Build a (Park) House...

The Housemartins.

An under-rated, in my humble opinion, Hull-based band from the mid-1980s. I also particularly liked their a Capella version of ‘Caravan of Love’, almost a Christmas Number 1 in 1986...

If you look closely, you’ll probably recognise a young Norman Cook, later to re-invent himself as Fat-Boy Slim, one-time husband of Zoe Ball. After breaking up, some of the band went on to form the Beautiful South. Their ‘Song for Whoever’ - ‘I love you from the Bottom of my pencil case’ - appropriately accompanying my first full summer in the profession...


Enough digression.




The more I listen again, the more I hear a metaphor for our schools, and the challenges we currently face.


Whistling men in yellow vans

They came and drew us diagrams.

Showed us how it all worked out

And wrote it down in case of doubt.


A metaphor for increasingly distant and disconnected politicians and policy makers within the Department for Education who are failing to appreciate school culture and the unique relationships that are built over time with the local communities which we serve; relationships that are based on an intense, localised knowledge of that community and the families and dynamics which shape it. Caring and supporting.


Relationships, care and support that are now further jeopardised not just by an apparent unawareness of the day to day realities of running a school but also a now acute funding crisis. I won’t get involved in polemic.  Colleagues have made the point far more eloquently than me in a variety of media over the last couple days...

BBC screenshot

Guardian Link



But it was perhaps this interview by Charlie Stayt with Minister of State Nick Gibb on Saturday morning’s BBC Breakfast that best captures the combination of cultural disconnect and financial challenge that is becoming so damaging to to what we as school leaders strive to build...


Nick Gibb



Call me old-fashioned; out of date. An anachronism even. My early career progression, was I’m sure, based on my mid-80s accountancy-training generated understanding of KPIs and improvement plans, which at the time resonated with a generation of anxious Local Education Authority officials who believed that business models offered the way forward for sluggishly  unresponsive school leadership.


But I think I’ve now come full circle. We don’t need our scarce resources squandered on a cadre of centrally-appointed business consultants telling us how to spend them. We need adequate funding and the autonomy to spend it, subject of course to the accountabilities which must sit alongside responsibility for the use of public money, on the people and provision that we know will make the most difference to our children in the communities that we serve.


It’s only after sixteen plus years in post that I can begin to reflect, I hope without arrogance or complacency, on the unique relationships that we build, and the tools we need to keep doing so...