Me in The Guardian on Tidemill: The director’s cut

Good heavens. If you’ve a quid burning a hole in your pocket today, get yourself to a newsagent and pick up The Guardian, where you’ll find me spouting off about the Tidemill school story, sharing page 28 with a former chief inspector of prisons, and nuzzling up against Sir Simon Jenkins on the opposite page. Cor.

I should be all cool about it, but I’m actually running around like a Jack Russell on acid.

I was writing from a local point of view – based on yesterday’s post – so I probably should have hammered home one point a bit more, though. I have no real opinion about academies or headteachers’ pay in general – what spurred me to write was the vilification of a man doing his best in a bloody difficult part of London. No party’s education policies have been a soaraway success over the years, so when someone’s doing something that works, they should be celebrated and not crucified. Mark Elms’ pay packet, inaccurately reported as it was, may well turn out to be very good value for money if it improves – and even saves – lives which are often written off from the start.

As for the wider point about academies versus local accountability – like I said, I have no real opinion either way. But if it works, don’t attack it. Education’s a difficult topic – where moral principles and practicalities collide in the ugliest of ways. (Ask Diane Abbott.) It’s all very well going on about “local democratic accountability” of schools, but that didn’t work for the parents at Charlotte Turner school, closed by Greenwich Council despite their bitter protests, and largely ignored by the rest of that borough’s politicians. Disrupting a council meeting was the only way they could get their message across. But something different has worked down the road at Tidemill. That should be celebrated.

The public seems to have seen through the GMB and Daily Mail’s synthetic outrage, though – I’d like to have the man from the GMB stand outside Tidemill and tell those parents their man isn’t worth the cash. But stupid actions like the GMB’s are what worries me about politics over the next few years, where campaigning against cuts ends up looking like nothing more than self-interest. Campaigners are going to have to be a bit smarter in the years ahead if they’re to win over the public.

However, though, it looks like the kids at Tidemill are winning at the moment. I hope it stays that way.

(UPDATE 12:40PM: The guy from the GMB came unstuck when he came up against the peerless Eddie Mair on Radio 4’s PM yesterday – 16 minutes into the programme. Meanwhile, Caroline’s Miscellany says Mark Elms isn’t the first Deptford educator to come under public scrutiny…)


  1. Those who (like me) don’t buy the paper version of the Grauniad can find Darryl’s article online at

    Well said, Darryl! It just goes to show that some of the huge figures we see reported as “fat cats'” salaries can be wide of the mark.

    I’d take issue with one small point in the article, though. You refer to “Ofsted tests”. Ofsted doesn’t set tests, it inspects schools (and other provision for children and young people). If you mean the Key Stage 2 tests (often called SATs) they are overseen by the QCDA (Qualifications and Curriculum Development Agency).

  2. In your article you seem surprised that “even BBC news”
    ignored the facts. Of course it was BBC news local to London which is no better than the tabloids. I want them all to die.

  3. Nice. That “even the” reference to the BBC was subbed in, incidentally – I was a bit more oblique in the original.

    Alan – thanks for clarifying the Ofsted stuff.

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