Fresh from putting the icing on the cake of the final report of IPPR North’s Commission on the Future of Public Services (I’ll leave it to others to say whether cake or topping provided more nutrition), I am on the road again.
This time to the strangely old fashioned surroundings of Chesford Grange Hotel near Leamington Spa to speak to the education conference of the National Association of Head Teachers. In a desperate (and I’m afraid, at least, partially successful) attempt to ingratiate myself with the audience I told them I would blog about them later but only be complimentary if they gave me a good reception.
What a lovely, intelligent, attentive and generous audience! Before speaking I was rather nervous having decided yesterday, somewhere between Doncaster and Peterborough, that I couldn’t bear simply to repeat a version of my speech in July to SSAT. Also, the conference platform included the excellent NAHT General Secretary Mick Brookes who spoke here at the RSA on Tuesday. How could I match his eloquence without obviously filching half his material?
Anyway, all seemed to go fine. Among the questions was a point which formed a nice but depressing link between two sections of my annual lecture last week Someone called David put his hand up and, after asking whether if he said something nice about my speech I would mention him in my blog, (as if, Dave, mate, how cheap do you think I am?), he made a point about my advocacy of more imaginative efforts by schools to engage parents. He described a school which had taken the imaginative step of encouraging parents to join their children in school for twenty minutes before the start of the day and twenty minutes after the end of last lesson. There were no teachers in attendance as they had other duties to perform, but the system worked well, engaging parents and forming a good bridge for the pupils between school and family.
But the scheme is no more. The new ‘safeguarding’ requirements for child protection mean that every parent who might want to join their child would – because there would most likely be others children in the room as well as their own - have to submit themselves to a CRB check.
In my sympathetic response I referred back to the argument in my speech about how we have somehow to enable people to see that politics and democracy are about choices and trade offs not just about demanding what you think you want right now. Every time there is a child abuse tragedy the demand goes up for more and tighter regulations and it is only later – too late generally – that people understand what they might lose as a consequence of trying to take all risk out of out lives.
It’s not a new point, I know, but a good example with which to make it.
We shouldn’t underestimate how far our societies have pulled apart. Yet there is hope for renewal, says Anthony Painter. The question is not whether we come together – but how.