Yesterday, after a long and often bruising fight, we ‘lost’ our campaign against the hostile academisation of my daughter’s school, the Hewett in Norwich.
Except we didn’t lose. We didn’t lose, because we couldn’t lose. It’s impossible to lose, in my opinion, when the other side is cheating.
The moral victory is ours: we played by the rules; they didn’t.
We proved to them, via a publicly funded consultation, that Inspiration Trust was unwelcome at Hewett.
They ignored it.
We spoke unanimously against them at our final public meeting.
They ignored it.
The Guardian newspaper leaked revolting email correspondence between the two worst offenders in this hideous stinking mess – Rachel de Souza, the CEO of Inspiration Trust, and the board’s chair Theo Agnew – in which de Souza described herself as SICK at Hewett’s Ofsted success in 2013. Was the school ‘vulnerable’ again, she wondered, when exam results later fell? Agnew remarked on her ‘cunning ways’.
They all had cunning ways, as it turned out: not only de Souza and Agnew, but all of their chums too: Lord Nash, the Academies Minister; Tim Coulson, the Regional Schools Commissioner; Nicky Morgan, the Secretary of State for Education. They all had their fingers in pockets and pies, and the stench of Tory cronyism is strong in Norwich today.
So I’ve woken up this morning with one or two regrets. I’m regretting the fact that gagging clauses and widespread fear meant that so few Inspiration Trust teachers were able to go on the record with the shocking stories they told me in confidence. Perhaps I should have got naked and chained myself to the railings or thrown myself under de Souza’s chauffeur driven car or the hooves of her Tory chums’ polo ponies. I’m regretting the ratio of food to alcohol in my life last night, when I slunk to the pub in the rain after helping to cover the gate of our school in Crime Scene tape, and regretting the paltry amount of sleep I’ve had for the tossing and turning and nightmarish visions of this...
I’m regretting the fact that Look East cut me to ribbons last night and gave squirming and gurning de Souza free reign to suggest that I’m some kind of numbskull who just hasn’t seen the light yet. She admires our passion. She hopes (gurn gurn) that we’ll later become her biggest supporters. (The words: ‘dead’ and ‘body’, ‘not’ and ‘over’ spring to mind.)
But there’s one thing I’m not regretting…
I’m not regretting this campaign. I never will. Look what happened last night, with an hour’s notice. All of these lovely people arrived in the absolute pissing rain, and they stood in support of our school. They brought banners and signs.
A supporter made this, in ‘honour’ of the Hewett’s new logo (rustled up within 24 hours if you believe the bastards at Inspiration Trust):
We hugged and talked and commiserated. We spoke to reporters and had our pictures taken and wiped the drizzle from our faces and, later on, went to the pub and got drunk. (Well, one of us did…) Someone (who won’t allow me to name her) did something just beyond lovely for me, and I thank her from the bottom of my heart. Hewett kids and Hewett parents and local residents stood proud in the rain. Our school isn’t perfect. We’re not perfect. But we’re something else, something better: we are decent human beings.
I have met the most astonishing, amazing, and good-hearted people in the course of this long and hard campaign (too many to name individually, although Jo and Emma deserve special mention). Thanks to the vocal support of our MP Clive Lewis I’ve found that it is actually, physically possible for a politician to act on his promises. I have found my own voice again (it was down the back of the sofa for most of 2014), and watched other people find theirs. I have tweeted and blogged and written emails and stood shouting in school halls and gone on the telly box and the radio and flung my whole self at this campaign, and the reason I’ve done all this is quite simple: it was the right thing to do.
Unlike the delightful Dame Rachel, I’m not a believer in God. But I reckon if he did exist, he’d be on our side. He’d have been outside those gates getting soaked last night (or, possibly, stopping it from raining at all…).
So the Inspiration Trust may have stolen our school, but you know? Be careful what you wish for. Because we come with it. We’re not going anywhere. We are Hewett. And this is only the beginning.