Is he in heaven, or is he in hell?

Ronald Crumlin - like thousands of others - left school last week. The poor boy walked out of those gates for the last time ... still working towards level 3, still with baseball cap skew-whiff and still with a football in a Tesco's bag. There he goes waving shaving cream at the tinies ..never to return...

I can still see him walking in five years ago. Ma Crumlin led him by the hand - or was he on a bit of string? She'd scrubbed him up well. She handed him to me guiltily. I've been his teacher for five whole years as well as pastor, spin doctor and character witness. It's been a nightmare.

For two weeks Ronald gave it a go. Then he went. Permanently errant - an Infant Pimpernel on the run from classroom and curriculum. For 1,500 hours. Rarely on target, task, stream - or chair. Always on feet, heat, drugs - and the subject of rumour on the corridors. Never quite in and never quite out. Expelled for bunking off and then banged up in the inclusion unit. Internally Excluded.

He didn't know whether he was coming or going... but now he's really gone. I'll miss him. The wit and the alibis. "Ronald - please remove the hat."

"Can't Sir - against my religion" "Well, where's your homework?" "Couldn't do it Sir what with the fightin' and the dogs."

I'll miss his absence. But then he's back again outside those gates. The nightmare returns. He is waving at me and the pupils. Wannabe Crumlins hail the legend. He can still wreak havoc in my room. I pretend he is not happening. Still he waves.

At lunch I walk out. We say hello. He repeats my name a lot. Not hostile or creepy, mind.

"'Ere Sir I just want to say thanks for putting up with me..." It makes it all worthwhile. I smile and then I'm off. I know thee not young hooligan. It's over. The world's your playground now - or an exclusion unit. What with the fightin' and the dogs... He's back next day outside the gates with the football and the bag.

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