Matthew Burns

HEADMASTER’S BLOG – THE RONSEAL TEST IS WHAT MATTERS

Perhaps the only thing that was surprising about Saturday’s news headlines of Lord Ashdown’s report that “Voters’ Trust in Society is Collapsing” (Times, 3.1.14), is that it made headlines. However, for a serious politician such as Lord Ashdown (former SBS officer, Royal Marine, cabinet minister, MEP and key figure in Bosnia-Serbia peace talks) to make such a bold statement suggests we are really in trouble so that we all need to sit up and take notice.

Politicians, the Church, National Health Service, BBC and bankers have all come in for a bashing from Lord Ashdown who forecasts a fragmentation of votes at the next election. Minor political parties who represent single issues will benefit and hold the balance of power in successive coalition governments. Lord Ashcroft is right to worry that we will be held hostage by the minnows in the pool.

Schools and teachers do not feature on Lord Ashcroft’s list… yet. But we should beware the changes that lead to the moral bankruptcy which lies at the core of public disenchantment. 

Schools are places of education and to a large extent the public allows us to get on with it in the manner we see fit. In return the public has every right to expect that education to be relevant, useful and to properly equip pupils for a productive life. Schools which seek success through deviation from that territory by the manipulation of league tables or the adoption of pointless qualifications undermine their own authority and that of the entire profession. 

Rockstar Heads are fine if they too pass the Ronseal Test but the collateral damage when Knighted figures are disrobed of their virtue is a significant threat to all our professional integrity. The finest Service is altruistic and our reward is the thanks we receive from pupils, their parents and colleagues. Anything else is superfluous.

And what do we think of the Twitterati? To be honest it’s a modern menace. But if we are going to share our thoughts in 140 characters (I am all for brevity) let’s make it significant rather than inane comment. Educators should let pundits be pundits and allow the marketeers to do the marketing.

Lord Ashcroft’s comments will attract other responses, some will blame immigration for social fragmentation. It doesn’t matter who lives where, if people and organisations in public service don’t meet the simplest of tests they will never secure the confidence of those who fund and rely upon them. 

The moral compass has never been more important and Lord Ashcroft offers all of us in education much to reflect upon. 

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