Friday, 6 August 2010

Feline conduct, Free Schools and the Football League

When a tomcat arrives in a new territory, he walks round and sprays the boundary. The result probably smells familiar and comfortable to him, though to the rest of us it’s pretty vile.

New governments behave in the same way. In their case, they mark their authority with a series of bright new initiatives establishing how innovative and clever they are. Our nice new government here in Britain has come up with several of these, one of which is the introduction of ‘free schools’.

Depending on your point of view, these are schools that are being freed from the dead hand of bureaucracy applied by local government, to be run instead by groups who really care about education, like parents or teachers. Alternatively, they’re schools that are being removed from the control of elected local representatives working for the good of the entire community, and handed over to groups of individuals answerable to no-one and working to their own agendas.

Interesting the effect of including or excluding the word 'elected', isn't it?

The reality is that the free schools will be both of those things, but which you choose to emphasise marks pretty clearly where you stand in the political spectrum.

Now the most fascinating recent development on this front has been the announcement that the English Football League wants to run a number of these schools. It's my firm aim to avoid cynicism, so don't expect any cheap crack from me about the remedial effect that going back to school might have on the level of intellectual attainment of some of our footballers.

No, the League is thinking of running schools in which tomorrow’s footballers would be trained. Again, I’m not going to pass comment on whether there is anything to be done for today’s. Instead let’s concentrate on the central question of whether the Football League is a fit organisation to run schools at all.

I’ve thought about this deeply. It occurs to me that it is an inescapable fact of our schools today that they measure children against fixed standards. Some will succeed, some will fail. Inevitably therefore success and failure – the same impostor, as Kipling wrote – are built into the fabric of our schools.

As the England football team in South Africa recently showed, the League is clearly well acquainted with one of those two terrible alternatives. Who knows: they may be dimly aware of what the other one feels like. So maybe they have what it takes to run schools.

Whether the outcome of all this will be fragrant or pungent has yet to be seen. It will probably depend on our individual point of view in any case: are we tomcats invigorated by the scent of spray or are we exasperated pet owners deciding that it may be time to cut someone’s balls off?

1 comment:

Awoogamuffin said...

Yes, it's very strange.

Are these parents who will run the schools the same parents who are neglecting their children leading to an epidemic of violent youths?