In one’s youth Big Sister was a range of cake and pudding mixes. In the new millennium it is those power skirts in the federal and state governments who seem to want to play headmistress.

At the state level, the Minister for Education, Early Childhood Development and In-Vitro Indoctrination has announced her intention to establish a flying squad of ex-principals and experts (let me pause lest the quill quake with a genuine shudder) to descend on schools like exterminating angels.

Their mission is to weed out incompetent administrations and classroom teachers. Presumably it is meant to put the fear of Richard Dawson into underperformers. More likely it will create a criminal mindset whereby scouts keeping nit will shout ‘Sweeney’ at the first sign of a departmental car. It promises to be great fun.

At the federal level, the Minister for Compulsory Re-Education is setting herself up as Lady Bountiful. Schools across the land are about to have delivered to them large brown paper bags stuffed with used notes for building programs. Which munificence must be advertised and commemorated with hoardings and plaques.

Presumably there are already teams of copywriters courting the muse. Your Government Used YOUR Money To Build THIS. Or: Big Sister Is Washing You. Or: A Federal Feudal Project. Photo opportunities are to be carefully choreographed and the Deputy PM is to be afforded the opportunity to mangle the vowels of the mother tongue.

Speaking of which, the moolah is to be directed towards the building of libraries (a good thing) and foreign language laboratories. The only possible response to the latter is “pourquoi?” or alternatively “perche?”

Those of us who till the stony ground of English teaching wonder what is wrong with English language laboratories. The more the better at primary level which rooly and trooly is letting the side down. Carnt spel? Thank a primmary teecher.

So it is with a frisson of anticipation (the practice whoosh of the headmistress’ cane) that we await the arrival of Big Sister. It’s a long way from impossible pie and upside-down cake. Or perhaps not.

Peter Fray

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