Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)


Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)


Article excerpt


ITHOUGHT I'd arrived. Now I'm not so sure. I'll explain.

Next week I'm in London at an education conference. Only a bunch of headmasters (note the gender-specific term) could pigheadedly meet every year concurrently with the Tory Party Conference.

We don't compete for conference venues: it's just that, if my educational bash comes up with any exciting stories, the Press will be too focused on covering that annual political blood-letting to devote column inches to our collective educational wisdom. Some months ago I agreed to take part in a panel discussion at the event. It's meant to give us heads a chance to hit back at the mainstream Press: on the panel with me will be the education editors of four national dailies plus one freelancer.

This is where my perplexity begins. In the conference blurb, the professional journalists are credited with the papers they write for.

By contrast I was initially described as "inside columnist": a recent email changed my status to "maverick freelance".

Maverick freelance? At first I rather fancied the description: it makes me sound a wild child, a bit edgy and dangerous. How ridiculous!

When all's said and done, I'm just a greying man in a greyer suit, in his 24th year of school headship.

I'm not even freelance: I have a full-time job and merely happen to write a column in The Journal (a fact of which no one at the overwhelmingly southern conference will be aware) and the odd piece for education magazines.

Worryingly, the audience of head teachers will expect me, the only one of their number on the panel, to bat for the profession and take on the journalists.

What? Confront five hard-bitten Fleet Street hacks, all on my own? It's not a fair contest.

They'll have a go at out-of-touch heads, lazy teachers, obese kids, dumbing down, lowering standards; all the headlines that sell their newspapers.

By contrast it's my role to be balanced and calm. I'll reply, "It's not as simple as that. Education is a very complex business" The journalists will scoff, the audience fall asleep. …

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