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Charity begins

There's a cash crisis at St Brian's, but Oriel Greer has a plan

John Baller is furious. "Where's the bloody kettle? I'm gagging for a brew!" Angel Montague, the history NQT, looks up from her copy of Heat. "I don't know Mr Baller, but the microwave seems to have disappeared as well.

I had to have my Pot Noodles cold today." Looking round the staffroom I realise that pretty much everything with any sell-on value seems to have been removed. "Do you think we've been burgled?" says Angel. "I'll call the police."

"There's no need for that, Miss Montague." It's the deputy head, Nigel Horsmel, wearing the special serious face he puts on when he has to break some bad news. "We've had to make some cutbacks. I'm afraid our Excellence in Cities application has been turned down and our cash flow is temporarily inhibited."

"You mean we're skint," says Baller. "So who cocked up this time?"

Horsmel coughs. "I don't think this is the time to be apportioning blame, Mr Baller. We've all been pulling together, it's just that there was a slight hitch with the raising attainment plan." Apparently our projected GCSE scores were deemed inadequate: a 4 per cent pass rate was considered ambitious by some members of staff, but the Delivery Unit at No 10 was so incensed that the LEA has sent in a hit squad. "You could say we've gone to code red," says Horsmel, blushing.

Right on cue, our LEA adviser, Oriel Greer, walks in accompanied by a tall, tanned man in a cream Gucci suit. Oriel tells us that Bernardo de Valera is an educational consultant who comes highly recommended by Blaine Harrington, the AST maths teacher. Baller rolls his eyes. "Oh God, another one of those bloody metrosexuals," he whispers. "I suppose they go shopping together. And who pays? We bloody do! We lost our kettle so we could hire this bastard for half a day."

Bernardo spends the afternoon touring the school, and by the end of the day has reached his initial conclusions, which he delivers to a nervous staff meeting.

"Basically, my friends, St Brian's is in a permanent state of flat growth," he begins. "It lacks collective emotional intelligence; there is very little trust, no group identity." Horsmel nods, someone at the back starts to laugh. We could have told Horsmel this for the price of a pint and a packet of crisps.

"Groups have moods and needs and they act together," Bernardo continues.

Baller can contain himself no longer. "A bit like synchronised periods, you mean."

Bernardo ploughs on. "I want you to scrap impediments to your natural energy, such as the timetable and the yearly calendar." He produces a chart covered in indecipherable symbols and explains gravely that there are important influences governing our lives. By now, even Horsmel is looking worried. "Um, what I think Mr de Valera means is that the workload agreement has profound implications for all of us..."

Bernardo shakes his head. "No, Mr Horsmel, I'm talking about sunspots." He points at his chart. "Look, your Year 10 mock exams are scheduled for a period of high sunspot activity: a recipe for underachievement. Never forget, your students are governed by their cosmic signatures!"

John Baller stands up. "And what are you governed by Mr de Valera, the lunar cycle?"

Charity Casement is the alter ego of a north London teacher. Next week: A league of our own

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