I’m still a board member at the local high school where I was a governor for 18 years and today was the Trustees’ AGM, so I duly trotted along – and it was so nice to see everyone and I do still feel part of the place. I notice, when talking about it (which I don’t think I do all that often) I still say ‘we.”
After that – I had to leave before the end as I was running late – I scooted over to fetch my elderly friends in the town 9 miles away before heading to Norwich for lunch. They were waiting patiently in the hall. I’m very fond of them both – L is 90 and her sister J is 94. Some years ago, J had a hip replacement but, when they started the operation, they discovered an infection in the bone and she had to be in traction, without a hip bone, for three months while she healed before they could complete the operation. if that were not hideous enough, they gave her a powerful antibiotic and it made her feel dizzy after the first couple of doses. She reported this and the side effects were checked. It had actually seriously damaged her balance, permanently and she’s had to use crutches ever since. So, though it’s in the wrong direction and they could take a bus and a taxi, going to pick them up seems the least I can do to help.
When I sat down randomly (we pick random numbers and sit in the place allocated) I was next to my friend Rosemary, who was nice enough to look delighted and say that I told such entertaining stories about my life. And we did chat very enthusiastically, because she’s a lot of fun and holds a very good conversation. And then, with my other neighbour, the subject somehow got on to schools, though I’d said nothing on the subject, and she (other neighbour) wondered why being strapped for cash made any difference, surely it’s the quality of the teaching that counts far more. And so it does, but there’s a point when efficiency savings become real cuts, I said. And she wanted examples.
Hah. She got them. For a start, I mentioned class sizes. One of the other people on the table was the widow of an independent school headmaster, so she nodded at what I said there. I also mentioned the amount of data recording that is expected nowadays. Why couldn’t a clerical member of staff do that? Well, they could but they still need to be given the information and have the training and knowledge to use it, and the teacher has to correlate and record the information whether they then information-crunch or not. And then it turned out that Rosemary’s daughter teaches in a London borough that had such an improvement, a few years ago, that they started giving training session on the subject – and she had done the videos for that very training. I explained that teachers of provincial schools were disheartened when it turned out that the per-pupil funding was treble what they were getting. They simply couldn’t afford all the things that had led to the improvement. Also, because I was getting into my stride by now, it is actually very time-consuming and not at all easy – quite rightly – to prove a teacher is under-performing longterm. I don’t think I lectured, but I was fairly vivid, I suppose. Just for a few minutes, we got on to another subject quite soon.
At the end, Rosemary called me a breath of fresh air. Which is a lot kinder than I deserve, but very sweet of her. I am not, it seems, averse to a bit of flattery once in a while. Which clearly says nothing good about me at all!