Go ahead, make my day. How Clint Eastwood might inspect schools.


I was at a thought-provoking conference yesterday about raising the attainment of all school children in England, whatever their talents and abilities.

John C. H. Grabill c. 1888

Cowboy by John C. H. Grabill c. 1888

The opening key-note speaker was Sir Michael Wilshaw, Her Majesty’s Chief Inspector of Schools and head of Ofsted, who has a reputation for not mincing his words.

Sir Michael explained to the audience, made up mainly of Head Teachers, what he called ‘Wilshaw’s Way’ of school leadership, a recipe for raising attainment in English state schools in challenging circumstances – the conference subsequently singled out parts of coastal and rural England where educational improvement was badly needed. A Head Teacher-Inspector asked Sir Michael what Ofsted was doing to get more real live school leaders like herself involved in inspections – he acknowledged that more could be done, but that he was ‘on the case’ – he also conceded that Ofsted’s focus should turn more to supporting gradual steps to improvement, rather than just snapshot inspecting.

Clint Eastwood came up in a list of famous people acknowledged in Sir Michael’s speech (read  it for yourself). There was no subsequent reference to any of the US actor’s film roles, though perhaps it was the one with the orang-utan.

I thought I’d fill in the gaps with my purely fictional interpretation based on another famous Clint role, with a nod to the excellent recent Channel 4 TV programme ‘Educating Yorkshire’ (also mentioned in the speech). I stress this story, unlike the conference, has no particular significance or value.

HIGH SCHOOLS GRIFTER (with apologies to Clint Eastwood)

A lone rider enters a small, dusty ‘town’ in the wild west of old.

Things aren’t at all satisfactory in town, particularly in the local high school, which clearly requires improvement.

The principal has been railroaded out of town, the staff have lost all authority and the students have become an unruly mob, only interested in earning a quick buck outside the school gates selling illicit tobacco.

The new arrival rapidly asserts authority, stamping down on misbehaviour with firm but fair punishments and rewarding good deeds with quiet words of praise in a calm Yorkshire accent.

A number of staff resent this new ‘tough love’ approach and decide to rebel. Each in turn is booted off the premises. Local hoodlums are given an explicit warning that they are only welcome in town if they knuckle down to some serious post16 learning. Test results sky rocket, students start to prepare for honest occupations. ‘Grift not drift’ becomes the new school, and town, motto.

The mysterious stranger decides the job is done and moves on. The message to all is clear: there’s no room for complacency in educating our community – the good work of many years can be lost in a single day – and any retribution for misdeeds will come in the form of an unannounced high school inspection.

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