Christmas? Head Teachers are idiots!

2. Term 2 Data Progress Meetings

Or as they’re more commonly known the ‘if ofsted arrive the first week in term 3 and ask to see the most update picture of achievement across the school then we’re literally screwed’ progress meetings.  Every year I think the same: why am I doing this? Why am I having conversations about pupils that have seemingly made no progress or as teachers like to say ‘well they’ve made progress but not enough for me to feel comfortable saying they’ve made progress on paper’. It’s not the teachers’ fault, I mean I’m, the schmuck who insisted that this year’s Christmas performance was going to be the best ever resulting in rehearsals beginning late October.

3. The Staff Room

Normally a haven for professional conversation and a place where colleagues support each other through the turbulent times of a life in education: during December the school staff room resembles some kind of weird Willy Wonka Factory Outlet. The table groans with tins of sweets, mince pies, candy canes and chocolate logs. All presented with a post-it note saying ‘thought we all needed a pick-me-up.’ And like obedient chubby gazelles we graze on the festive feast of crap until we can barely waddle back to class without developing type 2 diabetes. The only thing worse than the December staff room table: is the January staff room table; where everyone brings in the food they couldn’t bear to even look at over the holidays. It normally takes until March before the last mince pie and festive twiglets have disappeared…and then the Easter pick-me-ups arrive!

4. Christmas Lunch

When Nick Clegg woke up in the middle of night at the foot of Cameron’s bed and casually suggested that all primary pupils should receive free school meals it was quite clearly he had never experienced a school’s Christmas lunch. It is the most cruelly intense lunch hour that exists in modern society. 400 pupils all demanding a sit down meal served by the teachers who despite having taken the lunch register for 14 weeks apparently have no idea who is a vegan and who needs halal meat. After 45 minutes you survey the landscape: gravy literally everywhere, a child crying because they didn’t get fed whilst Toby from Year 3 managed to eat five meals. And then you spot the strict vegetarian with a sausage sticking out of her mouth and all you can think is ‘Well at least it’s only one lunchtime’ Thanks Clegg.

5. Christmas Rehearsals

I’ve tried every tactic: give them loads of time before the performance  date so they’ll know all their lines; give them next to no time so they just crack on and the performance is ‘fresh’; no performance just quality singing. No matter what there comes a point during every rehearsal where the Head has to grumpily moan to all the children (in that public way that really means they’re moaning at staff) that the singing is rubbish, they are coming on the stage too slowly, they’re leaving the stage too quickly, they’re lining up too noisily, they don’t know their lines , they don’t know in what order they need to be in: it’s a disgrace! AND FOR GOODNESS SAKE SMILE: IT’S BLOODY CHRISTMAS!

6. Christmas Performance

Given the high emotions on performance night and the heart palpitations you are suffering before curtains: you can’t help but thinking that this must be something more than a nativity. Children don’t turn up for the evening performance, all the Reception parents bugger off after scene one, you find out that the Year 6 pupils are watching ‘Saw III’ on their ipad and the parents aren’t laughing in the right places. Camera flashes are going off despite your clear safeguarding notice at the start and at the end you realise that you’ve totally forgotten to thank the one staff member who held it all together even though that meant their class making negative progress in writing. Next year we’ll do it differently.

7. The Christmas Fair

Having to spend the one Saturday you could have spent Christmas shopping wandering around your school hoping that nothing gets broken whilst children that normally respect you and follow your every command run past you spilling Ribena into the fish tank. The awkward moment when you’ve got to shut down the mulled wine stand because the caretaker and lady who runs the Y5 netball team are becoming embarrassingly familiar on the adventure playground. And finally being told that the last Head always dressed up as Santa and sang Jingle Bells over the PA to end the Fair.

8. The Staff Party

Never does your body try to convince you that you are too tired to go out more than when you are trying to get ready for the staff party. But nevertheless you muster up the strength to iron your pair of jeans and meet your team for the staff Christmas Do. You spend the night determined not to talk about school, determined not to get drunk and definitely determined not to dance. Three hours later you are chugging back Aftershock shots with the NQT, arguing about PRP with the school NUT rep, and twerking the soon to be retired Mrs Armitage to Slade’s Merry Christmas. AS you wait for a cab in the rain you catch your reflection in the Yate’s Wine Lodge window and vow: never again.

9. The Last Day

Oh this is the worst. It’s like waiting for Godot: Pacing up and down the corridors waiting for the bell to ring. Endless bored children getting sent to your office because they’ve broken some cheap toy another kid brought in for toy day. At the end of the day you watch all your teachers struggle to get all their many presents into their cars (no need to actually buy any wine this year, ho ho ho!) and all you got was a card with your name spelt wrong and box of whiskey liqueurs.

10. The holiday itself

The worst thing about Christmas is the actual holiday itself .Due to the fact that the minute you lock up the school and sigh a big sigh of relief knowing that two weeks of bliss are coming your way: your immune system decides it’s time for a holiday. Consequently your festive break is totally forgettable as you are pretty much off your festive tree the entire time on lemsip and nightnurse. It’s only when you start to feel human again and think that a mince pie and sherry might just hit the spot that you realise tomorrow is the start of Term 3.

Happy Christmas!