Academy-ically Challenged

This morning, at about 9.40am, I walked onstage in front of about 200 Year 7 students and told them some jokes. It wasn’t an ideal time of day for either comedy to happen, or my brain to function. On top of this I had to follow a group of Year 10 students dancing to ‘What Does The Fox Say?’ – they were very good, though enjoyably there was one student who clearly hadn’t learned the moves and therefore was funniest to watch – and a band of 13 year old boys, all in school uniform, who called themselves ‘Revolution.’ Again, they were very talented kids, but there is something irrepressibly heart warming about a group of kids, so neatly dressed, doing covers, dreaming of being the image of musical anarchy. As they told the teacher in charge that they were inspired by Nirvana and other bands I was surprised they’d heard of, it took all my energy not to cheer them on to get smashing instruments and kicking over the PA system in the name of rock.

Today’s show was in an Academy that was built just about a year ago and as a result was kitted up to the nines in the newest computers and facilities. It was refreshing to see such well thought out educational surroundings where the students all seemed very happy and well behaved. It’s tough though because really, I have been opposed to the idea of academies and free schools ever since Labour brought them in several years ago. It seems to me like a clever way for the government to shirk responsibility away from themselves and parliament. Maybe it’s me being over cautious and paranoid but all this privatising of services and allowing people to run their own facilities removes the need for a government entirely. Sure, that’s quite good in some ways, as at the moment I’d prefer they weren’t there at all. But if something goes wrong, who can we hold accountable?

The fact that some Free Schools are choosing to have untrained teachers, much like private schools have the option of, is concerning. Teaching isn’t just about the curriculum but about understanding your children and coping with possible issues outside of school like home life or abuse. A lack of training seems naive and not in the best interests of the kids at all. What I’ve realised though, is as much as I assumed my views on anything Gove supports as being black and white – i.e. he says anything, the opposite must be correct – they are really not. I’ve had the fortune to do stand-up for kids in a few academies now and the fact they have the budget and resources to hire me for such things is, admittedly selfishly, really exciting. Not only that though but assuming they are run by people who really care about what they are doing, are willing to train their teachers up, and have a passion for letting children learn, then I’m all for it. They may as well fully emploit the government funding to do that, so their kids can form bands with brilliantly aggressive names too.

What do I know though? I don’t have kids of my own yet and I haven’t ever worked in a school other than to peddle jokes about bogies at an often unfavourable time of morning for a comedian. I’ve been in several different types of schools doing that, and while the children seem very happy at all of them, there is a marked difference in which ones have say, a music room full of new equipment, or just a tambourine and slightly broken drum. It seems unfair that back in 2010 the government set out to give academy funding to the schools that were already deemed as ‘outstanding’ by Ofsted, with the idea being these good schools would then manage the ones that were struggling. And again, parliament is suddenly absolved of responsibility. I love performing at these schools, despite how early I have to get up, but it’d be lovely if all schools had the funding for these sorts of events. Though I could do without having to follow a dance about the noises animals make ever again thanks.

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I’m doing my first ever UK tour in 2014, starting end of January. All dates and most ticket links are up at my website: http://www.tiernandouieb.co.uk. Please spread the word and come along as if you’re not there, it’ll be rubbish. It’ll just be me in a room and if I can’t get 3G I’ll be really bored. The very funny Chris Coltrane is supporting me on some dates and the brilliant Keith Farnan is doing a double header with me on others.

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