2084 (or the Wilshaw Way)

14 Feb

It was a bright cold day in Goveember, and the clocks were sounding thirteen. Good Learning Facilitator 4891, his chin nuzzled into his chest in an effort to escape the vile wind, slipped quickly through the glass doors of Sir Michael Gove Academy, though not quickly enough to prevent a swirl of dust (possibly containing asbestos although MiniSchol said that to mention it was unpatriotic when savings had to be made) from entering along with him.
The hallway smelt of Jubilee Chicken and dusty mats. At one end of it a coloured poster, too large for indoor display, had been tacked to the wall. It depicted simply an enormous face, more than a metre wide: the face of a man of who must have been about 138, although he still looked 66, with silver hair and round glasses. Good made for the stairs. It was no use trying the lift. Even at the best of times it was seldom working, and at present the electric current was cut off during daylight hours. It was part of the economy drive in preparation for Bank Bonus Week. The classroom was seven flights up, and Good, who was 39 and had a stomach ulcer and suffered from stress, went slowly, resting several times on the way. On each landing, opposite the lift-shaft, the poster with the enormous face gazed from the wall. It was one of those pictures which are so contrived that the eyes follow you about when you move. LORD WILSHAW IS WATCHING YOU, the caption beneath it ran.
Inside the room a slightly Aberdonian voice was reading out a list of figures which had something to do with Baccalaureate results and inspection reports. The voice came from an oblong screen which formed part of the surface of the right-hand wall. Good turned a switch and the voice sank somewhat, though the words were still distinguishable. The instrument (the i-screen, it was called) could be dimmed, but there was no way of shutting it off completely. He moved over to the window: a smallish, frail figure, the meagreness of his body merely emphasized by the blue suit which was the uniform of the staff. His hair was very fair, his face naturally sanguine, his skin roughened by coarse facewash and cheap shavepods and the cold of the winter.
Outside, even through the shut window-pane, the world looked cold. Down in the street little eddies of wind were whirling dust and torn paper into spirals, and though the sun was shining and the sky a harsh blue, there seemed to be no colour in anything, except the posters that were plastered everywhere. The silver haired face gazed down from every commanding corner. There was one on the house-front immediately opposite. LORD WILSHAW IS WATCHING YOU, the caption said, while the dark eyes looked deep into Good’s own. Down at streetlevel another poster, torn at one corner, flapped fitfully in the wind, alternately covering and uncovering the single word ‘OFSTED‘. In the far distance a drone skimmed down between the roofs, hovered for an instant like a bluebottle, and darted away again with a curving flight. It was the tax patrol, snooping into people’s windows. The patrols did not matter, however. Only Lord Wilshaw’s Ofsted Inspectors mattered.
Behind Good’s back the voice from the i-screen was still babbling away about vital academic subjects and the overfulfilment of the Annual Reading and Phonics Test. The i-screen received and transmitted simultaneously. Any sound that Good made, above the level of a very low whisper, would be picked up by it, moreover, so long as he remained within the field of vision which the screen commanded, he could be seen as well as heard. There was of course no way of knowing whether you were being watched at any given moment. How often, or on what system, the Ofsted Inspectors accessed any individual learning facilitation space was guesswork. It was even conceivable that they inspected everybody all the time. But at any rate they could access your learning space whenever they wanted to. You had to learningfacilitate did learningfacilitate, from habit that became instinct in the assumption that every sound you made was overheard, and, except in darkness, every movement scrutinized.
Good kept his back turned to the i-screen. It was safer, though, as he well knew, even a back can be revealing. A kilometre away the Ministry of Schools, Higher Education and Access to Higher Education, that ruled his place of work, towered vast and white above the grimy landscape. This, he thought with a sort of vague distaste – this was Cameronia, chief city of ConDem One, itself the third most populous of the European provinces of Chinopea.
However, at least his performance-related remuneration package was higher than that of learning facilitators in other ConDem provinces who had to earn less than the average provincial remuneration for other graduates. He had heard that in some provincial academies the secretaries if the academies were able to recruit any were on the Minimum Wage so they did not compete with local employers.
Elections were supposedly held every ten years, if City International Bank plc permitted them, but as the Newer Labour Party had exactly the same education policies as the ConDems, it made little difference that there had been no change of government for decades to avoid “market instability and inflationary and budgetary pressures”.
He need to watch his step. He could be ‘Good’ one day, denounced as ‘Coasting’ by an Inspector, monitoring him via the i-screen, the next, then ‘Appraised’ and Dismissed by the Performance Principal with no appeal. He tried to squeeze out some childhood memory that there used to be something called ‘Unfair Dismissal’. But it was no use, he could not remember: nothing remained of his childhood except a series of bright-lit tableaux flickering across a substance called paper covered with strange symbols in ink that were mostly unintelligible.
The Ministry of Schools, Higher Education and Access to Higher Education MiniSchol in Ofstedspeak was startlingly different from any other object in sight. It was an enormous pyramidal structure of glittering white concrete, soaring up, terrace after terrace, 300 metres into the air. From where Good stood it was just possible to read, picked out on its white face in elegant lettering, the three slogans of the Party:
Good turned round abruptly. He had set his features into the expression of quiet optimism which it was advisable to wear when facing the i-screen. He crossed the room into the tiny kitchen. He took down from the shelf a bottle of colourless liquid with a plain blue label marked ANTICOASTING SERUM. It gave off a sickly, oily smell. Good poured out nearly a teacupful, nerved himself for a shock, and gulped it down like a dose of medicine.
Good tapped his portable i-reader to access the manual that all learning facilitators were obliged to read from every day:


Sir [now Lord] Michael Wilshaw, Chief Inspector of Education and Prosecutor in Chief of Coasting and Failed Teachers
With a foreword by Michael [now Sir Michael] Gove, Secretary of State for Education and Publisher & Learning Facilitator in Chief
Good began reading:

Chapter I

THE NEW INSPECTION CATEGORIES FOR ACADEMIES (previously known as ‘schools’) AND LEARNING FACILITATORS (previously known as ‘teachers’)

‘Outstanding’ now = DOUBLEPLUSGOOD (Lord Wilshaw and Sir Michael Gove only and overrules any previous award of ‘outstanding’)
 ‘Good’ now = GOODER (once known in the English language as ‘better’ but never ‘best’)
‘Requires Improvement’ (previously ‘Satisfactory’) now = UNGOOD
New category = COASTING (denounce, appraise, replace all staff)
Inadequate = DOUBLEPLUSUNGOOD (denounce in Newspaper Hate Week, dismiss and imprison all staff)

Chapter 2


“When staff morale is at an all-time low you will know you are doing something right.”
  • “All-time” means so far. Morale can, and should, always go lower
  • Unserious (previously known as ‘fun’) is unlegal
  • Unseriousmouthshape (previously know as ‘smiling’) is forbidden
  • Never trust a learning facilitator
  • No excuses
  • No support….
Good stopped reading. The words he knew so well and the serum were taking effect. He gazed up at the enormous face. O cruel, needless misunderstanding! O stubborn, self-willed exile from the loving breast! Two serum-scented tears trickled down the sides of his nose. But it was all right, everything was all right, the struggle was finished.
He had won the victory over himself. He loved Ofsted.
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4 Responses to “2084 (or the Wilshaw Way)”

  1. Jane Hetherington 15. Feb, 2012 at 10:30 am #

    When is Richard Fraser going to publish his blog articles as a book? There are so many authors and poets he has to apologise to but I’m quite sure they’d be extremely proud of his interpretations. Keep up the doubleplusgood work!

    • Joyce Watts 16. Feb, 2012 at 9:50 am #

      I endorse what Jane has said. Did you send it to Mr Gove? – maybe he would get the message; if he understood it, that is. Your blogs make a good read – yes, you should publish.

      I think maybe we do still live in a free country.

  2. New York 20. Feb, 2012 at 3:43 am #

    Can I just say what a relief to find someone who actually knows what theyre talking about on the internet. You definitely know how to bring an issue to light and make it important. More people need to read this and understand this side of the story. I cant believe youre not more popular because you definitely have the gift.

  3. Richard Fraser 28. Feb, 2012 at 3:15 pm #

    Could this happen here?: [www.nycpublicschoolparents.blogspot.com/2012/02/why-public-shaming-of-teachers-is.html]

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