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A School Carol: The Tale of Eduneezer Scrooge - Day 2
By Alex and Rachel Ford
24 Dec

The Spirit of Education Present

As Scrooge touched the spirit’s robe, he found himself transported to his local secondary school, not more than a mile from his own academy. It looked dark enough, and the windows darker, contrasting with the sleek curves and glowing glass of his own multi-million pound development. The sky was gloomy, and the playground was covered with a dingy mist, half thawed, half frozen. There was nothing very cheerful in the outlook of the building, and yet was there an air of cheerfulness abroad. For the students, who were making their way around the site, were jovial, absorbed in the hustle and bustle of talk and laughter, their breath fogging in the brisk air. The pupils shoved and jostled their way through the ageing doors of the building, stamping their feet and rubbing hands together.
A bell rang. The scene melted away and Scrooge found himself inside a classroom. He looked around him with deep interest. The rooms was shabby, paint peeling from the walls and water leaking from one of the cracked windows. In front of him he observed a sea of students, each with their attention fixed upon a solitary figure at the front of the room.

“Who is that?” Scrooge enquired of the spirit, motioning towards the teacher, who paced backwards and forwards at the front of the class, gesticulating enthusiastically.

“That is Mr Cratchitt,” replied the spirit, “a history teacher here, and a fine fellow indeed.” As Scrooge watched the lesson unfold his expression grew ever more consternated.

“Spirit, this man has been talking to these learners for nearly half an hour now and has not made them assess their progress once. He also seems to be taking great liberties with the scheme of work, indeed I cannot even see a lesson plan or digital resource at all. Why have you brought me to see this? What are these students learning and how will their progress be assessed? What would Ofsted say?” The spirit smiled a knowing smile, gesturing to the room, before offering his reply.

“Look at the children. Do they look like they are not learning?”

And as Scrooge looked, he realised it was true. Each young face was fixed upon the teacher as he skilfully wove his tales and challenged his young charges’ understanding. With every question Mr Cratchitt asked, a forest of hands appeared, and yet more wanted to probe and enquire further about his lesson. One boy in particular caught Scrooge’s attention. The child gazed upon Cratchitt, eyes sparkling brightly in the dim fluorescent flicker of the classroom’s lights. His was the first hand up at every pause, his were the questions which made Cratchitt beam with delight at each new avenue opened up. Scrooge thought back to his own school and wondered if any of the children he had observed in recent years had yearned for the knowledge of a teacher as this boy seemed to. Scrooge kept his eyes fixed upon the boy throughout until, at last, the bell brought the lesson to a close. The students finished writing their answers in their exercise books and bubbled out of the classroom door, the occasional one even stopping to thank Cratchitt for the lesson.

Once the children were gone, Cratchitt sat heavily at his desk. His faint smile lingered for a second longer, then was gone as he pulled open a heavy drawer and placed a pile of papers on his desk. On top of the pile was a long list of items to achieve before the Christmas holidays. Scrooge moved towards him for a clearer look. He slowly began working his way through the stack of paper. An unfinished scheme of work for a Key Stage 3 unit for the January half term; a series of outline plans for the Year 8 history curriculum; a new assessment with some notes on how children’s work might be better assessed; and a short note from the head teacher reminding all staff that assessments would need to fit in with the school reporting system of using levels. Cratchitt gazed at these for a few more seconds, before putting them all in a bulging blue folder marked, ‘holiday work’. Next he turned to another folder, this one marked, ‘New A-Level - urgent’. He pulled out the contents and was soon lost in the pages of specification documents and exam papers. Time slid by as Cratchitt furrowed his brows and made furious notes, occasionally pausing to rifle through a poorly stocked store cupboard of books. After forty minutes of work, two key terms were prominent on Cratchitt’s notepaper: ‘time?’ and ‘funding?’, both followed by large question marks. He sighed a heavy sigh, put his pencil down and turned instead to the more pressing issue of his tracking data for Year 11.

A sharp rap at the classroom door caused Cratchitt to start and Scrooge to turn swiftly to face the new arrival. An elderly woman entered the room and proceeded towards Cratchitt. She paused for a moment, looking somewhat troubled.

“I thought you should know,” she began in earnest, “that some moves are afoot for the Scrooge and Marley chain to take over our school.” Cratchitt looked visibly shocked by the intrusion. “It is not as I would have wanted it of course, but our recent Ofsted grade leaves us little choice, and I will be able to retire before the changes to the pension age come in if I step down this year,” she continued. Cratchitt thought for a moment before replying,

“Are there no other options Ms Myner? People say that Scrooge and Marley’s is more interested in turning a profit and getting awards than in education.”

“I’m afraid not,” the other replied “In our situation there are very few choices and these chains know exactly how to tick the right boxes. I think it the long run the school may just need this. Anyway, I have already informed Mr Scrooge that you will make an excellent head of department once the schools merge so your job should be safe.”

Cratchitt thought again. “I suppose you may be right. I am not sure if there is much we can do in the face of so much change. I have only just managed to get my head around the GCSE strengthening for this year, and I am struggling to get all of this planning done for the new Key Stage 3 curriculum. Now the new A Level specifications have been published but I don’t know what the new GCSEs will involve yet! Maybe working as part of a larger group might help with that, and I suppose that ticking a few boxes for Ofsted wouldn’t hurt. But still, I…” Cratchitt trailed off, his worries left unvoiced.
“I’m sorry, I will have to talk to you about this further in the New Year, I need to go and inform the rest of the heads of department,” Ms Myner said as she strode towards the door.

Scrooge was puzzled for a moment as he observed Cratchitt’s reaction. What could this teacher possibly have to fear from a take-over from his own chain? Then he thought back to his first reaction on seeing Cratchitt’s lesson; and to his younger, more idealistic self; and began, for the first time in many years, to understand.

Alex and Rachel Ford

Tomorrow, Christmas Day, Scrooge is visited by the Spirit of Education Yet to Come

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