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The BoJo Academy, RIP


The education world has been rocked to its core with the long overdue publication of Ofsted’s report into the BoJo Academy. TCW’s Education Correspondent has the story.

FOR WELL over a hundred years the BoJo Academy has stood as a beacon for all that is good in education. Recognised worldwide, it has turned out generations of well-adjusted, well-educated children, all armed to make their way in the world, equipped with the traditional values of work, family, duty, right and wrong.

Recently there have been rumours of poor performance, lacklustre leadership and a general abandonment of the Academy’s core principles. Despite these unsettling anecdotes, a slew of reassuring pronouncements from the staff gave parents the impression that the school remained very much unaltered.

The Ofsted report which has just been made public lays bare a dismaying catalogue of ineptitude and incompetence at every level throughout the school. Now regrettably placed in ‘special measures’, the BoJo Academy finds itself tarnished with a reputation for second-rate staff, a cult-likementality and, shockingly, a reliance on increasingly high fees to mask ham-fisted financial management.

Accusations come thick and fast with few people spared criticism in this excoriating document. It points the finger of blame primarily at the teaching staff – especially long-serving ones, who must have recognised the severity of the situation yet failed to take appropriate and timely action, instead meekly acquiescing to further damaging, and to outsiders, incomprehensible policy diktats. Ofsted draws the conclusion:

‘A great many individuals on the payroll seemed content not to rock the boat, provided their monthly pay slip was forthcoming. People who should have known better simply turned a blind eye to a litany of appalling decisions that were, to a large degree, to the detriment of all pupils.’

The report’s authors go further, lamenting the Academy’s Board of Governors – or the men in grey suits, as they are often called – for an egregious dereliction of duty. Why, the report asks, did so many qualified and interested parties simply ignore what was going on in full view?

Unusually for Ofsted, parents themselves are not spared censure either, roundly rebuked in hard hitting terms.

‘As the school lurched from crisis to crisis and abandoned any pretence of adherence to its founding principles, parents had ample opportunity to sound the alarm, yet failed to do so. As fees escalated exponentially, warning signs that the Academy was heading for the rocks were all too evident.

‘The installation of gender-neutral lavatories, drag queen story hour in the junior school, the running down of the sanatorium, sending the Combined Cadet Forces’ guns and ammunition to the Kyiv Boys’ School, the over-reliance on overseas pupils, the cashless tuck shop, ID cards for pupils, parents and staff, the removal of the central heating system – all these interventions should have given feepayers pause for thought. Yet time and again they believed the increasingly bland utterances given by a dismal parade of Head Teachers.’

The revolving door at Headmaster’s Lodge perhaps can go some way to explaining the dire direction the school took, with Ofsted commenting:

‘While it is unfortunate that the BoJo Academy has seen a rapid succession of individuals in the top job, many, if not all, were woefully inadequate. Several simply seemed to be on auto pilot, taking their lead from others and spouting banal soundbites that they thought parents would like to hear.’

Though names are not named, it is thought by many that the Head Teacher singled out as ‘unfit to run a whelk stall’ is a reference to Mrs May; other well-informed observers believe it applies to Mr Cameron, Mr Johnson, Ms Truss or Mr Sunak.

The report attempts to identify when, as it terms it, the Academy went ‘off the rails’ and it pinpoints 1990 as a turning point. This coincided with the sacking of long-serving Headmistress Mrs Thatcher and the surprise appointment of her successor, Mr Major.

Known largely as a teacher of Performance Arts at the Junior School, and having a passion for European studies that bordered on the obsessive, Mr Major ushered in a period of progressive teaching. His deficient tenure was followed, according to Ofsted, by ‘a succession of lightweight individuals, none of whom was remotely capable of independent thought or showing any principle whatsoever’.

Prior to the report’s publication, and anticipating what it was likely to contain, several teachers decided to vacate their posts, taking advantage of the Academy’s generous severance package.

It is widely believed that Mr Sunak, who will most likely struggle financially if ousted from the School, will do the honourable thing and stand down from the post that he had coveted for so long.

It is difficult to see how the BoJo Academy can recover from this devastating and detailed investigation.

Happily, into this storm comes the calm, competent and reassuring figure of Mr Starmer, or Sir,as he is widely called. Rayner’s Lane Comprehensive has seen a huge surge in applications from pupils outside the borough and Mr Starmer has indicated that he will do as much as he can to accommodate all those wishing to join.

At a hastily convened meeting of parents and local media, he said:

‘I am saddened to learn of the problems that have beset the BoJo Academy. No one wants to see a fellow educational establishment have its dirty laundry aired in public, yet the monumental stupidity and hopelessness that was going on deserved dissemination to a wider audience.

‘I am happy to assure Academy parents that our school will be able to accept their progeny, where they can be assured of a good education in safe surroundings free from knives and guns. While we do not have playing fields the size of the Academy’s, we do have some derelict buildings which we have plans for. Going forward, we would like to establish a small “faith school” as there appears to be a growing demand for just such an institution.

‘We are hoping that Mr Galloway, who former pupils will recall taught a module of Middle Eastern Studies for sixth-formers, will return to Rayner’s Lane and oversee this exciting development. Something of a firebrand and with a gift for rhetorical flourishes, he would be a welcome addition to any go-ahead seat of learning.

‘Additionally, we have until now, avoided having a school song, deeming it an anachronistic and somewhat pompous frippery that has no place in modern education. On reflection we realise that perhaps this was a hasty and blinkered view, and that a song all pupils can sing together daily, is in fact a strong foundation for unity and harmony.

‘Our very able deputy Head suggested the melodic A House is not a Home, while in a nod to our heritage I put forward My Old Man’s a Toolmaker, a sympathetic modern take on Lonnie Donegan’s much-loved classic. Finally, the parents themselves proposed Slade’s Mama Weer All Crazee Now.

‘I am delighted to announce that the surprise winner is From the River to the Sea, a stirring and fitting refrain which we can gather round together as one big happy family. Would all boys immediately familiarise themselves with the words.’

So the BoJo Academy looks to be a lost cause, but we can look forward to reporting the many exciting developments at Rayner’s Lane Comprehensive.

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Alexander McKibbin
Alexander McKibbin
Alexander McKibbin is a retired media executive who worked across domestic and international media.

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