Imagine a conversation in a sanctuary just north of the Thames ...
Permanent Secretary – The next item on the agenda, Secretary of State, is what to do about the OCR proposal for a natural history GCSE.
Secretary of State – Golly! Already? Do we have to?
Permanent Secretary – I’m rather afraid so, Secretary of State; we have rather been neglecting this; it's months overdue.
Secretary of State – Oh dear, I suppose we’ll have to then; at least that will stop people writing to me about it. Do you know how many letters and emails I’ve had? Absolutely bucket loads. And phone calls too; someone even rang me at home last week; no idea how she managed that; are there are no state secrets left?
Permanent Secretary – It’s certainly a popular issue.
Minister of State – Yes, and most correspondents want it to be approved, even though they come from across the political spectrum. It seems the leftists see it as a means of subverting capitalism and the patriarchy, and the more conservative voices see it as a means of standing up for traditional values, and for England as it used to be. Quite fascinating.
Secretary of State – But is it any good?
Minister of State – Well, most respondents think so, and it does look more interesting than some of the terrible stuff we make children learn these days. At least it will get them outside so we can tick all those obesity and mental health boxes.
Secretary of State – Right then, what shall we do?
Minister of State – We could just say ‘yes’ to taking the proposal forward. It would be the most popular decision we’ve made for years. In fact I can’t remember when we last made a popular decision.
Permanent Secretary – Indeed. Does no one oppose it?
Minister of State – A few teacher trainers, bloggers and professors of education, but no one listens to them anyway.
Permanent Secretary – What do they say?
Minister of State – Well, they’d prefer us to change the national curriculum so that every student would get the benefit of what the programme covers rather than just a few.
Secretary of State – Crickey! We can’t do that. Can we?
Minister of State – Certainly not, Secretary of State, especially after we’ve just seen off all those awful students with their demands about climate change.
Permanent Secretary – So, are we agreed, then?
Secretary of State – I suppose so. It’s only a GCSE after all.
Minister of State – Yes; hardly anyone will take it, but a lot of people who think their opinion matters will be happy with us.
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