Tuesday 10 April 2012

Servicing SATs,servicing Free Schools and serving up poetry!

Education is huge complex institution with thousands of nooks and crannies in it. People gather together in these nooks in order to teach and learn and play and talk and write...and all the rest. Just out of view an ever-increasing number of people provide services into schools - anything from supplying potatoes for school dinners to headteachers' management training. With the burgeoning of the test-till-you-drop culture, another range of suppliers supply exam papers, mock exam papers, revision notes, 'SAT busters' (yes!) and the rest.

Imagine my delight over the last few days, to be working through 'Key Stage 2 English SAT Buster, Reading Book 3' published by CGP. I was even more excited to see that one of the pieces that a Key Stage 2 pupil would work on here would be a poem! Hurrah! A poem. I glanced down at the author of the poem (it's a sort of trade union thing) and saw that it was someone called C.J.Fenton. Hmmm, not a poet I know, I thought.

Then, I flicked to the inside cover page and saw that the whole booklet is 'written and presented by Chris Fenton'. Possibly a coincidence. Possibly not. What fun, I thought. You write and present a mock-SATs booklet and in order to do the poem criticism part, you just well...er...write a poem. Why not?

However, I'm a bit of nosy bloke so I googled the name Chris Fenton and now imagine even more delight when I found this:


where we find this:

"As experienced education professionals, we are here to help any new free schools to develop the curriculum they offer and to guide staff into creative and cohesive teaching. We will help to make the learning in your schools irresistible!"

So, it's all getting rather exciting, isn't it? Chris Fenton sells his or her services to CGP to write mock test booklets - that's for tests which have had an awful, appalling effect on English education, a point of view echoed by 'Moving English Forward' (the recent English Ofsted Report) which acknowledged that many schools teach to this test with poor, narrowing consequences. Not content with writing this booklet, I suspect (no proof) that Chris Fenton turns him or herself into CJ Fenton and does a bit of self-publishing, ie shoehorns in a poem he/she has written.

However, this clearly doesn't bring in enough bacon, so - if I'm not mistaken - the same Chris Fenton has spotted a gap in the market: these chancers, privateers, pirates, snobs and wheeler-dealers setting up 'Free' Schools, might actually lack expertise. Can this be possible? Perhaps. And the thing is, Chris Fenton and the 'New Schools Network' are on hand to provide support for these schools which are part of how this government is smashing up free, universal and equal provision for all children.

Warning: I may be completely wrong about Chris Fenton, C.J.Fenton and Chris Fenton of New Schools Network. It could be three different Fentons or two Fentons.

Interesting all the same. And if I'm right, how very much of our times, is Chris Fenton.