The book, on education, is done. The cover is – nearly – finalised. The plans, for publication, are shaping up. Don’t let anyone tell you that a writer’s life is an easy one, particularly not for a book like this, commissioned, and executed, in double quick time: three months of interviews and school visits – helped, I have to say, by an excellent researcher, Dominic Self – followed by several months of intensive reading and then what felt like a lifetime of intensive drafting and re-drafting. As my head filled with ideas and arguments – and internal challenges to what I thought I thought – I wrote more and slept less. For the last few weekends, I was working sixteen, seventeen hour days and barely out of my dressing gown. Neighbours who met me on my regular walks around the block ( 6 turns several times a day) later compared me to a caged animal!
But it is done. And I am proud.
Books are funny things. You often don’t realise what you have produced, until long after publication. I am only now beginning to see that ‘School Wars’ is an accessible and punchy ( awful word – but let it stand) critique of the Coalition’s damaging policies on schools, and an impassioned but surprisingly calm assessment of the possibilities of a different kind of school system. I have learned in writing the book that I need to see things, in my head, almost pictorially, in order to believe in them. It came too late to include in the final chapter but I understood that what I was trying to describe for the reader was my picture of an ideal school and how we could create such a school in every neighbourhood and area in the country, if we had the imagination and the political will. That was – is – exciting.
Certainly, writing the book has changed – shifted – shaken up – radicalised – modernised – my own opinions, and what I am really looking forward to now are the many discussions and debates that seem likely to follow publication, particularly those with the people who really know – state school leaders, teachers, pupils and parents. Over the next few days, I will put up details of the events planned over the autumn.
My publishers have also persuaded me that I have to Twitter; groan!
As for this website, I will finally get back to doing a weekly blog on current, cultural affairs – not just education.
For those of you who loyally visited these web pages over the past few months and found no new material, thanks for sticking with me.