At last, some cheering news for teachers. Our prime minister wants “teachers, not bureaucrats, deciding how to educate our children”. That’s why he longs for all schools to become academies, in which teachers may once again run things as they see fit. Marvellous.
What a rosy future for the profession. No more national curriculum, with its mumbo-jumbo instructions, learning outcomes and prior attainments; no more targets, prescriptive exams, huge burden of time-wasting and arse-covering record-keeping; no more flinty-faced, telltale, confidence-wrecking Ofsted inspectors, lurking in class with their clipboards.
That’s what drove Fielding out of teaching and brought him sleepless nights and sky-high blood pressure. But the academy that almost destroyed him, where turnover was staggeringly high and everyone in the union was sacked, must have been an anomaly. Now, he can barely wait to rush out of retirement and back to the chalk-face, to taste the new freedom of one of these teacher-run academies, where he will be trusted to choose whatever texts he pleases, that suit particular classes, from a literature canon as wide as the world, and exercise spontaneity and imagination, which he last did pre-1988, when the grey shroud of the national curriculum settled over our schools.
And there’ll be no local authority bossing teachers around. Only sponsors, who can appoint most of the governors, and who will have no agenda and promise not to let their business, venture capitalist or religious values influence their role, or to hide renegade teachers and pupils from inspectors. Honestly, they won’t. There won’t be any slyly selective intake, or opaque selection of sponsors. The arts will flourish, teachers will be admired and respected, and in charge of their own profession again.
“I had a bad time with inspectors,” said Fielding, who only managed to meet two of his final 27 targets. “Thank God that’s over.” I’ve warned him not to get his hopes up, because I tend to worry when things look too good to be true. Pessimism is more sensible, I feel, because you don’t get nasty surprises. But, perhaps this time, the prime minister will keep his promise. Stop laughing at the back, there.