There was an air of great excitement and anticipation around school as we were having a very special visitor. In our quest to provide an ‘outstanding’ education we meet many people who come to see our children and the education we provide. As a school we are generally unfazed by visitors as we receive so many. Our school provides a great photo opportunity for any visitor wishing to receive good publicity. We are therefore accustomed to profiling the skills and talents of our amazing children and staff.
Ours is a school for very special children, purpose built in the 1960s for physically disabled children. There have been few if any renovations since that time.
To give the reader a flavour of the state of the school there is asbestos in the building, much damp and the wall ties are rusted and perished. The corridors are too narrow for the ever increasing number of powered wheelchairs the school now has to accommodate. The exterior walls are literally crumbling away and many rooms have no outside access. Children often have to be transported outside the building in inclement weather just to access a different area of school. The situation is appalling.
In 2009 we received an email from Michael Gove requesting that he be allowed to visit. Now this was a real coup, an honour indeed! He had heard that one of our teachers had won the TES award for Enterprise teaching and he wanted to see the curriculum at work. Michael Gove was the Shadow Conservative Secretary of State for Children, Schools and Families. This was a great honour for our tiny school and we wanted to welcome him with open arms. There was an immediate changing of displays and freshening up of anything that could be freshened up for our honoured visitor.
Michael Gove entered our school and was immediately overwhelmed. He spent time with the children, joined in their work and showed a real interest in them. He took time to speak with them and seemed very caring. He purchased some of their items and was genuinely interested in the children. I have to say I was very impressed with him. The children rose to the occasion and did themselves proud. Michael spent a considerable amount of time wandering around the school and examining the state of the building before stopping for refreshments in the deputy’s office. As a member of SLT I was invited to chat to him about his views on education and our school.
Michael said thar education is very close to his heart. He is aware that he had a good education and this is the reason for his interest in education he claims. It is important to him that all children have the chance to succeed in life. He said that he was full of admiration for the challenges that our children face on a daily basis. He was visibly distressed by the structure of the building and the decaying walls. He considered it a health hazard. It’s fair to say that he was quite dewy eyed when he talked about what the children had to endure. He praised our staff for continuing to reach high standards under such duress and thanked us for taking such good care of the children despite the dreadful condition of the building. His parting comment was to assure us that when the Conservatives gained power we would have our much needed school. Michael was an exceptionally decent man. He seemed genuine and caring.
At this point I’m quite sure you can guess the end. The Conservatives came to power and the first thing that Gove did was to cancel BSF and by doing so he crushed our dreams of a new school for the poorly children. To put this in to context we were not the only casualty of the new Government. Many schools lost their new buildings as the country faced new austerity measures. Other great institutions such as the NHS also suffered and the country in general was becoming demoralised.
My reason for writing is not to condemn Michael Gove. That would be too easy. He told us directly that we would have a new school and we became very excited at the prospect. However, he was not in possession of the full facts regarding the economy. That said, this is if no consequence as we remain in a building that is not fit for purpose. A cynical person would say that Michael was merely vote catching by visiting us. My own view is that he would have liked to fulfil his promise to us but the decision was taken out of his hands. I don’t like to think badly of him as he showed genuine concern for our plight. Maybe I’m naive. I can only say that on the day I met him he was sincere and genuinely caring. Now I’m unsure of the real Gove. The children fail to understand this and feel let down by the lack of their promised shiny new building.
There is a possible positive note to this tale of woe which has once again slightly raised my opinion of this man. Recently the worst schools in the country were selected for renovation or re build. We are on the list for one of these options. Will Michael Gove finally fulfil his promise to the poorly children?
We may yet have a happy ending.
This post was originally written as a guest post for @teachertoolkit. See them all on his website.