Certified & Set Aside

September 19th, 2014

Flat out exhausted.  Second full week back at work …. and with extra hours thrown in for good measure.  I’ll try not to spend it all in one place.  To raise the stakes that much higher, I just got back from some work related, Team-Teach training which did my head in.  I felt dizzy from the first 30 minutes, as the penny dropped I was in the in the presence of someone I’d been psychically stalking – inadvertently, mind.  It was as if newspaper articles I’d read, interviews I’d conducted, hours I’d spent in libraries, children I’d observed as case studies …. had summoned this person into my life, whilst I wasn’t looking.  In return, I am haunted by her.

One of the things that changed the entire course of my MA at Goldsmiths, originally an attempt to cash convert my music, was meeting my partner’s son, Jack.  He is a young teen with ASD, who is privileged enough to go to a SEN school which has helped him progress way beyond what I thought would have been possible for someone with his difficulties.  I am of the firm opinion that one of the major contributions to his accomplishment is in finding his talent as a visual artist.  He was enabled to do so by his school, but more specifically by a program the school drafted in under the Labour government.  Creative Partnerships (CP) introduced him to his talent via a 360 degree collaboration between pupils, their parents, teaching team, therapists and a CP practitioner loaded up with multi-media provisions.  Together they forged a collective, autobiographical piece of animation, the DVD of which is in pride of place on our living room shelf – it gets a private viewing from time to time, lest we take anything for granted.  This DVD is about 5 years old, but Jack seems to still be in that workshop somehow.  Sketching storyboards for hours at a time, hybridising his favourite mediated forms, which get more 3-dimensional, more detailed, more vibrant, he has been inspired way beyond the duration of that programme.  How many other neurotypicals are this focused on their work?  Positively hyper productive, he is a one-young-man-mass-production-factory of textile design …. or comic strip art.  I am absolutely certain that it has contributed to his enthusiasm for school, if not to actual literacy and numeracy skills, through symbol and pattern recognition.  He was transformed from boy firmly on the spectrum to a high achieving dynamo, all under the regime of his, now former Headteacher.  The same woman who was conducting today’s Team Teach workshop.

This retired Headteacher is banned from teaching in schools for life, with an option to re-apply to teach in two years.  She was charged with bad financial management but was also in severe violation of child safeguarding procedures, both due to the favouritism she bestowed on family members in tendering and issuing contracts.  When I tried to explore possibilities to pick up where CP left off at that school, I discovered the computers and cameras used had been sucked up into the  blureaucracy.  However her last Ofsted report at Jack’s SEN school noted the energy and skill she demonstrated in moving that school forward considerably.   This woman is one fascinating creature

Technically she is not supposed to be teaching in schools right now.  The Professional Conduct Panel Outcome decision was specific enough in issuing her lifetime teaching ban, with option to appeal after 2 years, but did not clarify whether teaching adults in schools qualified as “teaching in schools”.  It seems she skims dangerously close to crossing the line even now, as she conducts her workshop in a local school.  At one point today, she qualified that in order for the course to be accredited, she would need to teach us for a full 6 hours.  She didn’t mention her past at this workshop, and did shamelessly flaunt the logo of her therapy based consultancy, almost product placing her brand at a Team-Teach function.  And yet, the workshop was really good, very helpful, lots of fun – exciting actually.  It was certainly not typical of any professional training I’ve been to – stabbing my leg under the table to stay awake.  I’m not really sure she’ll ever return to teaching.  Why should she?  She was that good today.  I was introduced to elegant and economic ‘Positive Handling’ techniques.  She effortlessly modelled planning and follow up methods.  I was updated on some outmoded forms of control that I’ve been using, and given easier, more effective alternatives.  She made me aware of legal requirements which are not quite being met where I work, and gave me access to recent white papers for back up at that workshop.   I was able to fraternise, brainstorm and drill manoeuvres with people who are appallingly above my station in the academic hierarchy.  She gave me fresh breath to do the merry dance I must do with institutional inflexibility in order to instigate change, to reform if not radicalise education.

I’m a little confused about how to broach this subject with my SENCO.  I’m willing to bet that legal requirements, for schools to have positive handling plans in place, are driving our attendance at this workshop today. Did my school’s management know that we are doing something a little close to the wire here by furthering the success of a woman who bends rules to breaking point …. or are we involved in something more covert?  I so want to believe the latter – that there’s an underground matriarchy rallying to buoy up this woman for the same reason that Ken Robinson howls into a blob shaped universe.


We’re in a crisis of Capitalism and climate.  Scientists are screaming out that we are careening helplessly into an environmental cul de sac.  The people who will save us are the ones who are oriented to think and operate outside the box.   Enter special needs schools.   Perhaps it’s going to require rewriting the rule book.  Who better to facilitate than those who have their hearts in the right place and plenty of experience in bucking the system to match?  Only someone quite accustomed to testing its parameters, without somehow disappearing into high security containment at the bottom of a dried lake somewhere, has a chance to invoke the ideological shift necessary to do this.  I want her to win.  The odds are so stacked against women, and we need to be a little bit wily just to progress even just a little.



I Love ‘Lucy’

September 2nd, 2014

Finally another film from Luc Besson!  Where’s he been? I’ve missed him.  Admittedly, his work is not always easy viewing.  Sometimes I feel Besson is killing me softly with his films, having “found my letters and read each one out loud”. It seems a rarity to watch films where female characters are so deeply integral to the plot line as those of Mr Besson.  Consider his biggest hits: ‘Leon, ‘La Femme Nikita’, ‘The Fifth Element’.  Besson doesn’t treat the female as just eye candy, love interest or quirky goofball in his films, she is most often central to their intense meaning, usually addressing epic existential themes.  In short he is a valiant and properly aspiring feminist.  Not perfect no, but passionate yes.  I do love ‘Lucy’ and see his latest film as a continuum to his great reverence for the female of the species.

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