You can lead a horse to Severn Trent Water, but can you make him think?
The Trojan Horse story is a Trojan Horse itself, with more Michael Gove reforms inside. Howard Wilkinson prescribes a shot of localism to be injected into the moral panic.
Do you remember when you could drive right up to an airport terminal door to pick up or drop off your loved ones? But then someone tried to drive a car into Glasgow airport and now you have to spend a fortune to park a long way away instead. There’s no profit in peace boys, but the cunning can derive themselves a real benefit by sneaking in wrapped in a cloak of moral panic and moving everything around whilst you’re not looking.
And so it is that this story of Islamist school governors is a real gift horse for Michael Gove, and he’s gone Greek on it; the moral panic of the Trojan Horse opens a door through which the Education Secretary can burst with a fresh crop of reforms that also happen to play well as a response to “the UKIP earthquake” (copyright everyone). Yes, the real Trojan Horse here is the story itself, and Michael Gove is hanging out of its arse waving a policy paper that says “Britishness”. GOTCHA.
Gove, we are told, wants to assert British values through changes to the education system: “These values will include the primacy of British civil and criminal law, religious tolerance and opposition to gender segregation”. Sounds good, but we think that this is an over reaction: it is the equivalent of stopping anyone from driving to the airport because one person had a bomb and it’s simply about profiteering from an historical moment to get what you always wanted (£1 for 15 minutes parking, longer listless waits in departure lounges where travellers can make bored “tax free” purchases , and pushing education strongly to the right). Let’s get some proportion here: this is a Birmingham issue. Rather than making everyone in the UK pay for it with an overhaul of Britishness in teaching we should have a local curriculum that promotes good honest Brummie values instead. Here’s what it might look like:
We are all used to the A-E grade system, with its later edition of the A* because students have worked hard to attain higher levels of excellence / exams are getting easier and it’s a scandal. Recently Mr Gove has started moving the country to a numerical grade system instead. The Brummie curriculum however will have just three grades: “bid again next time”, “not shit” and the top grade of “s’alright”.
Pupils will only study Shakespeare because “he was a Brummie”, with modern literature amply represented by The Hobbit. They will not be allowed to watch Peter Jackson’s adaptations of Tolkien.
We will teach within a revisionist tradition. Paradise Circus is working on the textbook.
Kids will be expected to gain enough knowledge to argue the toss about which suburb any particular place in the West Midlands is in, and how to get there on the bus. Anyone being able to tell the Pavilions from the Pallasades will be outed as a traitor.
We will host the biggest art classes in Europe.
PE and Games
Sports and games are to be frozen in time at the point Birmingham achieved world status. Football will be taught to the finest late-Victoria tactics, that’s ‘hacking’ and ‘paying Scottish men in money stuffed into their boots’.
If wet: Cludeo.
Modelling the famous methods of the Lunar Society and making use of PFI arrangements, science classes will take place over dinners in the pupil’s nearest branch of TGI Friday.
Teaching will be outsourced to Capita and delivered through Service Birmingham. Pupils will learn about billing cycles, contract negotiations and what is out of scope and at an additional cost.
All pupils will be expected to gain a ‘not shit’ grade in Business Yam Yam — just in case there is ever anything worth buying from Upper Gornal. Or on the off chance they need to negotiate a fee for a Lenny Henry gig.
Cookery classes will have a strong emphasis on austerity. Experts from Big John’s will teach pupils how to save money on utility bills, while Mr Egg will demonstrate how to produce balanced meals fit for a King or Queen for £1.50. Classes will also emphasise the best times to go to the Asda to shop in the Whoops! fridge.
Fine-grained mastery of actual numbers are no use to the honest Brummie. Like the isolated Amazonian tribes that have no concept of anything bigger than four, Brummies operate on a higher spiritual plane. Basic Birmingham numeracy consists of being able to count to ‘a couple of three’ and then working with abstract Millions of people that attend the German Market: complex numbers that can only ever go up, year on year.
Pic of Lenny Henry doing a Tommy Cooper impression for classmates at Bluecoat School in (yes, we know) Dudley is from the Express and Star, who have just had a Lottery grant to preserve their picture archive, so we felt justified in borrowing what public money will eventually be paying for.