Tom Bennett

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Behaviour Chat with Charlie Taylor at the DfE: Die Hard- in a ministry

The Department for Education, and it seems, Charlie and Lola.

Mile End station, even by the standards of the staunchest Pollyanna, is an unlovely troglodyte’s cave; get out at Mile End station and you expect to see still-smoking Sobanries on the floor, and wonder when the Soviets bailed. Get out at Westminster, the Jubilee flagship station, and you’re in an alternate dimension of the future where the Empire never waned, all elegant mechanical spires and Olympic engineering. Such was my after school journey last Thursday, when I had the pleasure of attending the Ministry of Funny Teaching, sorry, the Department FOR Education. I emphasise this in case anyone mistakenly thought that prior to the name change in 2009, they were actually AGAINST education. Mind you, they paid for me to do Brain Gym, so who knows?

The raison d’etre was to take part in a Q&A with Charlie Taylor, the incumbent behaviour czar to the government, in a live recording taking part inside the DfE. The brief suggested arriving at five for a seven o’clock start, and I was wondering what would take two hours. I was kind of hoping there would be some kind of secret mission for me. Alas it was only the cover-every-eventuality turbo-planning of someone who was probably used to last-minute-Larrys goofing their schedules. Still, if there’s a next time, I’m chipping up at five-to with a cheeky grin.

An estate agent would describe the interior as generously appointed. It’s quite beautiful, with cities-of-the-future offices suspended around an enormous atrium. It would make, I’d like to suggest, an excellent setting for the next Die Hard movie (‘Yippee-kai-ay, Mumsnetf***rs!’).

NUT ‘most wanted’ list.

There’s even a two-lift system: one of them allows the Morlocks to toil endlessly in the darkness, while another allows the Eloi to ascend to the loftiest heights; access to the second is gained only by, I presume, a retina scan and a password (I tried ‘full pelt’ without success). It reminded me of the lifts in the Waldorf-Astoria in New York; one set accommodates the people wearing fanny-packs, while another allows Paris Hilton access to her private eyrie (a guard told me, ‘These lifts aren’t for people like you,’ and I said, ‘What, with jobs?’)

The waiting room was decorated (and I use the word with caution) with a chronological series of education secretary mugshots; a Butler, a Baker, an Academy Maker, that kind of thing. No M-Gove yet. But how long? The average tenure in the top chair seems to be just under two years per Grand Fromage. One more brown envelope, one more tart talking to the Sun on Sunday, one more cabinet musical chairs, and suddenly there’s another A4 glossy pinned to the wall of the waiting room. Ah, momento mori.

I was hoping for The Thick of It, or at least the Office of Information Retrieval from Brazil; instead I got an open plan layer cake characterised by air, light and space. Of course the damning deal you make with the open plan is that you trade discretion for the Panopticon of the communal space. A chum at the TES described to me how their office goes onto Gove-standby when the Great Man wants his pencil sharpened or something. Pity these mortals then, who are on Def-Con Gove AT ALL TIMES. They must be in a state of permanent priapism.

Maybe not.

Full pelt with a Tranny


Everyone was charming and kind. There’s a cafeteria (aspirant regime-topplers seeking clues, take note of my blueprint clues) at the base of the beast, open plan, of course. It looks lovely, like the showroom of the Chelsea Habitat. Unfortunately, like a McDonalds drive-through, all the seats are designed to get you off your arse and back on your feet after five minutes. They might as well attach them to the mains with copper wire, for all the comfort conveyed. Does that all sound a bit Michael Winner? I’m sorry *moves to the breakfast area, meets De Niro for snax etc*

The broadcast was fine- I’m happy to talk about behaviour until the universe succumbs to entropy. Charlie Taylor is, I gots to say, one of the most maddeningly reasonable men I’ve met in education, possibly because he knows what the f*ck he’s talking about, which is often uncommon. He’s that rare thing- a man talking about teaching and classroom management who has actually scaled the peaks before telling everyone else how to get there. I rate the fella, despite all attempts to find some significant dispute between us on matters of cheeky monkey management. Alas, I couldn’t find a credit card to winkle into the space between our views. He also looks a bit like Clint, which should please Sir Michael Wilshaw. I have high hopes for Teacher Training.

‘Yippee Kai-ay, memo-leaker.’

Anyway, if you want to see it, the DfE have it on their Youtube channel, and I’ve posted it below. Yes, they have a Youtube AND a Twitter account AND a Facebook and OMG HAVE YOU SEEN WHAT THE DEPARTMENT OF TRADE JUST POSTED ON THE MINISTRY OF DEFENCE’S WALL I NEARLY PISSED MYSELF SHE’S A TOTAL BITCH HAHAHAHA ARE YOU GOING TO THAT THING AT BRUSSELS?

*Michael Gove likes this*
*Stephen Twigg likes this if everyone else does*
*The Daily Telegraph likes this even before anyone else knows about it*