James Rainsford about ... Education, Edukation, Edukashun
Books by this Author:
interviewed Jun 2009 by Sarah Rudd
Education, Edukation, Edukashun is a hilarious, insightful and provocative account of secondary education in the United Kingdom (specifically Wales). We enjoyed the book – but will you enjoy our grilling?[b]
[b]Having been a teacher yourself in the past, are any of the anecdotes autobiographical in nature?
Just a few, although some of the incidents were loosely based upon my experiences and some of the characters are an amalgam of quite a number of different people I’ve known, many were also taken from other sources, particularly my own over-active imagination. However, all the critical and political comments definitely reflect my own views.The Senior Management team is heavily criticised within Education, Edukation, Edukashun – do you believe that failure across the board to employ adequately qualified and experienced staff to these senior positions affects education in this country?
I certainly believe that a significant proportion of those who achieve senior management status within our secondary schools are incompetent, but this is not because they are inadequately qualified. It’s more due to the system, which promotes many poor teachers far beyond their abilities and rewards mediocrity and failure. There is a high cash and status incentive in education working to persuade those who find teaching difficult and stressful to seek early promotion as a means to escape regular classroom contact with challenging children. Many who hold the most responsible positions lack vision and the courage to take tough decisions. There’s a well known saying which states: ‘Those who can, do, those who can’t, teach.’ I believe that the quote requires an additional sentence, which claims: ‘Those who can’t even teach become senior managers.’Humour plays a pivotal part in your novel and comes across naturally (as opposed to ‘forced’) – has anyone ever told you that you’re a funny guy?
Yes, my mother; although with hindsight, I suspect that she meant ‘peculiar’ and not ‘amusing.’ Also, my pupils always cracked-up at my jokes and anecdotes, but to be fair, this may have been because I regularly gave detention to those who failed to laugh and extra house-points and ‘Snickers’ bars to those who complimented me on my amazing sense of humour. It’s gratifying to realise that even in today’s schools, rewards and punishments can still result in teacher satisfaction. I asked my wife this question to discover the view of someone who claims to know me really well. She said that she did find me funny once. Whether she meant long ago, or only on one occasion I can’t say, as I’m far too protective of my status and dignity to ask her for clarification.The secondary school itself is based on a sink estate and therefore is exposed to the behavioural issues known to popularise deprived areas; why did you choose this setting?
The setting is not really an estate, but an imaginary town set in a South Wales valley, and as such it contains some areas which are deprived, but also others of comparative prosperity. I chose this setting because it’s one with which I am familiar, and which reflects the wide mix of cultures and abilities which characterise the pupil intake of most UK comprehensive schools.There is so much content in your novel – do you have a favourite part?
The final full stop on the last page was my favourite for quite some time after I’d finished the book, but as you say, there are so many episodes within the main story it’s difficult to pick a favourite. In terms of the individual chapters however, I particularly enjoyed writing ‘Work Experience,’ as it illustrates the chaos which can result when good intentions are not moderated by ability and intelligence. I also greatly enjoyed creating some of the characters, especially ‘Layla Moon,’ who inspired me to write my next book.If you could live life all over again – would you still become a teacher, regardless of the systemic problems? Why/Why not?
Yes, unless I could find a job with longer holidays, shorter hours, less responsibility and much more money. Seriously though, I can’t imagine doing a job which would be more important and personally rewarding. Of all the many positions I held during my long working life, none was as satisfying and enjoyable as teaching. To have spent so much time in the refreshing and challenging company of the young was a privilege and a life enhancing experience.You’ve got a new book being published soon (The Incredible Layla Moon); did you always intend for Education, Edukation, Edukashun to become a series?
‘The Incredible Layla Moon,’ is not a sequel to ‘Education, Edukation, Edukashun,’’ and it’s not a continuation of that novel. When I invented Layla Moon as a character, I just knew that her life story would be the subject of my next book. Written in the third person ‘The Incredible Layla Moon’ is a much more outrageous and shocking story. It is a very black and humorous comedy which details the life and exploits of a very evil, yet highly talented girl, who both terrifies and fascinates all who meet her. It’s most definitely aimed at a more adult readership who can appreciate the comedy in life’s ironic and frequent insanities. Like the first book, it too is subtitled as ‘An Entertainment.’ I’m sure all those who’ve read and enjoyed ‘Education, Edukation, Edukashun.’ will find ‘The Incredible Layla Moon,’ even funnier and certainly more controversial.Now that you’re retired, you must have a fair amount of time on your hands – what else do you submerge yourself in – apart from writing?
Occasionally a hot bath, especially when my wife expresses concern that since retirement she’s noticed a decline in my personal standards of hygiene. However, when I’m not bathing, or writing, I enjoy playing guitar and harmonica (yes, sometimes both at the same time) and developing my passion for photography. Many of my photos are on display on the photo sharing site; www.flickr.com under my name James Rainsford. If your readers would like to discover more, they can visit my own website
.When you were a child – what did you want to be and why?
I longed to be older. Firstly, so I could wear long trousers to conceal my skinny legs; especially from girls, who may have been easier conquests if they’d only had my face to look at. Secondly, so I could swagger around with my hands in my trouser pockets without my mother constantly clipping me round the ear and telling me to take them out and stop acting so slovenly, and finally, so I could go to bed at a time of my own choosing.If you could change just ONE thing about our educational system – what would it be and why?
I would not permit anyone to go from school to college and then straight back to school as a teacher. Every teacher should have at least five years experience of working outside the classroom before being allowed to teach. This would increase the experience and life skills of those who aspire to educate the young. I would also abolish all faith schools, (hang on, that’s two things) sorry; but it’s very cruel of you to ask me to choose only one thing from a list which would make the entire UK telephone directory seem like a very slim volume.Read our full review of Education, Edukation, Edukashun by James Rainsford