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All tangled up in a wireless world

The wisdom of Henry Walpole

Only three weeks back after Easter and I'm shattered. At least I know what's to blame: my school's wireless network. According to the thorough investigative reports in the press (accompanied by headlines such as "Kids fry brains in school wireless horror!"), new technologies can cause nausea and lack of concentration.

I can see heads groaning in anticipation of the arrival at their door of the usual suspects. Every school office has a small group of "regular customers". They are easily identified by catchphrases such as "It's a disgrace!", "I'm going up the school about it" and "I know he's no angel, but he's not a liar."

That's why Wayne in 4F can't get on with his work: it must be the wireless waves, and nothing to do with the fact that the only book in his house is the Argos catalogue and he spends every hour outside of school watching Terminator 3 on a 42-inch-screen TV that will probably emit more radiation in one day than if he spent all year sitting on a wireless laptop.

If you are going to give an excuse to a teacher, it needs to be original.

My favourite excuse for a lost homework was, "My dad came home from the pub and nailed it to the floor." This was inventive but also had a sad ring of truth, and I gave the pupil the benefit of the doubt.

Recently, I asked a class to find out five facts about the Romans. One boy brought back an empty sheet of paper. "Where are your five facts?" I asked.

"What's a fact?" he replied blankly. He's going to get a level 2 in Sats but he may have a future studying philosophy.

Primary school life can also throw up some surreal excuses. I once caught a Year 3 girl with two bottles of strong lager and a pair of handcuffs. When questioned, she said: "They belong to my older sister!" Three months later she excitedly told me, "I'm going to be an auntie!" Her sister was 13.

While most children learn self-deception from an early age, some are rubbish at excuses. Once, after a clearly unauthorised holiday, a parent wrote me a letter about distressing symptoms that had kept their child off school for two weeks (one side-effect of the illness was a sun-tan). I asked the child if he felt better. He looked at me as if I was mad. "I don't get sick on planes - only cars," he said.

Even teachers have their own wacky excuses for absence. My favourite was a head who was told by a teacher that she had been off to attend her "cat's funeral" (presumably you can't dig holes in your garden on weekends).

Still, teachers don't need wireless networks to feel nausea and lack of focus first thing on a Monday. That's just the payback from Sunday's red wine to block out the horror of going back to work.

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