Friday 25 October 2013

Racism and pedophiles

Genetics are a funny old business. I am distinctly Anglo-Saxon looking. My partner is Mediterranean-looking.  And one of our daughters has often been mistakenly assumed to be mixed-race. Fortunately we have never had the police swoop down to take away our daughter because of this aesthetic mis-match. 

But then again we are not part of a minority group that have been persecuted for centuries.

On the other hand the recent cases of Roma parents in Ireland having their blond kids taken away sends a chilling reminder that Third Reich-style racial theories are not far from the surface in some people's minds.

And I can't help but make a contrast between the readiness to believe that Roma families have kidnapped children to the decades-long denial and cover-up of White celebrity pedophiles.

Thursday 17 October 2013

Teachers - the new vanguard of the movement ?

A new experience for me today. Like many NUT and NASUWT members in London, I am on strike.

Ironic really after all those years spent in the highly unionized world of 'the print', but despite having a high level of control over control over the workplace that amazes many people, I was never personally on strike. 

We routinely refused work that came in from non-union firms, the NGA supervised apprenticeships and training, and the green list/white card system gave the union an (often corrupt) virtual control of hiring - but nowhere I worked  ever actually had a strike.

Maybe this is not so surprising. The firms I worked in, like most printing houses, were small/medium sized businesses. Relations in the workplace were generally pretty good, but any real sort of dispute would have been very up close and personal -  and was so generally avoided.

My experience of schools has been very different. In recent years, teachers have almost become one of the new militant vanguards of the labour movement. But in a very genteel kind of way.

At my school at the head's briefing one Monday morning, the reps of the two major unions were politely invited to addresses everyone about the issues and arrangements for the strike. As today got closer, the head invited us, although emphazising that we were not obliged to notify him, if anyone was planning to work on the strike day so he could make a decision as to catering arrangements. 

Of course the strike today is about the government not about an individual headteachers, and I am sure that many enlightened heads who are at the forefront of Gove's attacks will take a sympathetic attitude. But it still made me think of how a one day strike would have been handled in my former life. 

Even in the glory days of the NGA, I suspect that bitterness and intimidation (of one sort or another) would have been the first reaction from management. Doubly so these days, and so for many many non-union workers in the private sector  strike action has become almost unthinkable. 

Most teachers I speak to seem blissfully unaware of this situation - just as in the old days printers took it for granted that the union would always be there  to protect us. 

In some ways this  mindset is fantastic - but it is not without its dangers. Sadly the strength that any group of workers gets under capitalism is essentially fragile.

Friday 4 October 2013

Open evening

Until I got into teaching I never paid much attention to them, but now I see them everywhere I look: On the back of buses there are adverts on the back on buses for local schools.

There's a definite  formula for these things - an earnest looking kid in immaculate uniform and some sort of strap-line with a meaningless bit edu-corporate bollock-speak - such as  inspire aspire achieve. And of course the inevitable statistical factoid about that all important % of five A-Cs at GCSEs. It's a game that all schools seem to play  nowadays and it's a natural expression of the creeping introduction of market mechanisms into education and the sacred-cow of illusory  'parental choice'.

The other day I was at the sharp end of this. I spent a twelve hour day at school because of the annual open evening for prospective parents. I was dreading the idea of spending hours pimping out the school and trying to big it up at the expense of our local 'competitors'. I had flashbacks to some of the horrors of my previous life trying desperately  to drum up business in order to survive.

Fortunately this was not the case. Happily my school is one of an endangered species - a thriving community comprehensive school under local authority that is popular in the area. For the moment at least, the admissions criteria is staggeringly simple - if you live in the right postcode you get in and if you don't then you won't.

In my time, I've been one of those parents looking at schools and it is reassuring to see where your kids are going to be educated - so I have no problem with giving up an evening to provide this reassurance. 

But the idea that we are actually selling ourselves against other schools is ridiculous and deeply disturbing. Quite simply, until every school in every area attends a thriving community comprehensive that all local kids automatically attend, then the idea of some semblance of equality of opportunity is just a fantasy.