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Purses out, psychedelic flares on: it's charity day

"Do you mind if people shoot at you, Miss? Or how about if they throw water-filled balloons?" Fortunately I have the perfect get-out clause. "Sorry lads, I can't - I'm being Dannii Minogue in the The X Factor."

Charity day. Once a year, the entire school goes widely off timetable raising money for local and international good causes. It has been co-ordinated by the irrepressible Mr Thomas, who has done the whole thing on a lime green Post-it note and copious cups of coffee. He is a man who can mobilise people to do things they don't want to do. It is his mantra that everyone mucks in - and muck in we do.

I have a purse full of raffle tickets for items I don't really want, but am still excited that I might win. Six-foot cuddly tiger, anyone? Let's hope that gets won as it has been sat atop the laminating machine for some months now, and as cute as it is our workroom doesn't have the space.

The pupils are ecstatic. Never has raising money for others been such fun. Saul has dressed as a nun. The fact that he is Jewish, bearded and a muscle-bound rugby player doesn't seem to matter. It's for charity. Cami's running a cracker-eating stall, daring punters to eat three whole crackers in under a minute. Year 7 pupils, eager to show their cracker-crunching skills yet unaware just how difficult this is going to be, surround him.

Outside, a light drizzle fails to deter Mr C's barbecue. He is, after all, a Kiwi with a national reputation to maintain.

I get my nails painted purple by sixth-form girls who have turned the sociology room into a nail bar complete with MTV playing and a queue of boys wanting their nails painted black. Then I pay #163;5 to pull warmed wax strips off Elliot's and Alex's legs. Both boys manfully hold in strangled cries of pain.

Then the highlight of the day: The X Factor. I take my place with fellow judges for the first act, the head and deputy head singing. I use that verb in the loosest possible sense - it is dreadful. Yet, mindful of my departmental budget, I am generous with scoring.

The event serves to remind me why I teach here: everyone really is laughing with, and not at, one another. Though when Mr McB and Mr B follow on stage as Elton and Kiki Dee, I am not sure which is worse: listening, or looking at Mr B in a frock and orange socks with heels.

The languages department comes up trumps with its Abba routine. Simply wearing so many sequins and those psychedelic flares is enough to get my vote, let alone the sight of the head of department in thigh-high purple suede stiletto boots.

Mr G has been heard saying: "I have got a guitar and I'm not afraid to use it" - even if it is baby-blue plastic and designed for a five-year-old. Still, he and Mr S rock as Bjorn and Benny.

The day reaches its conclusion. Mr Thomas is hidden behind piles of loose change, beaming and scribbling notes on new Post-it notes ready for next year. I am more exhausted than after a normal day's teaching and have a headache. I bet Miss Minogue never feels like this. Still, it has all been for charity.

Julie Greenhough, English teacher at an independent school in London.

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