So. Farewell Then, Contenders …

Written after Michael Gove’s elimination from the Conservative leadership contest in July 2016.
(See also So farewell, Mr Gove … , written after Mr Gove’s departure from the DfE in July 2014)
So. Farewell
Then –
Michael Andrew Gove
We didn’t ever call you by
Your middle name
And most of the time
Not even by your first name.
Sometimes,
there wasn’t even
A Mr.

But at least
We all knew who you were.
Farewell too, Andrea Leadsom  …

Shena Thribb 60

Goveisgone

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Mendacity: the Mystery Facts

From Old Possum’s Book of Political Gaffes

Evidence: the pudding’s proof – at decision-making’s core,
In criminal investigations, it’s what underpins the law.
To the bafflement of voting folk, the electorate’s despair,
When Brexit claims are scrutinised – the evidence’s not there!

Mendacity, mendacity, this looks like base mendacity,
There never were campaigns of such deception and depravity.
The degree of obfuscation made even Evan Davis stare,
Now Brexit claims are scrutinised – the evidence’s not there!

You may seek it in the tabloids, you may look into the air –
But I tell you once and once again, the evidence’s not there!

Boris led the Leave campaign, said the country had to choose.
But he’s not a man you recognise, when you see him on the news.
He’s looking far more serious, now the pigeons have come home;
His brow is deeply lined with thought, his blond locks need a comb.
He sways his head from side to side, with movements like a snake;
And though you think he’s half asleep, in truth he’s wide awake.

Take Michael Gove, a minister who scorns the experts’ view.
Now, he’s a chap with previous form, who may or not speak true.
He denounced the EU budget, claimed the funding was unfair,
But now the truth’s discovered, and the evidence’s not there!

He’s outwardly respectable (but friends should watch their backs)
And he’s seemingly impervious to kryptonite attacks.
But now the vote’s been taken and the ballot outcome’s known
At least the electoral process puts him back under his stone.
Who could have been selected to lead the Brexit plan?
Ay, there’s the wonder of the thing! Gove might just have been that man!

So the Tory Party select their leader – Theresa May
(Her rival Andrea Leadsom having fallen by the way).
There may still be calls for re-runs of the referendum vote
But it’s useless to expect too much – I think we’ve missed that boat!
To steady the economy, the new PM won’t say
That she needs to keep George Osborne, so he’s a mile away.
You’ll be sure to find him resting, or a-licking of his thumb;
Or engaged in doing complicated Brexit-busting sums.

Mendacity, mendacity, there’s been too much mendacity,
There never were campaigns of such deception and depravity.
Retractions and clarifications, and one or two to spare:
But for far too many assertions – the evidence wasn’t there!

And they say that British Values are the fundamental core
(I might mention Faith Acceptance, I might mention Rule of Law)
But there’s something else important – being honest, being just.
We need some politicians we can absolutely trust ….

……

 

NB For interest, have a look at this House of Commons Committee taking evidence on the costs and benefits of EU membership : http://data.parliament.uk/writtenevidence/committeeevidence.svc/evidencedocument/treasury-committee/the-economic-and-financial-costs-and-benefits-of-uks-eu-membership/oral/32135.html

Based on TS Eliot’s:

Macavity: The Mystery Cat

 

Macavity’s a Mystery Cat: he’s called the Hidden Paw—

For he’s the master criminal who can defy the Law.

He’s the bafflement of Scotland Yard, the Flying Squad’s despair:

For when they reach the scene of crime—Macavity’s not there!

 

Macavity, Macavity, there’s no one like Macavity,

He’s broken every human law, he breaks the law of gravity.

His powers of levitation would make a fakir stare,

And when you reach the scene of crime—Macavity’s not there!

You may seek him in the basement, you may look up in the air—

But I tell you once and once again, Macavity’s not there!

 

Macavity’s a ginger cat, he’s very tall and thin;

You would know him if you saw him, for his eyes are sunken in.

His brow is deeply lined with thought, his head is highly domed;

His coat is dusty from neglect, his whiskers are uncombed.

He sways his head from side to side, with movements like a snake;

And when you think he’s half asleep, he’s always wide awake.

 

Macavity, Macavity, there’s no one like Macavity,

For he’s a fiend in feline shape, a monster of depravity.

You may meet him in a by-street, you may see him in the square—

But when a crime’s discovered, then Macavity’s not there!

 

He’s outwardly respectable. (They say he cheats at cards.)

And his footprints are not found in any file of Scotland Yard’s

And when the larder’s looted, or the jewel-case is rifled,

Or when the milk is missing, or another Peke’s been stifled,

Or the greenhouse glass is broken, and the trellis past repair

Ay, there’s the wonder of the thing! Macavity’s not there!

 

And when the Foreign Office find a Treaty’s gone astray,

Or the Admiralty lose some plans and drawings by the way,

There may be a scrap of paper in the hall or on the stair—

But it’s useless to investigate—Macavity’s not there!

And when the loss has been disclosed, the Secret Service say:

It must have been Macavity!’—but he’s a mile away.

You’ll be sure to find him resting, or a-licking of his thumb;

Or engaged in doing complicated long division sums.

 

Macavity, Macavity, there’s no one like Macavity,

There never was a Cat of such deceitfulness and suavity.

He always has an alibi, and one or two to spare:

At whatever time the deed took place—MACAVITY WASN’T THERE!

And they say that all the Cats whose wicked deeds are widely known

(I might mention Mungojerrie, I might mention Griddlebone)

Are nothing more than agents for the Cat who all the time

Just controls their operations: the Napoleon of Crime!

            T.S. Eliot

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The Song of Sayonara

by Clerkie Wadsworth Longfellow

Part XXII: Clerk to Governors’ Departure

By the River Itchen’s exit,
By the Solent’s Big-Sea-Water,
At the doorway of retirement,
In the pleasant summer morning,
Clerk to Governors stood and waited.
All the air was full of freshness,
All the earth was bright and joyous,
And before her, through the sunshine,
Rose the prospect of a new life.

From the brow of Clerk to Governors
Gone was every trace of worry,
As the fog lifts off the water,
As the mist lifts off the meadow.
With a smile of joy and triumph,
With a look of exultation,
As of one who in a vision
Sees the future, rosy, gleaming,
Stood and waited Clerk to Governors.

Toward the sun her hands were lifted,
Both the palms spread out against it,
And between the parted fingers
Fell the sunshine on her features.

Through the ether, floating, flying,
Somewhere in the hazy distance,
Something in the mists of morning,
Loomed and lifted from the ether,
Now seemed floating, now seemed flying,
Coming nearer, nearer, nearer.

Was it yet another update?
Ofsted guides about Good Practice –
Governance facts for HMI?
Or the DfE consulting,
How in future they propose to
Make the clerk their GB contact?
Or a new scheme for induction,
Laws to make it mandatory,
With the content specified, so
All new governors know the basics?

It was neither law nor content,
Neither DfE nor Ofsted.
Through the ether floating, flying,
Through the shining mist of morning –
‘Twas the date for her departure!

So the happy Clerk to Governors,
With her hands aloft extended,
Held aloft in sign of gladness,
Waited, full of exultation,
Till the time for her retirement
Came at last into the summer,
When the count-down days were ended.

Then the joyous Clerk to Governors
Bade farewell to all subscribers,
“I am going, O my people,
On a long and distant journey.
But my blog I leave behind me;
Listen to its words of wisdom,
Listen to the truth it tells you,
For another soon will host it,
Bringing their own knowledge to it.”

sayonara1-1

On the deck stood Clerk to Governors,
Turned and waved her hand at parting,
On the dark Southampton water.
Listened to the call, “We’re sailing …”
And she whispered, “Westward, westward!”
Then at last the ship went forward,
And the evening sun descending
Set the clouds on fire with redness,
Burned the broad sky, o’er Southampton.

Westward, westward, Clerk to Governors
Sailed into the fiery sunset,
Sailed into the purple vapours,
Sailed into the dusk of evening,
Sailed towards the north Atlantic …

sayonara3-1

And the people whom she skyped to
Watched her raise a glass towards them,
Till the signal started waning,
Intermittent, slowly fading,
Fading in the purple distance.
And they said, “Farewell forever!”
Said, “Farewell, and Sayonara!”

And her chums, the twitterati,
Moved to secret depths of envy,
DM’d, “Farewell, Sayonara!”

(Goodbye, all you lovely people –
No more Sunday #UKGovChat,
Naureen, Jo and Steve etc,
Many others I could mention,
Such as naughty Bad School Guvnor,
All the kitten-picture-peddlars …)

And subscribers to the website,
Who’d had updates by the dozen,
Sighed, “Farewell, and Sayonara!”

And the online DfE folk
Who’d responded to her queries,
Murmured, “Farewell, Sayonara!”

(Thank you, Steve, and all your colleagues)

And the Modern Governor units
(Yes, she wrote that one on clerking)
Breathed, “Farewell, and Sayonara!”

(Purple people? Thank you, Ian!)

And the clerks who’d done the training
In Penrith and in Alsager,
Cried, “Farewell, and Sayonara!”

(Well done, all who’ve reached the end point)

And the girls in Delamere House
(Cheshire East’s school governance office)
Waved, “Farewell, and Sayonara!”

(Thank you, Sandy, Rach, Elisa)

And the ones who’d taught her governance,
Been her constant inspiration,
Said, “Farewell, and Sayonara!”

(Goodbye, Ruth, Cherrie and Andy!)

 Thus departed Clerk to Governors,
@ClerktoGovernor, Bard and Blogger,
In the glory of the sunset,
In the purple mists of evening,
To the places often dreamt of,
Far from England’s murky waters,
To the Islands of the South Seas,
Out of reach of Edu-matters,
To the Land of the Hereafter!

 

dusk

sayonara3-1

…………………..

Based on: The Song of Hiawatha  by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

Part XXII: Hiawatha’s Departure

By the shore of Gitche Gumee,
By the shining Big-Sea-Water,
At the doorway of his wigwam,
In the pleasant Summer morning,
Hiawatha stood and waited.
All the air was full of freshness,
All the earth was bright and joyous,
And before him, through the sunshine,
Westward toward the neighboring forest
Passed in golden swarms the Ahmo,
Passed the bees, the honey-makers,
Burning, singing In the sunshine.
Bright above him shone the heavens,

Level spread the lake before him;

From its bosom leaped the sturgeon,

Sparkling, flashing in the sunshine;

On its margin the great forest

Stood reflected in the water,

Every tree-top had its shadow,

Motionless beneath the water.

From the brow of Hiawatha

Gone was every trace of sorrow,

As the fog from off the water,

As the mist from off the meadow.

With a smile of joy and triumph,

With a look of exultation,

As of one who in a vision

Sees what is to be, but is not,

Stood and waited Hiawatha.

Toward the sun his hands were lifted,

Both the palms spread out against it,

And between the parted fingers

Fell the sunshine on his features,

Flecked with light his naked shoulders,

As it falls and flecks an oak-tree

Through the rifted leaves and branches.

O’er the water floating, flying,

Something in the hazy distance,

Something in the mists of morning,

Loomed and lifted from the water,

Now seemed floating, now seemed flying,

Coming nearer, nearer, nearer.

Was it Shingebis the diver?

Or the pelican, the Shada?

Or the heron, the Shuh-shuh-gah?

Or the white goose, Waw-be-wawa,

With the water dripping, flashing,

From its glossy neck and feathers?

It was neither goose nor diver,

Neither pelican nor heron,

O’er the water floating, flying,

Through the shining mist of morning,

But a birch canoe with paddles,

Rising, sinking on the water,

Dripping, flashing in the sunshine;

And within it came a people

From the distant land of Wabun,

From the farthest realms of morning

Came the Black-Robe chief, the Prophet,

He the Priest of Prayer, the Pale-face,

With his guides and his companions.

And the noble Hiawatha,

With his hands aloft extended,

Held aloft in sign of welcome,

Waited, full of exultation,

Till the birch canoe with paddles

Grated on the shining pebbles,

Stranded on the sandy margin,

Till the Black-Robe chief, the Pale-face,

With the cross upon his bosom,

Landed on the sandy margin.

Then the joyous Hiawatha

Cried aloud and spake in this wise:

“Beautiful is the sun, O strangers,

When you come so far to see us!

All our town in peace awaits you,

All our doors stand open for you;

You shall enter all our wigwams,

For the heart’s right hand we give you.

“Never bloomed the earth so gayly,

Never shone the sun so brightly,

As to-day they shine and blossom

When you come so far to see us!

Never was our lake so tranquil,

Nor so free from rocks, and sand-bars;

For your birch canoe in passing

Has removed both rock and sand-bar.

“Never before had our tobacco

Such a sweet and pleasant flavor,

Never the broad leaves of our cornfields

Were so beautiful to look on,

As they seem to us this morning,

When you come so far to see us!’

And the Black-Robe chief made answer,

Stammered In his speech a little,

Speaking words yet unfamiliar:

“Peace be with you, Hiawatha,

Peace be with you and your people,

Peace of prayer, and peace of pardon,

Peace of Christ, and joy of Mary!”

Then the generous Hiawatha

Led the strangers to his wigwam,

Seated them on skins of bison,

Seated them on skins of ermine,

And the careful old Nokomis

Brought them food in bowls of basswood,

Water brought in birchen dippers,

And the calumet, the peace-pipe,

Filled and lighted for their smoking.

All the old men of the village,

All the warriors of the nation,

All the Jossakeeds, the Prophets,

The magicians, the Wabenos,

And the Medicine-men, the Medas,

Came to bid the strangers welcome;

“It is well”, they said, “O brothers,

That you come so far to see us!”

In a circle round the doorway,

With their pipes they sat In silence,

Waiting to behold the strangers,

Waiting to receive their message;

Till the Black-Robe chief, the Pale-face,

From the wigwam came to greet them,

Stammering in his speech a little,

Speaking words yet unfamiliar;

“It Is well,” they said, “O brother,

That you come so far to see us!”

Then the Black-Robe chief, the Prophet,

Told his message to the people,

Told the purport of his mission,

Told them of the Virgin Mary,

And her blessed Son, the Saviour,

How in distant lands and ages

He had lived on earth as we do;

How he fasted, prayed, and labored;

How the Jews, the tribe accursed,

Mocked him, scourged him, crucified him;

How he rose from where they laid him,

Walked again with his disciples,

And ascended into heaven.

And the chiefs made answer, saying:

“We have listened to your message,

We have heard your words of wisdom,

We will think on what you tell us.

It is well for us, O brothers,

That you come so far to see us!”

Then they rose up and departed

Each one homeward to his wigwam,

To the young men and the women

Told the story of the strangers

Whom the Master of Life had sent them

From the shining land of Wabun.

Heavy with the heat and silence

Grew the afternoon of Summer;

With a drowsy sound the forest

Whispered round the sultry wigwam,

With a sound of sleep the water

Rippled on the beach below it;

From the cornfields shrill and ceaseless

Sang the grasshopper, Pah-puk-keena;

And the guests of Hiawatha,

Weary with the heat of Summer,

Slumbered in the sultry wigwam.

Slowly o’er the simmering landscape

Fell the evening’s dusk and coolness,

And the long and level sunbeams

Shot their spears into the forest,

Breaking through its shields of shadow,

Rushed into each secret ambush,

Searched each thicket, dingle, hollow;

Still the guests of Hiawatha

Slumbered In the silent wigwam.

From his place rose Hiawatha,

Bade farewell to old Nokomis,

Spake in whispers, spake in this wise,

Did not wake the guests, that slumbered.

“I am going, O Nokomis,

On a long and distant journey,

To the portals of the Sunset.

To the regions of the home-wind,

Of the Northwest-Wind, Keewaydin.

But these guests I leave behind me,

In your watch and ward I leave them;

See that never harm comes near them,

See that never fear molests them,

Never danger nor suspicion,

Never want of food or shelter,

In the lodge of Hiawatha!”

Forth into the village went he,

Bade farewell to all the warriors,

Bade farewell to all the young men,

Spake persuading, spake in this wise:

I am going, O my people,

On a long and distant journey;

Many moons and many winters

Will have come, and will have vanished,

Ere I come again to see you.

But my guests I leave behind me;

Listen to their words of wisdom,

Listen to the truth they tell you,

For the Master of Life has sent them

From the land of light and morning!”

On the shore stood Hiawatha,

Turned and waved his hand at parting;

On the clear and luminous water

Launched his birch canoe for sailing,

From the pebbles of the margin

Shoved it forth into the water;

Whispered to it, “Westward! westward!”

And with speed it darted forward.

And the evening sun descending

Set the clouds on fire with redness,

Burned the broad sky, like a prairie,

Left upon the level water

One long track and trail of splendor,

Down whose stream, as down a river,

Westward, westward Hiawatha

Sailed into the fiery sunset,

Sailed into the purple vapors,

Sailed into the dusk of evening:

And the people from the margin

Watched him floating, rising, sinking,

Till the birch canoe seemed lifted

High into that sea of splendor,

Till it sank into the vapors

Like the new moon slowly, slowly

Sinking in the purple distance.

And they said, “Farewell forever!”

Said, “Farewell, O Hiawatha!”

And the forests, dark and lonely,

Moved through all their depths of darkness,

Sighed, “Farewell, O Hiawatha!”

And the waves upon the margin

Rising, rippling on the pebbles,

Sobbed, “Farewell, O Hiawatha!”

And the heron, the Shuh-shuh-gah,

From her haunts among the fen-lands,

Screamed, “Farewell, O Hiawatha!”

Thus departed Hiawatha,

Hiawatha the Beloved,

In the glory of the sunset,.

In the purple mists of evening,

To the regions of the home-wind,

Of the Northwest-Wind, Keewaydin,

To the Islands of the Blessed,

To the Kingdom of Ponemah,

To the Land of the Hereafter!

 

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To My Green and Yellow Idol

There’s a source of governor training to the north of sunny Crewe.
There’s an office in the Birchwood Business Park,
Where a highly focussed woman, by the name of Ruth Agnew
Seeks to optimise the work of board and clerk.

She’s a Governor Mark trustee, a respected NLG.
She can facilitate a governing board’s review.
She has chaired an IEB, mentored clerks to governors’ CPD –
And appears at national conferences too.

If through her you would be taught, RMA Governor Support
Is the company that she runs in the north-west.
Her stable of thoroughbred “horses” are the ones who do the courses
The feedback says the training’s of the best.
 
Her attention to the sessions that are branded “Ruth Agnew”
Means she’s really really really beady-eyed.
She has a certain view that nothing else will do
But the green and yellow logos on each slide. (RMA logo)
 
There’s a governor training outfit to the north of sunny Crewe,
In an office in the Birchwood Business Park.
There’s a highly focussed woman, by the name of Ruth Agnew,
Who can  optimise the work of board and clerk.

RMA logo
Based on:
The Green Eye of the Little Yellow God
 
There’s a one-eyed yellow idol to the north of Kathmandu;
There’s a little marble cross below the town;
And a brokenhearted woman tends the grave of ‘Mad’ Carew,
While the yellow god for ever gazes down.

He was known as ‘Mad Carew by the subs at Kathmandu,
He was hotter than they felt inclined to tell,
But, for all his foolish pranks, he was worshipped in the ranks,
And the Colonel’s daughter smiled on him as well.

He had loved her all along with the passion of the strong,
And that she returned his love was plain to all.
She was nearly twenty-one, and arrangements were begun
To celebrate her birthday with a ball.

He wrote to ask what present she would like from ‘Mad’ Carew;
They met next day as he dismissed a squad:
And jestingly she made pretence that nothing else would do …
But the green eye of the little yellow god.

On the night before the dance, ‘Mad’ Carew seemed in a trance,
And they chaffed him as they pulled at their cigars,
But for once he failed to smile, and he sat alone awhile,
Then went out into the night, beneath the stars.
 
He returned, before the dawn, with his shirt and tunic torn,
And a gash across his temples… dripping red.
He was patched up right away, and he slept all through the day
While the Colonel’s daughter watched beside his bed.

He woke at last and asked her if she’d send his tunic through.
She brought it and he thanked her with a nod.
He bade her search the pocket, saying, ‘That’s from “Mad” Carew,’
And she found … the little green eye of the god
 
She upbraided poor Carew, in the way that women do,
Although her eyes were strangely hot and wet,
But she would not take the stone, and Carew was left alone
With the jewel that he’d chanced his life to get.

When the ball was at its height on that still and tropic night,
She thought of him … and hastened to his room.
As she crossed the barrack square, she could hear the dreamy air
Of a waltz tune softly stealing thro’ the gloom.

His door was open wide, with silver moonlight shining through;
The place was wet and slippery where she trod;
An ugly knife lay buried in the heart of ‘Mad’ Carew …
‘Twas the vengeance of the little yellow god.
 
There’s a one-eyed yellow idol to the north of Kathmandu;
There’s a little marble cross below the town;
And a brokenhearted woman tends the grave of ‘Mad’ Carew,
While the yellow god for ever gazes down.
 
J. Milton Hayes  1884 – 1940 (written 1911)
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Winning a Gold Star


Would you like to win a gold star?
Carry plaudits home in a jar?
And be better off than you are – or would you rather get a four?

A four is the judgement that you don’t want to seek –
It means that the school is very weak.
The outcomes for children may be fairly low,
It may not be clear how leadership can grow,
And, by the way, if the SCR is poor,
You will be looking at a four.

Would you like to win a gold star?
Carry plaudits home in a jar?
And be better off than you are – or would you rather get a three?

A three is a judgement that once was OK
But the term “Satisfactory” has gone away.
You’re not outstanding, and you’re not yet good
But at least you’re heading in the way you should.
If improvement’s what Ofsted wants to see
You’ll very likely get a three.

Would you like to win a gold star?
Carry plaudits home in a jar?
And be better off than you are – I guess you’re looking for a one?

Good and Outstanding are the grades two and one.
Descriptors outline what should be done.
You must be “stringent” and “unwavering” –
A strong sense of vision is a useful thing.
And, if your school’s judged to be performing well,
You’ll get to ring that glory bell!

And all the grades are set out to view
Every school will meet quite a few.
So you see, it’s all up to you
You can be better than you are

You could be winnin’ a gold star ….

Based on: “Swinging On A Star”

Would you like to swing on a star?
Carry moonbeams home in a jar?
And be better off than you are?
Or would you rather be a mule? A mule is an animal with long, funny ears
He kicks up at anything he hears
His back is brawny and his brain is weak
He’s just plain stupid with a stubborn streak
And, by the way, if you hate to go to school
You may grow up to be a mule Or would you like to swing on a star?
Carry moonbeams home in a jar?
And be better off than you are?
Or would you rather be a pig? A pig is an animal with dirt on his face
His shoes are a terrible disgrace
He’s got no manners when he eats his food
He’s fat and lazy and extremely rude
But if you don’t care a feather or a fig
You may grow up to be a pig [instrumental-first 3 lines of chorus]
Or would you rather be a fish?

A fish won’t do anything but swim in a brook
He can’t write his name or read a book
To fool all the people is his only thought
Though he’s slippery, he still gets caught
But then if that sort of life is what you wish
You may grow up to be a fish

And all the monkeys aren’t in a zoo
Every day you meet quite a few
So you see, it’s all up to you
You can be better than you are

You could be swingin’ on a star

 

 

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In praise of the NGA

Oh, yes – feel the love each February 14th ……

Wanting a warm, meaningful and supportive partnership? Looking for someone you can depend on, who really understands your needs, and who can offer you something special? Are you making the most of the relationship you already have?

You may see where this is leading, and it’s not to the lovey-dovey Valentine’s Day stuff.

The relationship I want to celebrate is the one offered by the National Governors’ Association. Their mission is to represent all school governors and trustees in England. They are an independent charity that aims to support and promote good governance in our schools; they have contacts with ministers, policy makers and education organisations. They also run national conferences, and a number of regional events, and can provide a consultancy service for training and external reviews of governance.

As a personal tribute to the sterling work of the NGA, I have created a “songette” in their honour. It is completely unauthorised by them, but I do hope that you and the folk at NGA Towers, in Great Charles Street, Birmingham, will feel able to sing along to the tune. It’s a catchy little number from my youth ….. (words are below)

Governors, there’s no need to feel down.
I say, Governors, you can let go that frown.
I say, Governors, down in Birmingham town
There’s a place that will make you happy.
.
Governors, there’s a site you can go.
I said, Governors, if there’s stuff you don’t know –
You can look there, and I’m sure you will find
Great advice and save yourself time.
.
It’s great to join up with my NGA
Become a member of my NGA!
They have everything for a governing board,
You can delve in their treasure hoard!

Become a member of my NGA –
It’s great to join up with my NGA
You can make yourself wise, you can get good advice,
You can find what you need in a trice!

Governors, are you listening to me?
I say, Governors, what’s your school gonna be?
I say, Governors, you’ve a vision to steer
Do you know you’ve got the right idea?

No board can do it all by itself.
I say, Governors, put your pride on the shelf,
And just go there, to the great NGA
I’m sure they can help you today.
Yes, it’s good to be with my NGA

It’s great to join in with my NGA

They have everything for a governing board,
You can hardly them not afford …. (ahem)

So be a member of my NGA –
It’s good to join in with my NGA!

You can make yourself wise, you can get good advice,
You can find what you want in a trice!

Governors, you could also go “Gold”
See the extras and I think you’ll be sold.
You just ring them – and they’ll answer you live
You’ll feel so good you’ll want to jive!

Way back, someone came up to me,
And said, Clerkie, go online and you’ll see
The great website of the fab NGA.
It will point you the right way

Become a member of my NGA –
It’s great to join up with my NGA

They have everything for a governing board,
You can delve in their treasure hoard!

My NGA, you’ll find it through my NGA

Governors and clerks, there’s no need to feel down.
Governors and clerks, you can let go that frown

My NGA, you’ll find it at my NGA …………………………….. (etc)

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If

If you can be in school from early morning
Not leaving till the meeting ends at ten,
While knowing that tomorrow’s Parents’ Evening
Will mean you get to do it all again;
If you can represent your setting’s workforce,
But never be a mouthpiece to provide
A platform for the views of just one person
Who wants to gets the governors on their side.

If you can quiz the head when all about you
Are missing opportunities to pose
The kind of questions needing to be answered –
Like “What’s the impact been?” and how one knows.
If you can share your expertise with governors,
And school performance data analyse,
Explain to newbies what the TLAs mean,
And yet don’t look too good, nor talk too wise.

If you can sit through multiple RAISE sessions
While a trainer explains (again) what each part means
And then with patience guide the other governors
On the significance of all the blues and greens;
If you can trust results when others doubt you,
But make allowance for their doubting too;
And show how colleagues’ tracking can be looked at
In a way that justifies why there was “blue”.

If you can bear to look at DfE statistics,
Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,
And watch the things you gave your life to, broken,
As pupils’ needs rank lower than the school’s;
If you can stay objective in discussion,
And wear two hats, and still have time to laugh;
If you can do all this, and do your day job,
You’ll fulfill the role of “Super-Governor (Staff)”

 

Based on Rudyard Kipling’s If.

If you can keep your head when all about you   
    Are losing theirs and blaming it on you,   
If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,
    But make allowance for their doubting too;   
If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,
    Or being lied about, don’t deal in lies,
Or being hated, don’t give way to hating,
    And yet don’t look too good, nor talk too wise:

 

If you can dream – and not make dreams your master;   
    If you can think – and not make thoughts your aim;   
If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster
    And treat those two impostors just the same;   
If you can bear to hear the truth you’ve spoken
    Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,
Or watch the things you gave your life to, broken,
    And stoop and build ’em up with worn-out tools:

 

If you can make one heap of all your winnings
    And risk it on one turn of pitch-and-toss,
And lose, and start again at your beginnings
    And never breathe a word about your loss;
If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew
    To serve your turn long after they are gone,   
And so hold on when there is nothing in you
    Except the Will which says to them: ‘Hold on!’

 

If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,   
    Or walk with Kings – nor lose the common touch,
If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you,
    If all men count with you, but none too much;
If you can fill the unforgiving minute
    With sixty seconds’ worth of distance run,   
Yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it,   
    And – which is more – you’ll be a Man, my son!
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The Journey of the Blogi

A cold coming we had of it,
Just the worst time of the year
For a journey, and such a long journey:
From Bristol, Cheshire, Chelmsford,

To Aviation House,
Where the five invited blogi assembled,
To talk with Mike Cladingbowl,
Ofsted’s National Director for Schools.

So what made me take the milk-train (5:18am) to London that February (2014) half term morning? OK, of course, I was flattered (and slightly intrigued) to learn that Mike Cladingbowl (then Ofsted’s Director of Schools) had “read and enjoyed” my blog. (Though how much pleasure and entertainment can be got from reading extracts of the Ofsted inspection handbook or DfE guidance is questionable, so I dare say it was in fact the quality of the governance-related poetry that drew his attention …. )

Primarily though, it was the chance to engage in discussion around the inspection process, and how Ofsted plan to use social media to ensure that their framework is known to all stakeholders that was my reason for travelling 200 miles to London for a one hour meeting. And why me?  I am aware that one or two tweeters have questioned the make-up of the group (I just went for  a touch of lipstick – didn’t want to overdo things and inadvertently come across as too glamorous to be taken seriously ….) and asked why there was not more representation from women, or from primary teachers, or non-Scots. There were indeed four fellow bloggers wearing trousers that day, who happened to all come from a secondary background. And? Your point is? I wasn’t wearing my “I’m a lady” hat that day, or my (retired) primary teacher mortar board – I was there in my school-governing virtual balaclava of obscurity. There are plenty of wiser / more experienced governance-folk than me out there who could have been asked to attend, but hey – it was a small room, it was an invited bunch of itchy-fingered tweeters and bloggers and there was only one plate of biscuits …… A group of five is never going to be regarded as the basis for a stakeholder model of representation.

Five go to Ofsted (thanks to @JamesTheo)

(Image: @JamesTheo)

So what happened in the meeting? What was discussed?

    There were issues we all regretted –
    The lesson observations given individual grades,
    And the inconsistencies of approach
    Around independent learning, and teaching styles,
    And Mocksted consultants flaky, and charging high prices.
    Then @LearningSpy chidingly grumbling
    About the latest good practice guide for English,
    With its expectation of “fun”, and the references to “active thinking” …

Other pens than mine have already described the main points of the discussion, so there is little point my rehashing those things now. Read their excellent accounts here: Ross McGill (@TeacherToolkit), David Didau (@LearningSpy), Tom Bennett / his second report (@TomBennett71) and Tom Sherrington (@headguruteacher)

Tom Bennett, David Didau, Shena Lewington, Mike Cladingbowl, Tom Sherrington and Ross McGill

If you are expecting to find out something in this post about the future of school governance within the inspection framework, it is only fair to warn you that this topic did not feature terribly highly within the debate on Tuesday. Was that because it was unfairly marginalised? Not at all – within the allotted time, there was a fully inclusive discussion that focussed very appropriately, given the hour we had, on the badness of individual lessons being given grades for the quality of teaching, and how this practice is explicitly excluded from the official Ofsted inspection process. There was also attention given to “behaviour”, and mention of how schools risk criticism from inspectors for having high numbers of exclusions, but at the same time have to demonstrate their commitment to establishing an orderly and well-behaved learning environment for all students. The third topic was around the perception that Ofsted’s inspectors might still be endorsing particular teaching styles and approaches. I did mutter a few words about governance, and how the focus of governors’ activities is inevitably steered by that which will be inspected. I also hazarded a view that governance is occasionally judged to be good or bad by inspectors who may not have very much recent experience of what it is all about ….. let me know if you have thoughts on this.

   A hard time schools have of it, with the high stakes
   Around their Ofsted grades and reports,
   And the risk of being penalised for exclusions
   Whilst needing to promote an orderly environment for learning.
   All these things we talked of, and more –
   Frogs in boiling water, and snake oil,
   Whether a one-size-fits-all inspection regime was right,
   And how what’s judged gets made the focus.

Each of these areas has significance for governors, most particularly, I think, if your pay policy has at its heart the premise that those teachers whose lessons, when observed as part of their appraisal, are judged good or outstanding should benefit from pay progression, and that those whose lessons are deemed only satisfactory (“RI”) should have any pay increases withheld. Sounds so easy, doesn’t it? Hmmm ….

This deceptively simple idea may be in danger of being challenged on the following grounds:

  • Ofsted do not endorse the concept of the grading of individual lessons by the use of the grade criteria for the overall quality of teaching in the school (There is nothing to prevent your school drawing up its own criteria for judging good teaching, however, just so long as they are not defended on the grounds that these are what Ofsted are looking for in each lesson)
  • Some researchers have indicated problems around the reliability of lesson observation judgements. ie How likely is it that any two observers would give the same lesson the same grade? (A: Statistically, not very likely, apparently)
  • Others have questioned the validity of such observation judgements.  Is an “Outstanding” lesson, even when judged so by several people, really outstanding in its effectiveness? Does such highly-graded teaching lead to better longterm outcomes for students, in respect of exam success or retained learning? (eg TeachFirst Oliver Beach’s hard-won / much sought after / quite probably deserved “Outstanding” grade for his lessons was disappointingly not reflected in his students’ exam results, whilst, incredibly – and this incredulity is based on the footage we were shown of her lessons – Claudenia Williams’ Y11 group all passed their science GCSE at A* – C)

Hopefully, there are not too many schools who have their pay policy based critically on the outcomes of lesson observation grades to the exclusion of other measures of performance … (eg “Must have 80% lessons judged Good or better”) but there are some. Just check the wording of yours, eh?

   All this was so short a time ago, I remember,
    And we will do it again, but set down this,
   Set down this: were we led all that way for
   Listening or Telling? There was reassurance, certainly
   We had evidence of Ofsted’s stance on lesson grades, and no doubts.

Conclusions:

It was delightful to meet such a fine bunch of chaps, all very personable. It was particularly gratifying to encounter Mike Cladingbowl, and to find him so down to earth, receptive to ideas and keen to ensure that things are done right.
Was it a worthwhile session to establish the absolute clarity of view on the giving of individual lesson observation grades? Yes.
Did the meeting have any impact on how governance will be assessed by inspectors in future?  No.

Outcomes:

Mike has promised to ensure that the message is given loud and clear to all inspectors that grades on the quality of teaching in the school are not to be assigned to individual lessons. All those in the room were keen to make this message known to school leaders and teachers too – and it has been the key focus in the other write-ups of the day.
(Update 21st Feb: See message from Mike Cladingbowl on the Ofsted website.)

Q: How do we encourage teachers and governors to make use of social media, to keep up to date with changing expectations? What about: “All leaders and managers, including those responsible for governance, have a thirst for knowledge about Ofsted’s expectations, and engage appropriately and with enthusiasm in social media forums of professional discussion“. That should do it …

A Good Friday announcement? No promises were made about the timing or advance warning of any future updates to Ofsted inspection documents – my guess is that there will be some tweaks made to the Subsidiary Guidance and the Evidence Form used by inspectors in the coming days – perhaps this will be flagged up beforehand by Ofsted as pending. Watch this space!

   We returned to our places, our settings,
   Rather more at ease now, in the new dispensation,
   With the confirmations given by Mike.
   I should be glad of another update.

*******

Update: Others have contributed to this discussion over the past few days, so a selection of their views is listed below. It’s not intended to be representative of the debate – just what I’ve come across. Let me know if you think there is an important one missing …..

Postscript: Blogi? “Blogi?” What’s all that about?

The Journey of the Magi – TS Eliot

‘A cold coming we had of it,
Just the worst time of the year
For a journey, and such a long journey:
The ways deep and the weather sharp,
The very dead of winter.’
And the camels galled, sorefooted, refractory,
Lying down in the melting snow.
There were times we regretted
The summer palaces on slopes, the terraces,
And the silken girls bringing sherbet.
Then the camel men cursing and grumbling
and running away, and wanting their liquor and women,
And the night-fires going out, and the lack of shelters,
And the cities hostile and the towns unfriendly
And the villages dirty and charging high prices:
A hard time we had of it.
At the end we preferred to travel all night,
Sleeping in snatches,
With the voices singing in our ears, saying
That this was all folly.
Then at dawn we came down to a temperate valley,
Wet, below the snow line, smelling of vegetation;
With a running stream and a water-mill beating the darkness,
And three trees on the low sky,
And an old white horse galloped away in the meadow.
Then we came to a tavern with vine-leaves over the lintel,
Six hands at an open door dicing for pieces of silver,
And feet kiking the empty wine-skins.
But there was no information, and so we continued
And arriving at evening, not a moment too soon
Finding the place; it was (you might say) satisfactory.
All this was a long time ago, I remember,
And I would do it again, but set down
This set down
This: were we led all that way for
Birth or Death? There was a Birth, certainly
We had evidence and no doubt. I had seen birth and death,
But had thought they were different; this Birth was
Hard and bitter agony for us, like Death, our death.
We returned to our places, these Kingdoms,
But no longer at ease here, in the old dispensation,
With an alien people clutching their gods.
I should be glad of another death.
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Pride and Professionalism

Background: Every two years, the NGA present awards for school governance. In the category for effective clerking, they seek clerks who demonstrate the ten competencies of a good clerk in supporting the governing board.  The judges are looking for good organising skills; a scrupulous attention to the basic mechanism of running a governing body; a thorough understanding of what the roles and functions of a governing body are; knowledge of the law as it relates to governance; an ability to get on well with people, especially in the key relationships with the chair and head; the ability to be the governing body’s critical friend; and something special that they have brought to the governing body beyond the basics.

At the awards ceremony in 2015, Tristram Hunt, then Shadow Secretary of State for Education, presented the awards for clerking, and spoke about the professionalism of the clerks. He said, “Outstanding boards need outstanding professional support” and he referred to the “enormously important work of the clerks”.

Pride and Professionalism

“It is amazing to me,” said Charles Bingley, “how all clerks get to be so very professional as they are.”

“All clerks professional! My dear Charles, what do you mean?” said his sister.

“Yes, all of them, I think, are regarded as professional, and very accomplished at their role. They all sort out agendas, write the minutes, and send out the paperwork in good time. I scarcely know any clerk to governors who cannot do all this, and I am sure I never heard a good clerk being spoken of by their governing body, without being informed that he or she was very professional.”

“Your list of the common extent of being professional,” said Mr Darcy, “has too much truth. The word is applied to many a clerk who deserves it no otherwise than by providing the draft agenda, or writing up the minutes. But I am very far from agreeing with you in your estimation of clerks in general. I cannot boast of knowing more than half a dozen, in the whole range of my acquaintance, that are really professional.”

“Nor I, I am sure,” said Miss Bingley.

“Then,” observed Elizabeth, “you must comprehend a great deal in your idea of a professional clerk.”

“Yes; I do comprehend a great deal in it,” said Mr Darcy.

“Oh! Certainly,” cried Miss Bingley, “no clerk can be really esteemed as professional who does not greatly surpass what is usually met with. A clerk must have good organising skills, a thorough knowledge of legislation, be aware of the latest Ofsted expectations, and be able to signpost governors to DfE statutory guidance, to deserve the word; and besides all this, he or she must possess a certain something in their ability to work effectively with the chair and the head, to guide new governors in their duties, or the word will be but half deserved.”

“All this they must possess,” added Mr Darcy, “and to all this, he or she must yet add something more substantial, in the continued improvement of their understanding of governance by extensive use of the internet and social media, and by attending training and conferences.”

“I am no longer surprised at your knowing only six professional clerks. I rather wonder now at your knowing any,” said Elizabeth.

 

Recognise this as an extract from Pride and Prejudice? Read the original here :

“It is amazing to me,” said Bingley, “how young ladies can have patience to be so very accomplished as they all are.”

“All young ladies accomplished! My dear Charles, what do you mean?”

“Yes all of them, I think. They all paint tables, cover screens, and net purses. I scarcely know any one who cannot do all this, and I am sure I never heard a young lady spoken of for the first time, without being informed that she was very accomplished.”

“Your list of the common extent of accomplishments,” said Darcy, “has too much truth. The word is applied to many a woman who deserves it no otherwise than by netting a purse, or covering a screen. But I am very far from agreeing with you in your estimation of ladies in general. I cannot boast of knowing more than half a dozen, in the whole range of my acquaintance, that are really accomplished.”

“Nor I, I am sure,” said Miss Bingley.

“Then,” observed Elizabeth, “you must comprehend a great deal in your idea of an accomplished women.”

“Yes; I do comprehend a great deal in it.”

“Oh! certainly,” cried his faithful assistant, “no one can be really esteemed accomplished, who does not greatly surpass what is usually met with. A woman must have a thorough knowledge of music, singing, drawing, dancing, and the modern languages, to deserve the word; and besides all this, she must possess a certain something in her air and manner of walking, the tone of her voice, her address and expressions, or the word will be but half deserved.”

“All this she must possess,” added Darcy, “and to all this she must yet add something more substantial, in the improvement of her mind by extensive reading.”

“I am no longer surprised at your knowing only six accomplished women. I rather wonder now at your knowing any.”

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Haiku Calendar for 2011

January 2011
Review to take place
of National Curriculum:
Call for Evidence

February 2011
First Munro report
on child protection matters
shifts safeguarding focus

March 2011
Targets for Year 5
no longer have to be set
by each December

April 2011
Discrimination
in all forms addressed by the
Equality Act

May 2011
“Learning from the Best”
– Ofsted’s view on outstanding
School Governance

June 2011
Teachers’ strike takes place
and industrial action
affects many schools

July 2011
Ofsted still expect
school self evaluation
but withdraw the SEF

The SFVS
replaces FMSiS as new
Financial Standard

August 2011
Provision of SIPs
by local authorities
is widely withdrawn

September 2011
Draft criteria
for the new Ofsted framework
are published this month

Go(ve) Compare website
gives access to database
of UK schools

October 2011
Ofsted’s Parent View
website offers means to give
feedback on your school

Charlie Taylor writes
“Getting the Simple Things Right”
behaviour checklist

November 2011
School Toilets Day
may not seem that important
but is worth a look

Education Act
2011
gets Royal Assent

December 2011
Expert panel make
their National Curriculum
recommendations.

and the predicted calendar for 2012

January 2012:
The Guide to the Law
is withdrawn, in order to
reduce paperwork …   (just joshing then but – guess what? )

(A haiku poem
has seventeen syllables
arranged in three lines)

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