Non, je ne regrette rien.

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...

Smugshot.

Smugshot.

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.

Screenshot 2015-08-06 08.51.08

Screenshot 2015-08-06 08.36.24

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):

Hewett crime scene 2

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). 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.

Advertisements

Awake.

It’s 3.38 a.m. and I am awake. I don’t want to be awake. I don’t want to be thinking real thoughts about grubby Real Life. I want to be fast asleep, dreaming cool dreams in Technicolor with jazz on the soundtrack, floating in my PJs over the rooftops of Norwich (that was a good one) or spending a moment with someone I loved who isn’t alive anymore, or finding my novel on a bookshop shelf and remembering that, hey, I finished it months ago and it’s already published and under it there’s one of those little cards that says Our bookseller recommends…

But, no. I am awake. My stomach hurts. I’m far too hot. My mouth tastes metallic from taking a sleeping pill last night. I smell iffy. I quite need a wee, after drinking a cup of hot milk and a glass of cold water. My boy cat is thumping around on the floor catching insects. My room is too stuffy. I’ve got to get up in four hours. I’m going to be tired all day.

It’s like traffic lights. Green when you wake and you’re still optimistic (it’s only a blip; shut your eyes; think of sheep), and then amber when things look a little bit hairier (go on, head, tell me that one again about how inadequate I am as a human being; you know how I love that one), and then finally, angrily, you’re at red. There is swearing. The inadequacy engine is in overdrive. You might as well fling off the covers and fling your hot self out of bed and go flinging off to the microwave in the kitchen to fling some milk in it and now you’ve got to have a wee as well and the microwave has to bleep (of course) while you’re weeing, and what if it wakes your daughter up, and what are you meant to do at 3.38 in the morning, and why did you make such a dick of yourself in that conversation earlier? Why did you have to press send on that message? Why don’t things ever work out the way you want them to? Why don’t people like you back equal amounts that you like them? This is one of the great conundrums of the universe, of course, and even a really good cup of hot milk cannot solve it, neither at 3.38 am nor 338 years from now when, should the world still turn, the great minds – in the middle of the night – will still be pondering this question.

But then, you see. I mean, you see. 

The thing you see is this: that you’re awake. Awake. You climb in bed again. You drink your milk. You listen to some music. When you stop the music, there’s an owl outside. Is anybody else awake and listening? Someone’s car comes down the road: that’s odd. It’s 4.26 now. The owl has gone quiet. You try to picture it, in the forest behind your house. You generally keep different hours, you and the owl. Is it sort of a gift, then, that you were up just now in time to hear it? Is this morning a gift, no matter what time it starts? Will the owl return later, in your memory, when you’re writing (fingers crossed) and bring something real and true (the emotion you felt while hearing the owl) to a scene that’s a little too flat?

And the things that went wrong? Well, they were a gift as well. In their way. You were living, alive, awake to experience them.

It’s all over, already, for so many people. So many.

A new bird is making a noise now. A dawn sort of noise. Day will dawn, one morning, without you. You won’t be awake anymore, or again. This is it. Now is it. You have ears, to hear owls. A mouth to drink milk. If you’d died all those years ago, when you tried to, you wouldn’t be hearing that owl in the forest or watching your cat chew the plant on your cupboard or writing this blog post that someone might read when they’re up in the morning at 3.38 by themselves.

You’re awake. This is good. Now your cat’s on the windowsill, watching the birds. These are things you don’t usually see. Have a look out the curtains, a look at the world. You see differently now. Have a look at yourself. You look different as well. Stop regretting. You’re fine as you are. You’ve done fine. You’ll do fine in the future. You weren’t such a dick, after all, in that conversation that seemed such a crashing disaster before you woke up. You were just being you, being genuine, slightly too open. So what? You’re awake. It’s not over. Your turn isn’t over. Keep going. Keep playing. Keep waking up.

19 reasons we want Inspiration Trust to do the goddamned decent thing and back away from Hewett. (You won’t *believe* no 9!)

A bunch of noobs called Inspiration Trust (who’ve been in the edukashun business since way back in the dim and distant days of 2012) want to ‘sponsor’ my daughter’s secondary school, the Hewett in Norwich. (Translation: snaffle the 54 acre site, valued by the Local Authority in 2009 at £60 million.) Here’s why they shouldn’t.

1. This email from their CEO Rachel de Souza, describing herself as ‘sick’ at a ‘Good’ Ofsted rating for our school.

2. This twitter convo with the Guardian’s education correspondent Warwick Mansell in which they go all coy, suddenly, about their future plans for the school’s 54 acre site.

Funny how it's 'all hypothetical' when challenged on a point of squirmy fact... yet they're happy to advertise no 3 on their website weeks in advance of the consultation even *starting*...

Funny how it’s ‘all hypothetical’ when challenged on a point of squirmy fact… yet they’re happy to advertise no. 3 (see below) on their website weeks in advance of the consultation even *starting*…

3. The fact this was on their website (see above) before the consultation even began. 

Investigations 'under way' for a high level sports facility...

Note bullet point 2: Investigations ‘underway’ for a high level sports facility…

4. These minutes from a totally impartial meeting with our IEB (Interim Executive Board: the peeps parachuted in by the lovely government after they kicked out our own school governors – by email! – and refused the IEB put forward by Norfolk County Council. Sounds legit.) Inspiration Trust are so terribly nonchalant and blasé about Hewett’s 54 acre site that they didn’t even think to mention it at the meetings they shouldn’t even have been invited to – oh no, wait, hang on! They did kinda sorta mention it…

You bet your ass there was a 'discussion'. I'm speculating here but, 'Get those chavs off my bloody land!' is the way I imagine it unfolding...

You bet your ass there was a ‘discussion’. I’m speculating here but, ‘Get those chavs off my bloody land!’ is the way I imagine it unfolding…

5. The fact that our ‘consultation’ was more of an insulting con.

Because HaslamDodd ran the consultation meetings with all the impartiality of a foot fetishist contemplating someone's toes.

HaslamDodd ran the consultation meetings with all the impartiality of a foot fetishist contemplating someone’s toes. ‘You’ve said enough already,’ as Sheree Dodd was fond of remarking.

6. Because the ‘independent consultants’ running our consultation said they publicised the meetings as hard as they possibly could, honest guv…

Because they said they publicised the meetings as well as they possibly could...

But they actually didn’t (love how the meeting was advertised in the local paper the day before…):

Because that wasn't actually true.

7. The sorry excuse for a questionnaire provided to us by HaslamDodd. It was (a) shit and (b) mostly written by Inspiration Trust themselves. And (c) there was no paper copy sent home with Hewett pupils which, hello, would have been an obvious move if you were genuine about widespread consultation. But who am I? Certainly not a firm of taxpayer funded ‘independent’ consultants.

For ‘The IEB regarded it as very important blah blah’ read: ‘Rachel de Souza regarded it as her god-given and inalienable right to waste taxpayer money on a marketing exercise’.

UwXlGx_mUoymjURPoqIxQ7TVWUV7--XsU9yhfSJqMyI

Naturellement I pointed this out to them on The Twitter.

8. Because even though the consultation found eighty percent were against Inspiration Trust it still isn’t good enough for them…

Fave quote from one of ’em:

‘Deciding on the proposed changes to the Hewett School is not about a popularity contest or about making symbolic gestures – it is making sure the children of Norwich get the best possible start in life… Changes are needed to restore the Hewett to the full, bustling, and great place it once was, and we believe the Inspiration Trust has an important part to play in that transformation.’

You can read my response to them here.

Eh? Does that mean we can re-run the election cos of the silent majority?

Eh? Does that mean we can re-run the election cos of the silent majority?

9. The unbelievable truth that the civil servant who gets to decide the school’s future is a personal friend of Rachel de Souza…

Can you Adam and Eve it?

ZD2barIvgEkjZc8T1M90s5j1p96gQK8sy7FPtrpsykc

C5RCqcLN_ajQdUghQXJx9vVGHtY8oSqQ5vQJeAlmoh8

10. And the gobsmacking fact that the Academies Minister, Lord Nash, is a personal friend of Sir Theo Agnew, the chair of Inspiration Trust. (Oh yes, and Theo also chaired the Department for Education’s Academy Board until Gove ejected him recently to cock up the home office instead.) Let the back scratching commence!

Chortling IT

Here they are chortling together outside Isaac Newton Sixth Form, housed in the old fire station and gifted to them at a knock-down rent by one of their millionaire mates. Sir Theo of Agnew is on the left of the picture, Lord of Nash beside him. Who’s that lady? Oh, it’s Rachel de Souza of course! Mwa ha ha ha ha.

11. His Majesty Sir Theo of Agnew’s usage of the vile phrase ‘cunning ways’ in reference to the Machiavellian machinations of Dame Rachel. (For sauce, see the Guardian article in no.1.) (Apologies, I meant source. Of course.)

12. The fact that Norwich has been telling them to sod off for months.

Hundreds of us marched in protest. Two thousand of us signed a petition against them. What does it take?!?!

Hundreds of us marched in protest. Two thousand of us signed a petition against them. Are they thick-skinned or what?!

13. The fact that Her Royal Dameness Rachel de Souza is a tiny bit chickenshit, let’s be honest.

RdSprivate

14. This chock-full-of-platitudes response from Education Secretary Nicky Morgan (in the run-up to the election):

nickymorganballs

I rewrote it for her cos I’m nice like that.

15. The fact that Inspiration Trust were allowed to write the advertisement for Hewett’s head teacher before the consultation began. (I’m sorry: assist in writing it. Excuse me while I go slap my wrist.)

16. The fact that Inspiration Trust SUCK at snark. (Although much respect for the lovely kids in this video and I’m genuinely glad you’re doing so well. Sorry that IT saw fit to use you as emotional blackmail.)

11141160_1608721289377454_3766712364611128537_n

17. The fact they think this is a good use of taxpayer money. Skip ahead to 5.50 if you want the fright of your life.

18. The fact that Inspiration Trust are evicting a brilliant Sure Start centre (my old nursery, peeps) that’s been around (in one form or another) since 1939:

EEYC

Sign the petition here to help save EEYC: http://www.clivelewis.org/saveeeyc

19. Last but not least… because Hewett kids are fab and do fab stuff like this.

Need I go on?

*As you will have noticed, there was nothing particularly shocking about no 9. ‘Twas nowt but a cunning ploy. What’s good enough for Buzzfeed/Upworthy is good enough for me.