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Hodder History Expert Blog

A School Carol: The Tale of Eduneezer Scrooge - Day 1
By Alex and Rachel Ford
23 Dec
As Christmas comes around, my mind cannot help but turn to a childhood favourite of mine. I would like to pretend it was Dickens’ original ‘A Christmas Carol’. However, to my shame I must admit it was actually the Muppet version of this masterpiece of English Literature that caught my young imagination – and still does. This year, my mind took a new direction as I watched Michael and Kermit for the umpteenth time. What if Scrooge had been not a man of business, but a man of education? A headmaster to be precise? What would the visitations of the Ghosts of the Past, Present and Future have revealed?

Marley was dead to begin with. There is no doubt whatever about that. Scrooge never painted out the name. There it stood above the card-access sliding doors which led into the glass atrium. The Scrooge and Marley Free School.

Oh! But he was a tight fisted hand at the grindstone Scrooge! He grasped and scraped and clawed every last penny. A few pupil premiums here, a few well-placed sponsorship deals there, and of course the utter devotion of his staff to his school. Those who were unfortunate enough to find their way into Scrooge’s school found him monitoring their every move, their every syllable through his observation programmes. Each and every lesson was meticulously planned to hit every possible inspection objective. No money was to be made, he thought, from a school that was not outstanding.

Scrooge sat all day in his office, his budgets and spreadsheets open on his laptop. Little red marks for expenditures on frivolities such as books and materials. More pleasing green marks for those occasions when the school played host to educational conferences and meetings. Still more green marks arriving from those secret sources of funding which might buy a new gym here (very good for hiring out to the public), or an auditorium there (a great attraction for regional businesses who would pay handsomely for the facilities).

Scrooge looked up past his case of awards and commendations from various government schemes, to a bank of monitors which cycled between the classrooms of his school. In each, thirty-two immaculately uniformed children sat in front of a teacher delivering neatly packaged sections of material from the pre-set lesson plans. Most teachers in his school had been trained there, had been moulded in his image. Few troublesome outside influences here. Around the corridors he watched his dynamic, young leadership team pouncing through doors to check that the schemes of work were being followed and that teachers were abiding by the codes of the school. Yes, Scrooge knew exactly how to achieve his aims.

The Spirit of Education Past

“Rise! And walk with me!” exclaimed the Spirit. As the words were spoken, they passed through the wall and stood within the House of Commons, green benches on either hand. Scrooge’s office had entirely vanished. Members of Parliament, clad in garments of another era, filed past them, conversing as they went.

Scrooge looked on in amazement. He recognised the place, but not the people.

“These are but shadows of the things that have been,” said the Ghost. “They have no consciousness of us.”


Before Scrooge could continue, an exchange took place before his eyes that kindled within him the spark of recognition.

“Congratulations Mr Forster!” exclaimed a jocund gentleman, extending his hand towards one of a more slender and serious disposition. “Your Act has passed. You must be delighted!”

Mr Forster smiled by way of acquiescence. “I am pleased,” he agreed, “at this commitment to the provision of education on a national scale. But there is more ground to be gained before I can declare myself delighted.”

Scrooge turned to the Spirit.

“Forster?” he exclaimed. “W.E. Forster?”

“The name is familiar?” the Spirit enquired gently.

“Familiar, why I count him as one of my heroes!” Scrooge declared with a passion and enthusiasm his leadership team would have been surprised to see in him. Scrooge paused… “Counted…” he said regretfully to himself. “It’s many a year since I have reflected on his achievement…”

At this, the Ghost smiled thoughtfully, and waved its hand: saying as it did so, “Let us see another moment to remind you from whence you came.”

The walls of the Parliament building faded away at the words, as would a fog dispersed by a stiff breeze. They were now in a quiet college quad. Evening was fast descending and lights glowed from the mullioned windows of academic offices. The stillness of the scene was disturbed only by a young man walking briskly towards the door to the East Wing. Scrooge recognised his former college, and his younger self, with a start.

The Ghost turned and asked if he knew this place.

“Know it?” said Scrooge. “I was trained here!”

They went in, following the younger Scrooge into the East Wing and up a flight of stairs to a first floor office: An office that contrasted to Scrooge’s own in every way. The walls of this office were lined floor to ceiling with books; indeed, the floor and near every other available space was covered with well-thumbed volumes. Here was a place that learning happened. In the midst of it all, the young Scrooge had managed to find a perch. His head was bowed over a paper as he conversed earnestly with his tutor.

“Why it’s old Fezziwig! What a teacher he was.”

The Ghost motioned that Scrooge should give his full attention to the conversation before him.
“So, Mister Scrooge – I assume you have added Butler to your list of heroes? You argue very clearly that the provision of free secondary education in 1944 is as significant as the commitment to national education that Forster secured.”

“His post-war work was foundational to the system of free education for all we still have today!” young Scrooge declared. “I only hope that I can make a worthwhile contribution to that system myself!”

Fezziwig chuckled. “I have no doubt you will,” he said with warmth. “If your recent assignment on the pedagogy of teaching history tells me anything at all, it is that you will make a fine teacher.”

At this, Scrooge turned away and walked quickly from the familiar office. He began to make his way back along the corridor. 

He felt the Spirit’s hand upon his shoulder and stopped.

“What is the matter?” asked the Ghost.

“Nothing particular,” said Scrooge.

“Something, I think?” the Ghost insisted.

“I just rather wonder what old Fezziwig would say if he could see me today. The kind of teacher I’ve become. The kind of head I’ve turned out to be. That’s all.”

The Spirit gave no reply, but simply listened as Scrooge continued, “I suppose it was all too much. The temptation to tick boxes and jump through hoops to secure promotions.” He moved to gaze out of the window overlooking the now darkened quad. “I wonder when I started believing it all? When those heroes, and the ideals I was given, were toppled by the idols of Ofsted ‘outstanding’, teaching awards, and examination results?” He paused again. “At least I was given a chance to be instilled with those ideals,” he reflected sombrely. He thought of the trainees in his own school. Trainees in ticking boxes and jumping through hoops. These thoughts were interrupted by the exit of his younger self from Fezziwig’s study. As the younger man hurried away as briskly as he had arrived, Scrooge could do nothing but stand and watch all that he had been disappear along the corridor and out of sight. 

Alex and Rachel Ford

Tomorrow, Christmas Eve, Scrooge is visited by the Spirit of Education Present.

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