Friday 8 October 2010
Woman Overboard - Miss Snuffy
Fans of Miss Snuffleupagus - Miss Snuffy - were sorry to lose the informative blog 'To Miss With Love', reporting from the computer assisted board of modern school life. .
Her technique was straightforward; to describe an incident but not with an identifiable character but an archetype. So an episode might be about a child called "Fizzy" or "Puzzled". She would then show how the current political thinking was affecting the child, often for the worse.
The episodes were often positive, such as when Snuffy managed to get children who really didn't think they could to pass exams to do so, or when they behaved beautifully on the train so that people noticed them and smiled. One or two were deeply touching as Snuffy met pupils from many years earlier or considered the changes in herself since she set out on her road. Many were much darker though, charting the difficulty of helping a child who does not wish to be helped.
However, she was always extremely careful to use the archetypes to make it impossible for someone to recognize themselves.
Often I didn't agree with her political analysis but one thing I'm clear about: she was and is a smashing teacher who does her pupils nothing but good; not just the sense of academic achievement but in the wider pastoral sense. We can't manage with just one Snuffy; we need hundreds of them. My wish is not so much that she stays in teaching but that she opens a Snuffy factory and copies herself.
This week she shut the blog and opened a difficult door; she appeared at the Conservative conference and courageously set about trying to describe her world, because if the muddle is ever going to be sorted it it won't be done by the teaching profession sulking and failing to tell Michael Gove how the world really is; the good, the bad and the downright ugly.
She started by outing herself: she's Katharine Birbalsingh.
Needless to say no good deed ever goes unpunished. Her school has 'sent her home' and is threatening disciplinary action.
Shame on them. St Michael and All Angels, Camberwell, is supposed to be a Church-sponsored School. If there is anything at the heart of Christianity it is the voice of an innocent person speaking truth to power, which is precisely what Snuffy did.
So let's name the ingrates and fools who should be cherishing this rare and unselfish woman.
Dr Irene Bishop - Executive Headteacher (How is this different from Head Teacher?)
Chair of Governors Canon Peter Clark
Vice Chair of Governors Mr Gary Scott
Mr R. Bool
Mr Paul Brightly-Jones
Revd Andrew Dodd
Canon Andrew Grant
Mr Michael Ipgrave
Mr Musa Olaiwon
Mr John Beastall
Mrs Charmaine Odusina
Rev Liz Oglesby
Mr Alastair Wilson
H/T Cranmer, who is a friend of Miss Snuffy's.
Update (1) from Alan Douglas over at Cranmer's:
"Might this be the same Dr Irene Bishop who was head teacher at St Saviour's and St Olave's in 2001 and allowed her school to be used to launch the Labour 2001 general election?
Update (2) Both of Dr Bishop's schools have used the spinners Grebot Donnelly to try to achieve a perception of improvement when what they ought to be doing is educating children. GD also offer a crisis management service, which is presumably going to soak up more money which would have been better spent on education.
Update (3) Having thought about it, the school and Diocese have issued a statement saying they hope to have Ms Birbalsingh back in her job on Monday morning.
Update (4) Yeah, it was spin. They just lied about letting her do the job WE have paid her for in order to try to stop the story running. They forced her to resign, presumably under the mistaken impression that this means they can't be sued for constructive dismissal. Oh yes they can. See Cranmer on the subject.
Update (5) The Times (print copy) reports that as of 18 October, Ms Birbalsingh has been approached with a view to Headship by at least two free schools seeking to set up. They know a good thing when they see one. The best thing for the children of the area is for plenty of free schools which do what the parents want, which is to have heads like Ms Birbalsingh.
Perhaps we should look at switching money away from the privileged secret grammar school St Saviour's and St Olave's, which is already failing to meet five-sixth's of the demand in the area. That means for every place 'Dr' Irene Bishop graciously bestows on some supplicant on the condition they buff-up her ego, another five girls are turned away despite their parents having the wit to express a preference. That's not success in a school; that's a failure to serve the needs of the community.
Update (6) 'Dr' Bishop has been asked repeatedly to explain what her LLD was for. It appears it is an honorary doctorate awarded by the University of Exeter.
An honorary doctorate is a real certificate, which is why the universities award them, but it is not an academic doctorate, not earned by substantial academic endeavour and subject to peer review. An academic doctor is usually keen for you to read their doctoral thesis and will gladly tell you the awarding body and the year.
Often it is the PR divisions of universities which handle the queries rather than the academic registries because the awards are part of the way the university presents itself to a wider public. A holder is technically entitled to style themselves 'Dr' but in practice it isn't done because the holders are well aware that this might tend to misrepresent them to the unwary. Jeremy Clarkson, for instance, has two - a DUniv from Brunel and a HonDEng from Oxford Brookes. You don't get him demanding to be called Dr Clarkson.
The issue of misrepresentation has been in the legal news recently. Employers have taken issue with being given misleading information. For instance, Maxine Carr was convicted of misrepresentation when she lied about her GCSEs to get temporary work as a classroom assistant which allowed her to receive payment which she would not otherwise have been eligible for. This could be serious for 'Dr' Bishop if her award was misunderstood as an adcademic degree and influenced her appointment as the Executive Head of St Michael and All Saints, allowing her to receive a pecuniary advantage which she might not otherwise have been offered.