Lockdown: Week 11

When I consider, on a Friday, what I’m going to discuss in my weekly message I can sometimes find it hard to identify something serious to discuss; or there are too many serious things to discuss, or there is something enormous and too significant which can’t be discussed. This week is an example of one of those weeks when the enormity of events seems to be too great for me to sensitively address.

I am always reticent about drifting into political commentary. Whatever my personal politics I’ve always believed that as a headteacher it is important that I do not become too political or allow my own political inclinations to affect my professional judgement. I simply do not feel that my position gives me the right to push my politics on to other people. However, it would be wrong for me not to make mention of the events over the water, in the States, this week. The frightening and horrendous images coming out of Minneapolis and the brutal manner in which an innocent black man was treated by the local police force is beyond comprehension and explanation and were there any words from me they would be insignificant and would likely to be ill-judged and inappropriate. My thoughts are with George Floyd’s family.

And my thoughts are with the wider BAME population in this country. It is, it seems, very clear that it is significantly more difficult for our BAME population to get on, feel safe and valued, even in the UK. We know that disadvantaged children find it harder than others to progress educationally and that disadvantage continues on into adult life. A significant proportion of the BAME population in the UK could be described as disadvantaged. As a country, as a community, as a society, we need to recognise that and find ways of levelling the playing field. That doesn’t mean just saying that everyone must be given the same opportunities. We need to tilt the seesaw of life in the direction of those disadvantaged children and families. In that way we may see some shift to true justice and equality.

The plight or challenges of the BAME population in the UK has been further emphasised this week in the study which highlighted the significant impact of the coronavirus on the BAME population. Very early in the crisis some had said that this virus would affect everyone equally. It is clearly not the case. Probably for a whole host of reasons; much of that and many of those reasons will be beyond ethnicity. They are more likely to be the economic disadvantage, the domestic environment, the place of work, I could go on and on. The ‘basket’ of measures which contribute to an understanding of the term disadvantaged, will be the contributory factors in trying to understand why the BAME population in the UK has suffered significantly and disproportionately during this crisis.

This isn’t about politics. This is about recognising what a civilised country and society should be responsible for and should endeavour to manage.

The UK society is not equal. We see significant disadvantage in some parts of our communities. We, in education, do recognise that and endeavour to find ways of levelling up. I know that it is tremendously difficult and we don’t always achieve what we intended to achieve, but we know we must keep on trying.

In these times of crisis, whilst we are dislocated from many of our pupils we need to find ways of ensuring that all of our pupils stay connected with us and with learning. We won’t always get it right but our intentions must be clear.

The sooner we can all be back in working face to face with our pupils, the easier it will be to level up and remake those all-important connections. This will be especially important for some of our disadvantaged pupils.

‘Change does not roll in on the wheels of inevitability, but comes through continuous struggle.’ Martin Luther King

We are at the point where the comedy connections kicks in. Press delete now or not.

The thinking person’s comedy. Or the thinking person designing comedy. That’s been the theme for this raft of connections. Interestingly the more ‘intelligent’ the comedian the stranger the comedy might become. Last week the apex of radio nonsense, this week a strange old sitcom written and played by the I’m sorry … gang.

Many of you will have heard of The Goodies but few of you will have seen the show. Much classic comedy (certainly from the BBC stable – ITV didn’t really do decent comedy; with exception of Rising Damp – and please don’t shout “what about … George and Mildred or Robin’s Nest?”) gets repeated endlessly on the likes of Dave, but not The Goodies. I’m not sure why this might be the case. Yes, it is the early 1970’s, with all the fashion errors of that era, but the surreal non formulaic sitcom of The Goodies was absolutely enormous in that era and has shaped the works of recent comics such as Vic Reeves and Harry Hill. Does it stand the test of time – I’ll let you judge that.

Written by I’m sorry … stalwarts Graham Garden and Bill Oddie (with some help from Tim Brooke-Taylor), The Goodies redefines the sitcom. It brings slapstick, clowning, verbal gymnastics and hi-tech special effects (at least for the time) together for a roller-coaster half hour of madness. It went nowhere, it didn’t really mean anything and there really was no point to it but the 3-person tandem, ‘ecky thump, gigantic kittens and all became television legend. The Goodies brought utter madness to prime-time BBC – in those days with 3 channels (yes only 3 channels, and BBC2 was off air or showing Open University programmes most of the time) The Goodies regularly had over 15 million viewers tuned in.

Enjoy Kitten Kong – a classic!