I am in my over-flowing home office, binning stuff from College Left-Wanting.  Reams of it.  Vast forests of it.  And mostly unread, redundant and/or ill-conceived in the first place.  As if to illustrate my point, I find an ‘All Staff’ communiqué, complete with a smiling mug-shot of Our Great Leaderene (photographed as usual with Vaseline on the lens in an attempt to obscure the striking similarity to Myra Hindley), and am taken back to my former workplace.  A scene floats before my tired eyes…
The urgent document, for almost everything is urgent here, has been composed, printed and is about to be posted, when one of my more literate colleagues notices the words “Principles’ Meeting”.
‘Shouldn’t that be “Principal’s”’ asks this quaint pedant.
‘Whatever,’ replies our Senior Administrative Assistant Resources Co-ordinator with a shrug, ‘Bin ‘em.’ And he returns to updating his fb status. After all he is only filling in time until he can fulfil his stated ambition and become a head teacher on £46,000 per annum before he’s thirty-five.
The quaint pedant carefully collects up all the useless bits of A4 for scrap.
‘I do hate waste,’ she murmurs wistfully, ‘We could buy more books.’
‘Yeah,’ I say, glaring across at our future headmaster, ‘Like dictionaries.’
Back in what I laughingly call my office, I look down at my former leaderene, now torn in half and ready for recycling, I can’t help but feel nostalgia for my early days in community education when female academics eschewed LA Law circa 1991 shoulder pads and f**k me heels in favour of Peruvian hand-knits and Korean Kung Fu slipperettes.  Back then the senior staff were talented, well-qualified women (mainly), who could have taught anywhere but chose Adult Education because they believed in learning for its own sake, for everyone. They were dedicated and didn’t moan (or not that often), about earning far less than their counterparts at universities, let alone those in telly or finance.
Sadly, the old guard resigned, retired or died and those who took over (often men) weren’t good enough to teach elsewhere and didn’t really want to anyway.  They hated telling sneery people at dinner parties what they did for a living – ‘Errh! Evening classes? Old ladies doing cake decoration?’ – so they devised a cunning plan to turn FE colleges into universities.  Of course, everyone, except foreign students and gullible plebeian parents, could differentiate between Harvard and Left-Wanting, but ‘university’ sounded so impressive at those dinner parties.
The new regime hated real teachers, sold them out to the apparatchiks, crushed them beneath reams of paper and called it ‘evidence-based policy making’ (as in ‘we’ll decide the policy while you manufacture the evidence to justify it’).  They got quite brutal in the process but dressed it up as ‘blue sky thinking’.  My pal, Martin, the banker, has a theory that the degree of viciousness in an organisation’s culture has an inverse correlation to the nobility of its ostensible aims.  The nobler the goal, the deeper the back-stabbing.  Ipso facto, Oxfam must be like one long Krystallnacht whilst at Morgan Stanley heavenly choirs sing?  Mmn…let me go back to binning, I’ve just found a 1996 college mission statement…