News that pubs are going to close early each night has, of course, come as a devastating blow to teachers everywhere – well, in some parallel, Gavin Williamson-imagined world of dissolute teachers it has, anyway.
In this world, we are the pub’s most regular regulars, particularly after 10pm. The new cut-off feels personal.
So the mood late last night at The Red Lion was predictably sombre. The usual posse of local primary and secondary practitioners had been ensconced in there since knocking off early, skipping the last couple of lessons. We all sat in front of the usual array of empty glasses, trying to make sense of the decision, trying to make the most of one of our last remaining full-on sessions.
Last orders for teachers
Emma, a Year 5 NQT at the local primary, did not mince her words. She never does, especially after another midweek refuelling.
“I’m totally gutted,” she said. “I came into teaching – as we all do – because of all the evenings it would free up for me to be with my partner, for the regular late-night sessions out with friends. In this job, you can easily keep a low profile the next day, a classroom of children being the easiest of places to be when working with a sore head. I feel cheated by this ruling.”
Pausing before downing the next in an indeterminate number of beers, I delivered a similar withering speech to the group: “It’s another kick in the teeth for teaching. If you can’t start the day hoping to go out on the lash later then, frankly, there’s nothing left in the job for me.”
Meanwhile, Alice, headteacher at a local comprehensive, was slumped quietly in the corner, gently nodding in agreement in between bouts of understandable slumber. Occasionally she would wake up from another apparent nightmare, shrieking weird things like, “Of course your daughter’s got to wear a bloody mask like everyone else!” and “Get back in your bubble, Alfie!”
English teacher Tom then pulled out his guitar and began poignantly singing his slow cover of It’s the End of the World as We Know It. We all joined in. There was hardly a dry eye in the house by the end.
In a week when the prime minister alluded to such a place more than once, this was the last chance saloon to end all last chance saloons.
Making pubs more attractive
All right, the above depiction of a teacher’s world is largely fanciful. As we know, most teachers know very little about the world beyond 10pm, at least during term time. By that time of night, we are generally at home falling asleep in front of a desk or a TV, or sometimes already tucked up in bed and dreaming of sprayed desks, hand sanitisers and forgotten face-coverings.
The story might sometimes be different on a Friday or Saturday night – but not always, with many in the profession falling asleep even sooner by then.
Far from the new 10pm cut-off being a social constraint on teachers, I wonder if it might just encourage us to go out more. That guaranteed earlier finish to a suggested night out might make more social engagements feel more feasible, on whichever day of the week it is.
There will be less cause for that knee-jerk “No thanks, better not” – less anxiety about having to leave any such gathering early or getting to bed too late, fewer fears of being too knackered or hungover to get through the following day. We can even think about getting back in time to finish off some school work, if that is what we really have to do sometimes.
If the new 10pm cut-off does encourage us into going out more, then it can only be a good thing. In these bizarre, bewildering and necessarily less communal times at school, we surely need to get out and socialise – safely – more than ever, wherever.
Stephen Petty is head of humanities at Lord Williams's School in Thame, Oxfordshire