The last couple of days have been a bit strange for anyone involved with education.
Firstly, it seems that bullying is now OK as long as you’re friends with the boss.
It defies belief that anyone tries to defend this behaviour, but this morning we’ve heard a range of privileged, clipped vowel apologists suggesting that she was only trying to get things done or that she didn’t know she was doing it, as if that somehow makes it better. Patel herself came out with the most mockable and tired of non-apologies, the classic, “I’m sorry if anyone was offended,” as if it was the bullied staff members’ fault for being in some way upset by being shouted and sworn at. You know what, if she was the boss of some small firm supplying parts to a slightly bigger firm in one of the more parochial parts of the country, then we’d still feel very sorry for her staff, but at least we’d know that her business wouldn’t be going anywhere as this imbecilic and narcissistic management method has consistently been proven to yield, at best, average results. But she’s the bloody home secretary. So, as well as being poor at running a department she, along with our PM, are condoning using power and privilege to silence anyone who doesn’t agree with them, and letting society know that bullying is fine as long as you agree with the bully.
One thing that you can say in favour of Ms Patel is that she does seem to have meted out her vitriol fairly. As far as we know she was happy to be horrible to anyone no matter what their colour, race, religion or sexuality. Which may explain why the government chose this week to mention that it had stopped its funding for LGBT bullying programmes.
No need to specifically target LGBT bullying issues when bullying is for everyone now. Some schools have been described as “unsafe places for LGBT people to be themselves,” but no need to worry, as soon they’ll be unsafe places for everyone to be themselves unless they’re very good friends with the strong kids or the rich ones.
All this is happening, by the way, during anti-bullying week. https://www.anti-bullyingalliance.org.uk/
And just to finish off the week, the chancellor has suggested a pay-freeze for public sector workers. We know we're biased here, but after 10 years of frozen pay to offset a financial crisis in which teachers played no part, in a year when government has realised the economy depends upon schools or else it collapses, this feels like a splendid insult. It feels like bullying. Maybe it’s a way of finally getting rid of teachers, policemen, civil servants and all those 'weaklings' who think that courtesy, fairness and tolerance are virtues to be commended rather than mocked.
That said, and we know we speak for every youth theatre tutor and teacher here when we say there’s a lot of us who denounce and are happy to publicly vilify such behaviour. The belief that bullies should be condemned and stopped is being passed on to the next generation despite, and partly because of, the pathetic posturing of a few entitled ministers. The actions of those who should behave better only make us more determined that the work we do is important and will continue loudly and proudly.
As educators and creators of art, we have a responsibility to call out bullying wherever we see it, in all forms. If you ever feel you are being bullied, regardless of age, position, status, race, sexuality, etc. then it's crucial that you speak up. It can be a hard thing to do, but there's advice out there, and people you can call to help. Please do.