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Best things in life aren't free

DID you know that you can patent a gene? It seems odd that an individual can actually claim rights on what is already there, rather than on a new invention, but apparently it is perfectly legal and could be lucrative. I want to assert here and now my exclusive ownership of oxygen, before anyone else gets to it.

This could actually be a very useful way of raising vital extra cash in education, so register the self-evident as soon as you can, before everyone else spots its potential.

My new company EasyStreet Plc will be laying claim to the word "normally" in the framing of any regulations or conventions. It is the most wonderful get out device in existence, and a masterly way of dealing with one's colleague "Arbut", the in-house unqualified lawyer and saboteur of any new proposals.

"Let's have a rule saying that all coursework must be handed in on a Monday morning at nine o'clock," you assert in a meeting. In leaps the ever-zealous Arbut.

"Ah but what if someone is on his way to hand in work on a Monday morning, when he is run over by a steamroller? We're surely not going to refuse to accept work posthumously on a Monday afternoon from the flattened person's next of kin, are we? Think of what it would look like in the papers." "Fair enough, let's say that work will 'normally' be handed in on a Monday morning." That's a fiver in the kitty for Easystreet Plc. Money for old rope.

Another potential winner in the patent stakes is the Darren Rowbottom trilogy of excuses. Intensive analysis of reasons given for non-completion of work reveals that over three-quarters of feeble lies come into one of three categories, the Darren Rowbottom trilogy.

The first category is an act of God: roof fell in, computer developed millennium bug several months late, typhoon blew papers away into next county.

The second is unexpected ailment: a severe cold resulted in all-night sneezing, Lassa fever or smallpox was suddenly contracted, only remitting when European championship football came on television.

The third is malevolent intervention by kinfolk and widr membership of the household: younger sibling hid bag, pet hamster ate book, mumdad borrowed pen to prise open marmalade jar and broke off ball point. In future these lame excuses will cost a fiver each, or ten quid for all three.

One potentially huge source of income for EasyStreet Plc is coping strategies. I am applying for patents on several of the tactics teachers use when flummoxed by a clever question they cannot answer, or a situation they are unable to handle. In future the following will no longer be free.

"Right, that's your final warning, any more and you're in deep trouble (unspecified)" (pound;10 tariff, half going to the poor beggar who eventually has to work out what the "deep trouble" actually is and then create it)."That's a very interesting question, Samantha, so I want everybody to find out the answer for homework tonight" (normal pound;5 tariff). "I suppose you think that's clever" (cheap tactic, so only pound;1 tariff).

One of the biggest sources of new style patents lies in the field of headship and school management. There are numerous possibilities here. These include ways of finding out whether staff are genuinely ill or just having a carpet laid, and explanations to teachers who were unsuccessful in their applications for performance-related pay bonuses (not unlike pupil excuses, eg hamster ate my pen, papers singed by mistake in toaster).

EasyStreet Plc has a batch of patents in a special portfolio called 'Things to do in Assembly when Absolutely Bloody Desperate'. Obvious ones like singing a hymn, preferably the ironic "For those in peril", remain free, but others will incur high rights payments.

The deputy head strumming a guitar, singing the Beatles song "Love, love me do" and pretending it is a legitimate part of the school's citizenship programme will cost twenty quid in future, as will haranguing pupils to pick up litter, respect each other, line up outside rooms in an orderly manner, or behave themselves on the bus to and from school.

People only really appreciate things nowadays if they've had to pay for them.

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