Skip to main content

Croissant comp or swamp secondary?

Key moments in the school calendar identify the kind of establishment it is. Jill Parkin helps you classify yours by judging what happens during...

MORNING ARRIVAL A The corridor supervisors in their smart red jackets are already there, ready to oversee pupil arrival, conduct electronic registration and contact parents of any unauthorised absentees. Fresh coffee and pastries are in the staffroom.

B The girls are chatting in the form room. They stand up as you come in and hide their mobile phones. Charlotte the chewer removes her gum when asked; she looks embarrassed.

C A football slams into you as you pick your way along the gum-stained carpet. The secretary is being haughty with a parent on the phone and no one has cleaned the update whiteboard which is still advertising the Christmas fete.

ASSEMBLY A The head gives brisk notices and announces a new after-school reading group for pupils with English as an additional language. A guest speaker from the homeless hostel gives a short talk and thanks the Year 11s for helping out on Saturday mornings. The school jazz band plays everyone out.

B Prayers. Miss Stacey at the organ as usual. Notices include a reminder that gum is banned. The whole of upper third staggers as - at a signal - the whole of lower fourth kicks them in the back of the knees. Lower fourth loses morning break for a week.

C Microphone system is broken so no one hears much of what Mr Mumbles says.

He never sounds as if he believes it anyway. A reminder of school rules - Be Nice to Each Other and Do Your Best - is upside down on the PowerPoint display. There is a faint smell of cigarettes.

FIRST LESSON A A couple of learning support assistants are helping the EAL students and two pupils are in the school's dyslexia unit. You are being videoed as part of the head's programme of sharing best practice. Progress with this set is slow, but they are all working to realistic individual targets as in the school's personalised learning plan.

B Grasp of string theory has slipped a little this term, but as this group did AS-level physics at the end of Year 10, there's no need to worry.

Anyway, if they make everything look too easy, the top universities will be forced to turn them down.

C Chelsea burst into tears during the talk on contraception. Can't send her to the nurse because the job has been vacant ever since the last nurse was seen holding hands with Marcus from Year 12 in the summer term.

MORNING BREAK A The supervisors are out in force, with radio-phones. One is press-ganging girls into the female football area while another breaks up a fight on the buddy bench. All teaching staff are in the staffroom listening to Classic FM and drinking from well-washed mugs.

B All is quiet in the library, where some girls are doing homework and private study. Strains of tortured violins drift across the lawn, where groups of girls chat and play games on their mobiles. In a corner by the chocolate machine the fashionistas turn their skirts over at the waistband.

C Someone has shoved a trainer down the only loo with a working lock in the Year 910 toilets. The head, as usual, has his door locked. The caretaker has resigned with a torrent of expletives. And the biology NQT is taking samples from the staffroom mugs.

OPENING NIGHT OF THE SCHOOL PLAY A It's been written by the writer-in-residence you're sharing with the other specialist secondary school down the road. The drama department has excelled itself, the lighting works, the evening has been sponsored by a local electrical company, as is clear from the logo on the programme, the curtains and the head's T-shirt. Clever Chloe from Year 12 is reviewing it as part of her work experience on the evening paper.

B Audience awestruck. Euripides's "The Trojan Women" is rarely heard in the original Greek these days. It looks like sleep, but must be awe.

C Willy Russell's "Blood Brothers" was a mistake for Year 11. More gore than the last act of "Hamlet". The ambulancemen find it slow going because of the gum on the floor and the departing caretaker's sabotaging of the vehicle-access gate. The head of drama falls on his sword.


Mostly As. You obviously teach in Fresh Fields community college, rolling with money since being given a new identity after that nasty special measures by Ofsted three years ago. Stay keen, stay sharp, at least while the cash and the Commandant last. Then follow her to her next resurrection job .

Mostly Bs. You're in Happyland, aren't you? Otherwise known as a selective. Not quite a retirement home, but a gentler and more cerebral way of life for the over-40s who have done their time in the crowd control department. Very nice too.

Mostly Cs Oh dear. It's Below Bog comprehensive, isn't it? Look, if you can stand it, hang in there. A crisis is coming, and with it, a new name, new head, new unfiform and loadsadosh. You'll be better off moving on from somewhere on the up.

Log in or register for FREE to continue reading.

It only takes a moment and you'll get access to more news, plus courses, jobs and teaching resources tailored to you