Memories of how we were

27th June 2003, 1:00am
John Mitchell


Memories of how we were

Chaos abounds and packing cases litter every classroom as we make final preparations for the move to the former Parkland FE College, whither we are decamped for a year while Greenfield Academy is remodelled under a public-private partnership deal.

The college's bid for university status failed last year, thus heralding the final nail in its coffin. A principal, whose management style resembled that of Pol Pot, hadn't helped, leading to a haemorrhage of staff and subsequently students. Their loss is our gain, in that we won't need to travel terribly far when we report for duty in August.

Not that many of us knew before this week what our duties would be. I've been aware for a while that I would be relieved of my guidance remit, but some of my principal teacher colleagues were tearing out their hair because they didn't know what their job titles would be next session under the job-sized arrangements. Consequently, all manner of tasks usually completed by the end of June remain unstarted, books and stationery remain unordered.

"It wasn't my job," shrugged George Crumley. "I didn't even apply for the principal teacher of social subjects post, so I knew I wouldn't get it. Doing the requisition was nothing to do with me."

I foresee a difficult start in August.


It is just as well that some of us still have a conscience about our responsibilities, I thought to myself as I set out to telephone several parents this morning about school uniform policy. I am a guidance teacher until Friday and I shall remain at my post until the last.

"Mrs Roy?" I opened tentatively as my first target picked up the telephone.

"It's Mr Simpson here, Rachel's guidance teacher."

"Oh yes?" she responded drily.

I gulped rather nervously. Mrs Roy and I have had a few exchanges in the past, culminating in the rather unfortunate misunderstanding last month over a family bereavement. However, I thought we had made sufficient peace for me to be able to raise the matter of Rachel's inappropriate dress (Britney socks and a shockingly revealing microskirt) without fear of confrontation.

"What d'you mean, Britney socks and miniskirt? Rachel doesn't wear them any more. She's not allowed to, according to Mr Dick's last newsletter."

"I can assure you she does, Mrs Roy, and she's the only one," I lied between my teeth as I thought of the third year glamour parade that arrives at the school gates each morning. "And I just wanted to be sure that I could count on your support to I" "And I'm telling you that she's wearing proper school uniform," she insisted. "You're probably getting her mixed up with somebody else, Mr Simpson. It wouldn't be the first time."

And then she hung up.


Today was the last sports day on the old school playing fields. By this time next year, our once cherished running track and field events arena will be part of Mr Walsh's new information technology block, while the extra-curricular sporting activities (such as they are) will take place on a multipurpose, shared facility leased from a sports company, for which we (and our associated primary schools) will have a weekly allocation of time.

Consequently, I suspect that this could be our last sports day altogether.

If so, it was a pity that it ended on such an unsavoury note, as Tom Walker found himself unable to conclude the championship events owing to a complete absence of sand in the long jump pit. I have never seen him so angry as he strode, track-suited, from the pavilion, a whistle around his neck and a clipboard clutched furiously under his arm. Apparently, he had identified the source of the problem.

"Hey! You!" he marched towards the foreman of our PPP contractors, who have started preliminary foundation work alongside the sports field. "What the hell d'you think you've been doing?"

Mr Yule appeared bewildered as he looked around, then realised he was the object of Mr Walker's ire.

"Me?" he removed his hard helmet and placed both hands on his hips. "Ah've no bin daen' nuthin'."

Sadly, his comments seemed all too true, given the inordinate length of time that he and his entire workforce had spent drooling at the senior girls' relay races that afternoon. But Mr Walker had other bones to pick.

"The sand!" he pointed furiously towards the sports field. "You've nicked the bloody sand from my long jump pit!"

"No way!" came the angry denial, but before he could go any further Mr Walker linked a firm arm to the builder's stocky frame and frogmarched him to the pit.

"So, what the hell are those tyre marks?" he pointed down at a broad set of indentations in the grass, then tracked his finger along a trail that led, inexorably, to Mr Yule's JCB parked next to a slowly churning cement mixer.

"Ah. Right!" gulped Mr Yule. "Soarry aboot that. Our mistake, obviously. Wid ye like me tae get ye some mair sand from the depot?"

"Forget it!" Mr Walker threw his head back in anger. By the time it gets here we'll all be on holiday!"

I hope this isn't a foretaste of things to come with regard to relationships between our contractors and the school staff.


I have solved the mystery of Rachel Roy's miniskirts and I'm proud to say that it wasn't a case of mistaken identity after all.

Having decided to walk to school on such a glorious summer morning, it was with a sense of initial pleasure that I found myself walking some distance behind Rachel, a pleasure based entirely upon her compliance with the normal dress code of mid-length skirt and self-coloured tights.

Imagine my surprise, therefore, when she suddenly ducked into the doorway of an unopened shop and started divesting herself of clothing in an extremely furtive manner. I stopped in my tracks, retreated slightly and observed her antics as she removed her tights and replaced them with a pair of dark woolly socks which she had extracted from a small denim bag.

Next, she took both hands to the waistband of her skirt and in a sudden movement whipped it off in an action reminiscent of Bucks Fizz at the Eurovision Song Contest.

And there she stood, resplendent in Britney socks and a microskirt with a side-split that exaggerated its indecency even further. Meanwhile her mother sat at home secure in the completely mistaken knowledge that her daughter had left home the model of probity.

If I had had a camera with me, I think I would have taken a picture to show Mrs Roy. But on reflection, it's probably just as well that I didn't. I might have been arrested.


Today witnessed the official closure of the Greenfield Academy staffroom.

When we return 14 months hence to our renovated school it will be bereft of such a gathering place, as all space requires a minimum 75 per cent usage quotient to justify its existence.

It was a touching moment as we held our end-of-term cheese and wine party.

It fell to George Crumley (as the oldest member, so to speak) to declare the place closed, which he did in a rather embarrassing speech that bordered on the vitriolic as he chastised the "faceless bloody bureaucrats who've not been near a school for 20 years yet have seen fit to dictate our working conditions for the next 20, or at least until the owners of the new place reclaim it when the council defaults on repayments after failing to collect enough rates to pay for it!"

He had a point and his anger evoked my own staffroom memories, most especially the similar rants from my late friend David Pickup. For him, the staffroom was always a place to let off steam, a place to share his furies against the latest educational idiocy, or to devise his latest wheeze to lighten the daily round.

For example, there was the News of Former Pupils noticeboard he devised, with a selection of court reports about our respected alumni, and the prison sentences handed out. And who could ever forget his famous Rector Watch campaign, with its laminate wallchart devoted to tracking of our elusive (former) leader: two points for a sighting, five points for a conversation and 10 points for anyone lucky enough to get a decision out of him.

Our staffroom has seen a lot in its time and I mourn its passing for replacement by departmental bases.

And so it was that I took Pickup's mug from its still personalised hook - "Touch This Mug At Your Peril" - and wrapped it carefully in tissue paper.

I turned and left without looking back. It would have been too emotional.

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