Here is a different way to think about education, passed to me by a wonderful head in Birmingham and it offers hope for whiling away the leisure hours of the Jubilee weekend, if such there are.
Imagine you are marooned on a desert island, with 25 children, expecting that you will all be returning in a year or two to the world very much as you all left it.
You can choose two other adults to be marooned with you and the children. What would the ‘education’ you offer them, look like? Who would the two adults be – to pass on all that was greatest and best in our heritage and to prepare the children for the rest of life?
This is a version of the blank piece of paper fantasy. How different it would all be if we could scrap the whole educational edifice and start again, if you could give children different families, if you could employ your dream team as a head, if you could write the next Education Act, the next National Curriculum or even next week’s A Level History paper. The desert island allows you to consider what adults actually know if they can’t look things up.
What would have been deeply embedded enough to be able to pass on without books? Would the urge to write and draw be so strong in children who knew such things were possible that they would go to any lengths to find writing material?
Should one of the other adults be a scientist, mathematician or opera singer, an engineer or botanist, a priest or a loving mother?
What the exercise does is question what really matters and how it is conveyed, if it is even possible to separate those two.
It reminds us that so often in education we are rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic, or using education merely to rearrange the order of people who might have the deck chairs in the first place.
To have children away from other influences, who you could both prepare for the world and prepare to change the world seems a long way from the daily life of most of us in education. But though we don’t have them on a desert island 24 hours a day for two years, that is what we are doing and just sometimes it is worth standing back from the SATs, Ofsted, GCSEs and A Levels and remembering that.
* Sarah Evans is principal of King Edward V1 High School for Girls