Your blog contains a number of factual inaccuracies.

I thought I’d share the Inspiration Trust’s response to my previous post:

Your blog contains a number of factual inaccuracies.
1. There is no “isolation room” at The Hewett Academy. When operating as the Hewett School there was an isolation room, called “The Cooler”. This approach is not used by The Hewett Academy. The Learning Support Unit has two members of staff present to support pupils working outside of their normal class, alongside any other pupils temporarily working in the unit.

Dear Inspiration Trust,

The Learning Support Unit is clearly intended as a punitive measure (if kids are being sent there for infringements of uniform policy). N’est ce pas? In what respect could this ‘unit’ be said to deliver (a) learning and (b) support? 

This just in from a former Hewett teacher: there was, indeed, a ‘cooling-off’ room at the Hewett School. However, this was never (to the best of said teacher’s knowledge) called The Cooler. Which is in fact (to the best of said teacher’s knowledge) a term used in the popular TV series, Waterloo Road.

 
2. Behaviour policy in each school is a matter for the senior leadership team of the school. It is not set by Sir Theodore Agnew; your reference to him is wholly without foundation and could be considered defamatory.
You choose to focus on the disciplinary aspects of the policy, but completely ignore the praise and reward aspects that provide positive encouragement to students and are working well.

Dear Inspiration Trust,

The tweet in which you called me abusive could likewise be considered defamatory, so I suggest you remove that before you go any further. As could the comment on our Facebook page in which you claimed I’d made false allegations and caused distress to parents and pupils. When challenged to present evidence of these false allegations you mysteriously vanished. I’ll remove the reference in the original blog post, and I’m certain that, as a courtesy, you’ll want to remove the offending tweets and comments you made about me.

You might also care to furnish us with some understanding of the decision making process behind your behavioural policy, which a number of previous staff and parents at Inspiration Trust schools have described as ‘top-down’. Especially since Ian Burchett (from Inspiration Trust) assured us that you’d adopt a hands-off approach at Hewett. Interestingly, this ‘hands-off’ approach has consisted of issuing kids with IT’s standard behavioural policy. Weird, huh? And what of your much-trumpeted understanding of ‘Hewett’s non-traditional ethos’? What indeed.

3. It is factually incorrect to suggest an “entire PE class” was given detention for “wearing the wrong length socks”. This did not happen. Some individual pupils were given detentions for not wearing the correct uniform, after having several weeks notice of the new uniform.

Dear Inspiration Trust,

I believe that parents were unaware of the exact length of black socks required by Hewett Academy, hence there’s every likelihood that you are factually incorrect to make this statement. 

 
4. The uniform does not contravene government guidelines. Both the Department for Education and Competition and Markets Authority guidelines allow for branded items and nominated suppliers. The previous school uniform included items that were only available from the school. All existing pupils received a free set of the new uniform so parents did not have to pay.

Dear Inspiration Trust,

Parents did have to pay, and are paying, because you didn’t issue sufficient kit to see a child through the school week. Yes, the guidelines allow for branded items and nominated suppliers, but if you familiarise yourself with best practice you’ll see that you’re falling short of the available guidance. The previous uniform did indeed include items only available from the school shop, but trousers and skirts could be bought elsewhere (as you well know), and there were fewer items too (as you also know very well). Jumpers and polo shirts were handed down, and those who had financial difficulties could apply to the Anguish Fund for help. Since help is only available on a bi-annual basis, those who applied for the old Hewett uniform are deprived of additional help until 2017. Is that a factual inaccuracy? I’m happy to be corrected if so.

 
5. Haslam Dodd reported independently to the Interim Executive Board for the statutory consultation, and the consultation report accurately reflects the comments raised during that process. The decision to proceed with academisation was not made by Haslam Dodd or the Inspiration Trust, but by the Department for Education.
Haslam Dodd also carried out a parallel non-statutory consultation on behalf of the Inspiration Trust. This was made clear during the consultation process.

Dear Inspiration Trust,

Leaving aside the report prepared by HaslamDodd (which is full of emotive language) can I please ask now for those present at the consultation meetings to comment below if they had any clue whatsoever that HaslamDodd were carrying out a consultation on behalf of the Inspiration Trust? If it was made clear, then it was clear as mud. It was certainly never made clear that HaslamDodd saw the consultation process as a chance to put across the ‘IT vision’! Parents and community members should feel happy to correct me if I’m wrong on this point…

 
6. The Hewett Academy principal and vice principal were appointed by the Interim Executive Board. As is entirely consistent with Department for Education guidelines and was openly discussed at the time, the Inspiration Trust met with candidates and advised on the appointment as the likely future sponsor. To suggest otherwise is wholly inaccurate.

Dear Inspiration Trust,

The email correspondence makes clear that Inspiration Trust’s role in the appointment of these staff members went far beyond an ‘advisory’ capacity, and frankly I’m amazed you can claim this is ‘wholly inaccurate’ when De Souza is referring to ‘Principal Leverage’ (before the consultation process even begins) and asks if she can introduce ‘our’ new appointment. Sorry, re-introduce. Can you explain this proprietorial stance if Inspiration Trust weren’t already calling the shots at Hewett? Indeed, am I correct in thinking that a great deal of expenditure (including the appointment of HaslamDodd) was drawn from a pre-academisation grant awarded to Inspiration Trust several weeks, or months before their acquisition of the Hewett School? What chance did we ever have of changing the outcome of the consultation, if Inspiration Trust (as I understand it – correct me, of course, if I’m wrong, and I’ll remove this statement) were already spending the money allotted for Hewett’s academisation?

 
7. Nothing has been “stolen”. The Hewett site was voluntarily transferred from Norfolk County Council to the Central Norwich Foundation Trust, an independent charitable trust, in 2010 at no cost. The site was transferred from the CNFT to the Inspiration Trust – also an independent charity – in September when the Trust took over responsibility for the school from the CNFT.

Dear Inspiration Trust,

You know this is a minor point; you know that the CNFT and Inspiration Trust operate differently; you know that 2000 people petitioned against you and that 80% of respondents to the questionnaire carried out by HaslamDodd said ‘no’ to your acquisition of the Hewett School. You keep banging on about these tiny details when the larger point remains: the majority of us did not want you. We told you that openly, clearly, a number of times. Jonathan Haslam agreed at our final consultation meeting that he would have to report to the Secretary of State that the audience had voted unanimously for Inspiration Trust to back away from our school. Why weren’t we listened to? You seem amazed and angry that parents continue to feel hostility towards you. See it from our point of view for a second, please. This was not a voluntary process. You were forced upon us. You claimed you’d be ‘hands off’ at Hewett, that you respected our non-traditional ethos. And what are you doing now? Exactly the same as you’ve done in all your schools. You didn’t mean a word of it, did you?

Correct me if I’m wrong about that.

Advertisements

Do as you’re told.

[Warning: the following blog contains the statement that several children were given detention for having the wrong length socks in PE class. Before you go any further, I must advise that they may, in fact, have been wearing the wrong colour socks. Rest assured I’ll be wearing a hair shirt for the remainder of the day.]

I wish I wasn’t writing this.

I wish I was writing my novel instead (2841 words on day 19 of NaNoWriMo = epic fail, as the youngsters say) but sometimes (often, lately) a thing needs saying and none of the usual channels for saying this thing is available (for a number of reasons) and hence you resort to writing a blog in your sheer bloody frustration at people’s stupidity.

Because, yes, it is stupid to send a schoolchild to isolation for having her nose pierced: especially stupid when two days ago, at the end of school on Friday, said piercing was perfectly A-OK with the Powers that Be. It is stupid to send home a 5-page pamphlet on the school’s new behavioural policy (since becoming an ac*demy with the Inspiration Trust), documenting the sort of interventions any right-minded teacher would thumb their nose at (and please, for the love of God, do high school kids need rewarding with gold bloody stickers? I think not.) It is stupid to give the majority of a [edit kindly suggested by Inspiration Trust] PE class detention for wearing the wrong length socks. 

If you don’t think it’s stupid, then have you considered the possibility that you might be stupid?

It’s especially stupid to name the isolation room the ‘Learning Support Unit’, thus linking forever in every child’s mind the unfortunate concept that ‘learning support’ is a kind of punishment. (This paragraph has been edited to remove a statement considered defamatory by the Inspiration Trust and replaced with a cheeky otter instead.) otter raspberry)

And you know what else is stupid? The ravishing new uniform, with the owl-in-a-taco-shell logo (kudos to the person who left that comment on our Facebook page) attached to one tit (as Travis in If… would have it). It’s utterly, totally, maddeningly stupid that the school (sorry, ac*demy) have spent £60,000 on cheap ugly tat, like a wet dream in a polyester factory, and – potentially contravening the government’s own suggestions for best practice [with thanks to Inspiration Trust for the edit] on this matter – they’ve handily ruled that all items may only be purchased from the school approved supplier.

Hurrah!

 

You might think they’d want to build bridges with the community from whom they’d just stolen a 54 acre site worth upwards of £60 million. You’d think – since everyone already had black skirts and trousers – that maybe it might possibly be a teensy bit sensible to retain black as the primary colour if changing the uniform (the uniform they claimed they wouldn’t change…) since our school isn’t known for its wealthy parents, and maybe they could have consulted those parents on what sort of expenditure they felt would be acceptable. I mean, why not do those perfectly simple and sensible and decent sorts of things? If you’ve genuinely got the community’s best interests at heart and all that.

But they haven’t. They don’t give two hoots (apologies: crap owl joke). We already know they have issues with telling the truth, having sat through a sham consultation – at taxpayer expense, hurrah! – conducted by several white men in dark suits (see below), and two women: Sheree Dodd of the inventively-named media consultancy firm HaslamDodd and Rachel de Souza of Untimely Email Deletion Notoriety).

EDP pic Hewett consult.png

They claimed that our new head teacher and deputy head were not appointed by Inspiration Trust. I repeat, they were not appointed by Inspiration Trust:

PrincipalTwatty

Who’s this email from? Oh that’s right. It’s from Rachel de Souza of the Inspiration Trust. It’s dated 17 May 2015. The Secretary of State named Inspiration Trust as the school’s sponsor on 5th August 2015. I think you see the problem.

And they claimed that HaslamDodd were an ‘independent’ firm of ‘independent’ consultants offering ‘independent’ and ‘impartial’ services as ‘independent’ and ‘impartial’ facilitators of the wholly ‘impartial’ consultation procedure.

And yet… and yet… rather curiously, here’s an email from Jonathan Haslam (released as part of my Freedom of Information request) in which HaslamDodd offer their services in what seems to be a PR role to Inspiration Trust:

HaslamTwat1

Look at points 4 and 5 in particular.

I could go on.

I won’t. I can’t be arsed. It’s depressing, and sad, and unfair.

And now Inspiration Trust have our school, and they’re busily boxing our kids into Enid Blyton-shaped holes.

It’s got sod all to do with their education. It’s got sod all to do with raising standards.

It’s got everything to do with ensuring that children do as they’re told. Don’t stop, don’t think, don’t ask, don’t voice an opinion.

If your hair is dyed red, or your fingernails are painted, you’re no longer welcome in a classroom at the Hewett Academy.

If you have an ‘extreme’ hairstyle you’re no longer welcome in a classroom at the Hewett Academy.

If your make-up is less than ‘discreet’, you’re no longer welcome in a classroom at the Hewett Academy.

If an item of your uniform is missing you’re no longer welcome in a classroom at the Hewett Academy.

If you’ve purchased an item of uniform from the wrong supplier (i.e. a cheaper one) you’re no longer welcome in a classroom at the Hewett Academy.

I think this stinks.

alison_joker

Get thee to an isolation cupboard.

For some kids, make-up and hair dye and piercings are fiercely entwined with their sense of identity, their sense of self-esteem. For a child with Body Dysmorphic Disorder, for instance, the sudden cessation of everything that makes him or her feel safe or comfortable could have horrible consequences. Teenagers aren’t really known for their confidence: why would you want to dent it still further, unless to feed your own petty hunger for power?

And, honestly, seriously, truthfully… why does it even matter if somebody’s nose has a ring or a stud in it? Why do you care? Is your faith in your own educational ability so thin and minute that you place all your emphasis on banning slap? Are you really so threatened by difference? 

If so, how pathetic.

In my (un-humble) opinion, your face is your own face, and no school has jurisdiction over it.

If it’s identikit kids the Academy want, they can go buy a Lego kit. The Hewett kids are individuals. And long may they remain so.

 

An unspun truth is a frightening thing.

I feel genuinely sorry for anyone who trusts this government to have their best interests at heart.

I feel genuinely sorry for anyone who trusts this government’s friends and associates to have their best interests at heart.

I’ll tell you why, shall I?

Until recently I was a certified Nice Person™. I once turned the music down because my cat was trying to sleep. I made a crying student smile by showing her pix of Emergency Kittens. I move snails out of the way on dark, wet nights and I try my darnedest to be there for my friends when they need me (sometimes fail at this, I admit) and I tell my daughter every single day how loved she is, and how utterly gorgeous (because I know what it’s like to grow up thinking you’re sort of slightly rubbish).

This week, however, courtesy of our lovely government, I discovered that I’m hostile and intimidating. Courtesy of the government’s lovely friends and associates at the Inspiration Trust I discovered that my behaviour is abusive. Along with the participants in two other hard-fought academy campaigns, my fellow Hewett chums and I were allowed to be openly maligned on a government website and in a press release the same day.

Mwa ha ha ha ha! De Souza, Agnew, and Academies Minister Lord Nash chuckling it up at our expense. And they're coming to a school near YOU.

Mwa ha ha ha ha! De Souza, Agnew, and Academies Minister Lord Nash chuckling it up at our expense. And they’re coming to a school near YOU.

Don’t the government have rules they have to follow? You’d think so, wouldn’t you. You’d think it wasn’t acceptable for the Department for Education to quote mistruths from Dame Rachel de Souza with absolutely no right of reply from the ‘small but vocal’ (2000 people petitioned against them) ‘politically-motivated’ (as if the mass privatisation of education isn’t politically motivated) campaigners who made life so incwedibly difficult for poor Dame Rachel and her Tory chums. Because, after all, how dare we stand against them? How dare we Hewett oiks defend our own school, paid for by local taxpayers, from the filthy marauding hands of private business? How dare we?

What Theo Agnew thinks every time he looks at our oik-ish faces.

What Theo Agnew thinks every time he looks at our oik-ish faces.

Well, the thing is, you see – we did dare. We did dare to say, actually, hang on a flipping minute, we don’t want our entire school system to be privatised, thanks very much, and this feels like a fight worth having – not just for the sake of Hewett, but for education in general. After all, as a wise man once said: ‘If you don’t stand for something, you’ll fall for anything.’ So we did dare, and we continue to dare (because as long as they’re educating my daughter, I will continue to hold that bunch of crooks to account whenever I see fit, thanks very much).

So, yes, we defended our school. And, yes, we felt hostile towards the people stealing it, as people generally tend to do when their own property is being prised from their gradually loosening fingers by people who already own giant swathes of the Norfolk landscape, and – here’s the really amazing thing – they didn’t pay a penny to acquire it! In fact, yup, they were paid to steal our land. They were paid by you and by me. They continue to be paid by you and me, and they’re pissing the funds away on Vera Wang tea sets and Hugo Boss chairs and jollies to New York for meetings with education ‘experts’ who advocate things like this (skip ahead to 5.55 if you want the fright of your life, whilst noting that comments are disabled for this video, because that’s how Inspiration Trust tends to roll):

I’m abusive, according to the folks who run Hewett Academy’s social media, because I dared to voice dissenting views on a public internet page (’tis how the internet works, you rusty old bunch of farts – and if you’re going to call me abusive you’re going to provoke rude language; ’tis how human nature works):

Screenshot 2015-10-22 09.26.39

You can read my response to this tweet (which, taken out of context, is misleading – natch) on our Facebook page, now called the Hewett Parents’ Forum to reflect the fact that, you know, the vast majority of us hostile and intimidating folks are just parents. Parents of the very kids the government is claiming to protect by instating their chums and buddies in our state-owned, council-run, accountable schools.

And here's my daughter's ballsy response to their nonsense. Proud to have a daughter who's courageous enough to  speak against authority.

And here’s my daughter’s ballsy response to their nonsense. Proud to have a daughter who’s courageous enough to speak against authority.

So let me tell you what I’ve learnt in recent times: the government (and their chums) do not give sweet FA about your kids, or about you. If they gave sweet FA about you or your kids they would actually listen to your community voice. They would meet with you and your kids in a fair, friendly forum to discuss the needs and wishes of you and your kids. Rachel de Souza has never never ever ever visited Hewett parents or pupils. NEVER. Theodore Agnew, the chair of Inspiration Trust, has never never ever ever ever visited Hewett parents or pupils. Rachel de Souza told Hewett teachers she’d been ‘after us’ for ages: we’re the ‘jewel in the Inspiration Trust crown’, with our glorious 54 acres of land, and it’s just the perfect size for embryonic Charles Darwin Primary, the latest feather in the IT cap, although they cannot, of course, possibly comment on this.

Perhaps you're thinking: Hmm, she *is* a tad hostile. Well, listen – you'd be hostile, too, believe me, if you'd found yourself ignored, belittled, and lied to for this bloody long.

Perhaps you’re thinking: Hmm, she *is* a tad hostile. Well, listen – you’d be hostile, too, believe me, if you’d found yourself ignored, belittled, and lied to for this bloody long.

Please note the failure to reply to my second tweet… So often were we met (on twitter) by the sudden sound of silence from IT in the aftermath of any awkward (i.e. truthful) tweet, that a running gag sprang up at their expense:

This is their tactic: happy to poke their heads above the parapet for cheap ‘victories’ (minuscule inaccuracies in a campaign comment), sarcastic remarks, or government-sanctioned slagging-off; heads buried down in their murky foxholes whenever we tiptoe close to the truth in an ‘uncontrolled’ forum, i.e. social media. De Souza wouldn’t come near me on our local news show, Look East, in spite of the fact I was there in the building, ready and waiting to speak to her on the hook-up from London. And why? Because, to paraphrase Jack Nicholson, she can’t handle the truth. 

An unspun truth is a frightening thing for these people who pick riches from the public purse. It’s important to them that the public look elsewhere while their pockets are in the process of being picked.

And, hence, you’ll be told in the coming weeks and months that perfectly good and decent schools are failing or coasting (coasting sounds nice, though? Don’t you think? A happy, peaceful place to be, as opposed to an Ofsted-haunted gibbering wreck) and you’ll be told that Downhills Primary was physically attacked (when, in fact, the only thing the lovely and tireless Downhills campaigners ever did of a physical nature was stick a cheeky plaque on the side of the school) and you’ll be told that Hewett campaigners were hostile and intimidating and abusive. You’ll be told that the DfE ‘saw sense’ by gifting our school to the Inspiration Trust, and that our buildings were in disrepair (yes, they were, because the government refused us money to repair them), and that pupil numbers were falling (thanks in part to the government-funded opening of two new schools by… can you possibly guess? By the Inspiration Trust).

You are a free human being. You live (for the time being) (sort of) in a democracy. You can make up your own mind about this. You can swallow the government line if you want to. You can say, well that Lynsey woman – maybe she is a bit bolshi and, god, she’s always swearing and writing rude things about willies, and those nice folks at the Inspiration Trust are (mostly) Catholic, aren’t they? Good Christian people. And surely, surely, the government wouldn’t lie to us?

Or you could read this, from local councillor Emma Corlett, where actual unspun truths are told. And you could read this from the Guardian, reporting on the Shadow Education Secretary’s recent findings. And you could read this extraordinary blog with lots of icky statistics in it – the sort of unspun ickiness the Inspiration Trust is so afraid of.

And you could ask yourself why they are hiding? Why did Rachel de Souza refuse to debate me? Why did she never set foot in our public ‘consultation’ meetings? Why do they go all coy when they’re asked something difficult?

The truth is powerful. And that’s why they’re scared of it.

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.

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.

How Michael Gove had a wet dream once about state education, and now we’re all paying the price.

Today I’m concerned about Nicky Morgan’s eye health. All that staring! It can’t be good, can it?

Nicky Morgan

Nicky Morgan. She loves a good stare.

maxresdefault

Who, or what, is holding her eyes open? And what is she being forced to watch?

Surely she’s a shoe-in for the Stare Out Championship Finals?

Is it too late? Have the body snatchers taken up residence already?

Or is it too late? Have the body snatchers taken up residence already?

Anyway, I’m feeling like a massive bitch now, because mocking someone’s appearance isn’t cool. I should know better. I do know better. But I’ve been awake since 4.38 feeling stressed about my powerlessness to bloody do anything in the face of Nicky Morgan’s policies (coughs noisily into handkerchief and mumbles the word Gove… which, curiously enough, is a little-known synonym for the contents of one’s handkerchief when one has been too long in the capital, hence acquiring the sad affliction colloquially known as black bogies).

Moving on… (Because mocking Gove’s appearance would be entirely too easy, and irrelevant of course because one’s appearance has nothing at all to do with the state of one’s soul. To say, for instance, that Gove resembled a slippery fish would be wholly unfair when in fact— Oh, hang on…)

Very, very, very soon I will be blogging about writing again. I hope, I beg, I pray. I have reached the point in our school campaign (you can see more here) when I just want it to be over. I once had a normal life, I think. (Normal by Lynsey-ish standards at least.) By the bed there are two Cindy Shermans (not even prints – before you pop round to rob me: photocopies of prints. Wonky photocopies n all) that make me remember the heroine of my novel (I’ve fallen a bit out of love with the word protagonist) but no matter how many times I look at them lately my brain’s on a patch of ice, or a laminate floor with a rug on, or maybe roller-skates, because it won’t stick to anything it’s meant to stick to. It keeps getting angry and picturing Nicky Morgan’s bug-eyes and wanting to ruminate on the fact that, if Inspiration Trust invade my daughter’s school (the Hewett in Norwich), we’ll be making profit, by proxy, for a bunch of millionaire Tory donors. That’s definitely not something I want to do.

Other things I don’t want:

  • a Principal instead of a head teacher
  • chanting
  • rigour
  • tradition
  • children referred to as ‘products’
  • an openly right-wing deputy and an openly Catholic head (sorry, Principal).

The last time I checked, homosexual activity was ‘contrary to natural law’ in the Catholic church. In our school we have several gay or bisexual children. Last night (at the second of our parent ‘consultations’ on the future of the school) I raised the issue of LGBT rights in the light of Inspiration Trust’s avowed ‘traditional values’. I wanted the Catholic head, newly appointed, to offer a firm commitment to positivity around homosexuality (along with a woman’s right to choose, and the continuing rights of teenagers to access free contraception at the Base (a community centre operating on the Hewett site) in direct contradiction to everything their religion holds dear.

Sheree Dodd, however, (who was orchestrating the consultation at taxpayer expense), shut me down. I raised my hand again later, but sadly the sands of time had run away with us (probably while the White Men in Suits who constituted the panel were rambling on: this was the kind of consultation where some were more equal than others; you know – the unfair kind).

I’ve done you a little gallery here… I’ve even done you some captions: but owing to the fact I’m having fancy circles instead of boring old squares (because I’ve had enough of boring old squares at these bloody consultations) you’ll have to click on the pictures to read the captions. (It may not be worth it. Your call. Life’s short.)

It’s worth blogging about this, I think, because the kind of consultation we’ve been ‘enjoying’ this week will very shortly go the way of this: Unknown-2 Stary Nicky announced an education bill last week. This bill will enable her to ‘sweep away’ (her words!) the ‘bureaucratic loopholes’ (aka parents’ views) in order to push through the forced academisation process with a speed as yet unseen. At the moment it takes, on average, 13 months for the journey from ‘troubled’ community school to glorious academy. With Morgan’s sensible court shoe on the gas it could take as little as two months in future. In other words, from this: fifi to this:

Unknown-3

Always good to have a pic of Jeremy Clarkson looking twatty. (Basically every picture of him ever taken, then.)

If you think this is a good thing you’re probably an idiot and should stop reading now because the rest of this post will only irritate you further.

I think we’ve got up Morgan’s nose. I’ve tweeted her enough times that there’s a passing chance she makes the sign of the cross when she sees my name (another rightwing Christian; awesome). Last night I was so far up the nose of Sheree Dodd that I could’ve investigated for ‘Gove’. ‘We heard a lot from you last night,’ she said, slapping me down again. Well, we heard a lot from Ian Burchett, too: that’s the IT guy, and for IT read Inspiration Trust, BTW. Wouldn’t want to give the impression that anyone connected with academy BS is remotely Roy or Moss-like:

99.99% cooler than anyone connected with IT.

100% cooler than anyone connected with IT. And that’s a statement of fact.

You know what else is a ‘statement of fact’, according to Ian Burchett? Only one child (yes, one child) in the whole of Norwich defected from the Hewett to one of our brand-spanking-wholly-unnecessary-new free schools, Jane Austen College (owned by Inspiration Trust)! It really is true. Ian Burchett does have that kind of information. It isn’t opinion, or supposition, but a ‘statement of fact’.

He was in the mood for offering these cast iron sorts of statements last night.

Oh, hang on, no. Except he actually wasn’t! He couldn’t say ‘how long’ Jane Austen would remain in their present location (where, as I pointed out, they have no frigging windows! ‘I said please don’t send me here; it’s like a prison,’ as one child remarked to me last night). He couldn’t say why Dame Rachel de Souza, head of IT, should be negotiating over the future of Hewett’s land when – silly Rachel! She must’ve forgotten – she doesn’t own it yet. He couldn’t say anything concrete either about the future location of the newest player in the IT empire: Charles Darwin Primary Academy. He couldn’t say much about ‘traditional values’ either, except that, in his universe, traditional means ‘learning taking place in classrooms’. Or summat like that. No, it didn’t make sense to me, either.

I am roundly mocking him because it reflects the contempt shown to us by Inspiration Trust. We Hewett paupers are so terribly lowly that Dame Rachel couldn’t be arsed to show her face, but sent a stooge instead. I know supermodels used not to get out of bed for less than £10,000 dollars but FFS we have 54 acres of land, worth sixty million quid, at our disposal. The stooge didn’t even do us a bloody powerpoint. I’ve talked before about Aristotle’s definition of the distinction between empty (but impressive) rhetoric and genuine policy. Burchett had neither skill under his belt. I don’t pretend to be a policy maker, but I can write a speech: Mr Burchett, if you want a hand in future, I’ll help out! I rewrote the FAQ sent to us by our Interim Executive Board (IEB) whilst waiting to be (wo)manhandled by a gastroenterologist on Monday, so you see it won’t take me too long. What’s your hourly rate? I extend this invitation to the IEB as well: if you’re struggling to write a job advertisement you don’t need to ask IT to do it. I used to write job specs for a living. Once again, if you quote me your (own) hourly rate I could probably undercut it by, oh, 75% and still feel decently rewarded.

Anyway, we’re holding our own public meeting next Tuesday, 16th June at 7 p.m. There’s a link here if you’re Norfolk based and you’d like to come along. We’ll be talking about the same lack of choice I was talking about on this Future Radio story on Norfolk’s schools. We’ll be talking – honestly – about IT and why, no matter how Stary Nicky insists otherwise, they’re not the right fit for our non-traditional school. All the white men in suits, and Sheree Dodd, have been publicly invited (by yours truly) and rest assured I’ll be most upset if they don’t show their faces. I’ll (probably) blog about the meeting here.

And then… I’m done, I think. I really, really, really do have a book to finish. I’ve got to get back to it. My soul has got little bits of blackish bad stuff attaching to it, like lungs in anti-smoking ads, and I reckon it’s time for a detox.

Update: this post has been edited in light of the recent pointing-out to me, on ye olde twitter, that our incoming deputy is not, as I’d originally stated, a Catholic. He is, however, a Gove fanatic. Both these things are, of course, manna from heaven for an atheist pinko such as myself.

Getting it right, getting it wrong. Not minding.

One day soon I will actually blog about writing my novel. (Before trading standards come knocking.)

One day soon I will actually do some work on my novel.

Neither of those things, however, will be happening today.

If you’ve followed my blog for a while, you may know that 2014 was a year of such cataclysmic awfulness that it’s almost been wiped from my head. For most of that time, I didn’t know how I would carry on being alive. I thought I was pointless and awful. It took a long while to get better. Some days would be bearable; some would be worse. There’s no rhyme to these things, and no reason. You just have to keep showing up every day and believe you’ll recover eventually.

did recover. I am recovered. I’d had an unpleasantly sticky break-up, on top of other things, and it takes time to un-plunge yourself from the bog of lost affections. ‘You’re more like you,’ my daughter said to me the other day, ‘now you’re single. You used to complain all the time… and now you just get on and do things.’

It’s like being an alcoholic, though, or an addict: you don’t just get better; you have to stay better, actively, as I wrote about here. Just the way a relationship needs to be worked at, you need to keep working at loving yourself. Is it harder or easier to love yourself than someone else? It should be easier, right? But it isn’t, not always. I think people (especially women) often make allowances for undeserving others. It’s way easier to make such allowances for someone you fancy (and unless you’re really peculiar, or else Narcissus, you don’t usually fancy yourself…) ‘Well, he did try to call me, but it wasn’t his fault a passing magpie swooped through the open window and, in the process of trying to steal his phone, hit the delete key with its beak, so you see he had no way of knowing my number and, what was even worse, he was nude when it happened, and Christ knows how but the magpie’s claw must have caught the camera button, because that’s the only possible explanation for the willy pic he accidentally sent my hot best friend.’

I think you catch my drift.

Good things and bad things have happened in the last few weeks. I’ve made sensible decisions, and I’ve made some really stupid ones. The kind that are so stupid you auto-cringe whenever you think about them. I’m auto-cringing a bit now.

This is the face of the auto-cringe.

This is the face of the auto-cringe.

But so what? There are worse things than cringing. Worse things than making a dick of yourself. What I’ve come to believe is this: if you don’t take chances, your life will be shit. If you want something, ask for it. Speak up, speak out, speak your mind. Have a go. You will fail sometimes. Things will happen that make you feel silly or sad. I’ve felt silly and sad quite often, the last few days, but I’ve also felt totally fucking awesome. I feel proud of myself. I will keep making twatty decisions, I’m sure, because one of the many facets of my personality is, if I’m honest, a bit of a twat. I did something a little bit twatty last night, when I’d guzzled some wine, and I might be a twat again later. There’s no way of knowing.

But yesterday I did some cool stuff too. Nicky Morgan, our fabulous Education Secretary, announced a bill of such stunning stupidity, arrogance, and injustice that our school campaign got a much-needed fix of publicity. These links won’t last for long, but you can see me here (about 8.15)

lookeast3way2

and here (at about 2.15) having a ding-dong, and here (at about 0.57) walking around in a car park.

Windswept in the city.

Windswept in the city.

If you’d rather not look at my mug anymore you can hear me here with a fellow campaigner, Jo Smith, on breakfast radio this morning around 40 minutes in. And we made a pretty good team, if I say so myself.

And even though it turns out my forehead is way more crinkly than I thought it was, I’m proud of myself for stepping up.

Because, what the hell, there’s always Botox. And, yes, I’ve messed up (yet again) this week. But I’ve also done good things too. So long as, occasionally, I can do something good then I’m happy to carry on being a twat, occasionally, too.

Lynsey White’s journey to fighting against the Inspiration Trust

*Please note: this post has been edited.*

In writing this post I have been inspired by an inspirational post on the inspirational website of the inspirational academy chain called Inspiration Trust.

I am no longer going to link to this post, nor name the author. Perhaps it is unfair to single out an individual and perhaps it detracts from the larger battle. Perhaps it should also be noted that individuals can be placed under pressure by companies for whom they work.

Nevertheless, this particular individual was happy to sling the first blow by suggesting that those who sit on the sidelines shouting and moaning about his employers, Inspiration Trust, were basing their observations on nothing more than ‘lazy twitter comments’.

Here’s one of these lazy twitter comments. Actually, it took me a whole four seconds to take that photograph. Another ten seconds or so to upload it and a minute or two to compose an appropriately concise slogan.

8Ul52JFEkdDFdDRrjWJ-6A3cSEJo6rHhHZj2i5_WoOg

But it’s taken weeks and weeks and weeks of being ignored by the Department for Education and Inspiration Trust for me to reach the point of snark. If de Souza had come and fecking well asked if we wanted to give her our 54-acre school site, worth approximately £60 million, we’d have told her very politely: ‘No! But thanks for asking.’ and sent her on her way.

However she has never asked. And never will.

People ought to ask. They really ought. Along comes a group of venture capitalists and Tory donors. Along they come. And they can prise your locally-owned school from your poor, cold fingers, and snaffle the freehold, and cream off the profits from businesses run on the site (never mind that Norwich taxpayers paid for that site), and splurge taxpayers’ cash on designer tea sets and furniture (£420 for a Vera Wang tea set; over £3000 for two armchairs) whilst advertising for cut-rate unqualified teachers and driving away the ardent, the outspoken, the unionised… (Look at their staff turnover if you don’t believe me: it isn’t just the unionised pains-in-the-butt, either…)

They’re not great at IT, either, in spite of their chain’s initials…

Neither has Sir Theodore Agnew, the chair of Inspiration Trust, come cap in hand to Hewett and said, ‘Hello, lovely yokels! May we please have your school and all its land?’ Theo Agnew is also, since you probably didn’t think to ask but ought to have done (because, hello Tory democracy!), the chair of the Department for Education’s Academies Board. Oh, and also he sits on Policy Exchange, the right-wing think tank which ‘advises’ the Department for Education on all matters educational. Did I forget to mention he’s great friends with Lord Nash, the DfE’s Academies Minister? Perhaps I neglected to say that he’s also a Tory donor, to the tune of several hundred thousand pounds. Oh, and one last thing! He made his fortune outsourcing work to India, where graduates could happily earn a pittance for doing jobs for which he’d have had to pay unskilled British workers more. 

Actually it isn’t the last thing, since I probably ought to say that he went to an independent school (Rugby, I think, off the top of my head), failed his eleven plus, and has a crinkly fat-cut chip on his shoulder about anyone and anything to do with education.

Such are the men (for they are, primarily, men, with Trophy Woman Rachel de Souza providing the female touch) who are taking slow hold (and I said ‘slow’ because I like the way slow and hold sounded together, quite menacing, although in fact they’re doing it rather quickly; rather bloody quickly indeed) of our education system and please, please, please will everyone stop wetting themselves over the r*yal baby and find the inspiration to sit up and say, actually, no, we don’t want all our schools to fall into the hands of private businessmen who do this sort of thing with them.

And hence my journey: not to work for Inspiration Trust, but to oppose them.

At Hethersett Academy, owned by Inspiration Trust, there is a tiny room. It is the isolation room. It is where children are sent to spend the day alone when misbehaving. It is a room where a child with special educational needs can be sent to spend the day alone.

It isn’t called Room 101. But it doesn’t have to be, does it?

This is where we are heading if we don’t do something now.