MiniEd: the Ministry of Education, Airstrip One, Oceania
It was a warm but overcast day in late August and the clocks were striking thirteen.
Mr Winston Smith, Principal of the Victory G+MINDSET Academy (formerly the Bogstannard Comprehensive School), woke to find himself lying on something that felt like a camp bed, except that it was higher off the ground and it seemed that he was fixed down in some way so that he could not move. Light that seemed stronger than usual was falling on his face.
He gasped as he realised that the infamous MiniEd interrogator, “Grammar School” O’Greening, was standing at his side, looking down at him intently. At the other side of him stood a man in a white coat, tapping an iPad.
“Tell me, Winston,” said O’Greening gently, but with a chilling undercurrent of steel in her voice, “how many buckets am I holding up?”
Winston swallowed fearfully as he realised that he had been deposited by mysterious forces into the deepest bowels of the dreaded MiniEd.
“Erm…two?” he quavered. The two buckets had “EBacc”and “More bloody EBacc” scrawled on them in crayon.
There were a couple of muffled metallic clangs as O’Greening did a rapid double take. “Nick!” she hissed furiously through clenched teeth. The other man ran to join her. He groaned as he strained to lift a third bucket. “Why do I always have to do the Maths and English bucket? It’s sodding well double-weighted, you know…” he muttered resentfully.
O’Greening ignored him. “How many buckets, Winston?”
“Three! I see three buckets!”
The man let the third bucket drop with an explosive gasp and rubbed his tired arms. “Thank God for that! We had that Sir Ken Robinson in here last week. Kept claiming that he could see a fourth bucket called ‘Unleashing Children’s Inner Demiurgic Muse’. I thought my arms were going to fall off…”
“Comrade Gibb!” snapped O’Greening. The man lapsed into sullen but acquiescent silence. “Now, Winston,” she said sweetly, “from whom have we taken our maths mastery pedagogy? From whom have always taken our maths mastery materials?”
Winston locked his dry lips nervously. “Eastasia…we get our maths mastery materials from Eastasia…” O’Greening nodded encouragingly. “… but up until a couple of years ago, of course, we were encouraged — well, ordered, actually — to get them from Eurasia instead…”
Gibb had stuck his fingers in his ears and was humming “La la la! Not listening! La la la!”
O’Greening glowered at Winston. “Lies! Delusion! Comrade Gibb: take him to . . . Room 808!”
“Erm, this is Room 808, ma’am.”
“Oh. Then fetch me . . . the school’s RAISEonline report!”
Gibb placed the iPad so that it filled the trembling Winston’s entire field of vision.
“Currently, I have a ‘good pass’ set to ‘4’,” she said conversationally. Actually, thought Winston, it didn’t look too bad. The screen was mostly green with only the odd patch of blue.
“Now observe what happens as I now define a ‘strong pass’ as a ‘5’!” O’Greening twisted the dial from 4 to 5.
Winston screamed as the entire screen turned blue. “Arrgh! Don’t do it to us! Do it to another school! DO IT TO ANOTHER SCHOOL!”
O’Greening and Gibb patted him on the shoulder. “Oh, we will. We most certainly will.”
They left Winston Smith alone in Room 808. Tears ran down his face, but he smiled quietly to himself as he stared at the screen. Students, happiness, staff, well-being, people — none of that mattered any more. He had finally won the battle against himself. He loved Big Data.