“Nowadays people know the price of everything and the value of nothing.”

The Picture of Dorian Grey – Oscar Wilde

It started so well. A new dawn and a new ‘Hope’ Academy. There was money and there was passion. We fired three shots in to the brains of that twinkling doubt -that it was all just mutton dressed as lamb. How could it be when the very air in the building carried the bitter sweet taste of polish and the new uniforms brightened the dirty pavements of our poor forgotten town with a ready break afterglow?

We were beautiful.

It was 2010 baby and we had broken free from the shackles of those dusty Local Authority pen pushers… we were riding the promise of autonomy – its golden locks wrapped firmly around our grabbing fists. We were about to take education, kicking and screaming, in to the future. The Guru Dali Gove, that bright young rising star, had a vision and nothing was going to stop it. Who could doubt such a morally driven and honest man? Everything he touched glittered like gold, he was our very own Professor Bernard Quakermass.

We were the special ones… the pioneers – trail blazing and path finding whilst those greyed out schools rusted in the bitter black rains.

Times were golden and we had money for multi coloured sofas, glass coffee tables and commissioned art. We had policies that did not tolerate anyone who was not going to fit in. Two coats of wax on those shoes and dress length at regulation level. If you didn’t conform you could spend your time walking the peeling and empty corridors of some desperate school a few streets away as it clung to the landscape like a diseased limpet. 

We had it all… … except a rich curriculum. 

Our futures were bright… … but our morals were tested.

We forged onwards regardless… … burning the past without so much as a backward glance.

And now we pause…

When we pressed that Academy button… what was our vision for education again? The money has gone you see. The hours are longer. The teachers, those pulsing lights around the building, they are flicking less and harder to find. Their heads bowed as they endlessly mark tomes and contemplate plans for other things. We fear the tests and we worry through sleepless nights about the inspections. We furtively look over our shoulders expecting to find something lurking in the shadows… something that will end us all. I hope it is quick. Don’t let me go slowly; don’t let it be public.

There’s a portrait of the school in the attic and it has grown more grotesque. The multi coloured sofas frayed and stained, the dusty glass tables cracked and dirty. The frame has fragmented and is held together with brown tape. Corruption has seeped in to the picture and there is a loneliness that harks back to happier times. If you stare in to this picture hard enough sometimes you may see it for what it once was. A school, sitting in the heart of a community that served nothing but the community. It was a lofty dream and times have changed. We have games to play now. We have targets to meet and countries to beat. If you look in to that picture long enough you might just see something… you might just recognise…

What is that?

Is that our future?