Carry on cutting up the curriculum

John Patten back in the hotseat; the birth of a Munchyburger Truancy Le ague: Ted Wragg foresees a funny old year ahead for schools
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January: Schools are sent their glossy copy of the Dearing Report, the "slimmed-down" national curriculum produced by Sir Ron Dearing. (The Government set fire to the curriculum, brought in the Fire Brigade when the flames were out of control, the n congratulated themselves on dialling 999. This used to be called "arson", and you were locked away for it.)

Schools will ask whether there is any money to buy the necessary books and equipment for this latest version of the national curriculum. After all, the Government found cash for books for the General Certificate of Secondary Education in 1985-86 (GeneralElection in 1987), and for the first version of the national curriculum in 1990-91 (General Election in 1992), so it is worth a bid for 1995 (General Election in 1995-96?).

February: A bad-weather month, which will not affect school sports since many schools have sold their pitches to a supermarket chain, and inter-school Scrabble will be able to proceed uninterrupted by snow.

The Prime Minister will remind schools that all pupils must play competitive team games. We shall have lost the Ashes by then, so cricket will no longer be classified as a "competitive" sport. It will become part of "drama".

Scrabble, in which we still excel, will flourish, though the comprehensives will get no credit for this.

March: Research is published showing that most inspections by the Office for Standards in Education (Ofsted), the privatised body that has virtually replaced Her Majesty's Inspectorate, concentrate mainly on bureaucratic matters, rather than the quality of teaching and learning.

The language of school inspections, "Ofskrit" will officially be recognised by the United Nations as a language separate from English. (Nowhere else does the phrase "generally satisfactory" occur with such irritating frequency.)

Whole careers will be forged by people fluent in Ofskrit. Universities will offer joint honours courses in the School of Modern Foreign Languages for students wanting to study Ofskrit and "Bakerspeak", the official language of the national curriculum (examples: "deliver the curriculum", "fulfil attainment targets", "flangify your flidgets", etc).

April: Teacher unions meet at the seaside and threaten to boycott national testing. Gillian Shephard says this is regrettable and will make the league tables look funny. (Pupils entered = 0; passes = 0; average score = 0.00; league position = 1st equal, along with 23,999 other schools.)

One delegate at a conference utters the words: "I am a teacher, not a social worker." If this doesn't happen, it will be the first time since the Pharaohs.

May: As schools gear up for national tests, GCSE, A-levels and vocational exams, a journalist spots that public exams coincide with the hay- fever season. A doctor says it can be treated, and thousands of pupils with streaming eyes will still sneeze their way through, despite the nasal sprays, eyedrops, antihistamine pills and chewed beeswax. Optimists propose switching exams to January, so everyone can have flu instead.

June: As university final examinations finish, Dr Blandly Smiling of Elite Academy will say that "more" means "worse", that all students are short-haired layabouts, that when he was a lad they knew their tables up to a million times a million and could declaim the whole of the Aeneid by heart, and that today they can barely spell "Coronation Street" or count their housing benefit (there isn't any). While his students flog away through the summer to earn money to pay off part of their £2,000 overdrafts, he will then bugger off for three months of sunbathing and alcoholic haze in Tuscany, pretending that he is beefing up his department's research rating.

July: Schools break for the summer knowing, in many cases, that they must lose teaching posts and increase class sizes in September. The Government will say that there is no evidence that class size is related to school achievement (there is, but you have to get below 20 pupils to show gains, hence their lack of enthusiasm for the evidence).

Some politician will say that he was educated in a class of 60, beaten every day with a knotted bootlace, forced to run a 10-mile cross-country in his wellingtons, and it never did him any harm (twitch, twitch). He will then go into Prime Minister's Question Time and shout abuse for an hour.

August: GCSE and A-level results come out. Pass rates are up on last year. Entries at A-level in maths, physics and chemistry are down on last year.

Ministers initiate an inquiry into falling standards (in November they will say that higher pass rates are a triumph for their league tables policy). There is a rush to get into universities, which must hit their targets exactly since they have cash taken away if they under-recruit and are fined if they over-fill.

Accountancy departments will be much easier to get into as the Eighties yuppie bubble has now burst, but applicants will still need a hatful of grade As to secure a place in law, veterinary science and the posher universities. Two grade Es in knitting and bean-growing will be enough to scrape into somewhere, if you (and they) are desperate.

September: Back to school, with the political parties outdoing each other to boast about their nursery education plans (none will actually do anything).

A school will decide to take Ofsted to court, especially if one of the parents is a solicitor, over a critical school report. Previously, schools were allowed to comment on the factual accuracy of inspection reports before they were released. Now reportsare all over the press before anyone can say, "there are two Rs in `curriculum', but only one in `you bastards'."

October: An autumn reshuffle puts John Patten back as Secretary of State for Education (I'm only kidding, go back to sleep). Another Parent's Charter is produced at huge cost, but this time ready-perforated for quick recycling. Ofsted starts inspecting Art Galleries (Rembrandt - "above the national average", Titian - "generally satisfactory", Toulouse Lautrec - "didn't have regular assemblies", Monet - "17th in the league table").

November: It's league table time again, sponsored this time. Gasworks Comp comes bottom of the Munchyburger Truancy League, having rifled in its returns honestly. Slyville Academy comes top. The school logged off its daytime shoplifters as being on "workexperience". The head of Slyville demands, and receives, a performance-related pay award. Proposals for performance-related bonuses for headteachers give top weighting for "staying within budget", so heads decide to send the pupils home and fire all thestaff.

The Scilly Isles come top of the Doggifood Local Authorities League again, so according to market forces, 8,000,000 pupils will leave the rest of the UK and move to the Scillies, which then sink to the bottom of the Atlantic. That's the market for you.

December: Christmas privatised - Ofsted inspectors bid for contracts to produce school Christmas plays. ("There were shepherds abiding in their generally satisfactory fields ...") Carry on Education is shown on BBC 1 on Boxing Day, with Kenneth Williams and Sid James as junior ministers, and then repeated in real life for the whole of 1996.

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