Random firing misses target

Fred Redwood overhears a plan to sack incompetent teachers.

A knock on the door of the headmaster's office.

Head: Come in Humphrey. I needed to see you urgently because I have had an idea.

Deputy: Oh, I am pleased for you, headmaster.

Head: Yes Humphrey, it came to me as I was listening to the news this morning. You must have heard - the government is introducing a new fast-track way of sacking incompetent teachers. Quite right too. As the chap said, we can't have incompetent airline pilots and we shouldn't have incompetent teachers either.

Deputy: Quite, headmaster. But just what exactly are you proposing to do about it at Saint Doxy's?

Head: I was just coming to that, Humphrey. What I have in mind is this. I am going to sack all the staff who aren't up to the mark immediately. It will cause a sensation in the area. I will go on record as stating that we now don't have a single teacher who is less than excellent, so that will bring more enrolments and increased funding. Brilliant isn't it?

Deputy: Perhaps a little harsh, headmaster. One thing rather troubles me . . .

Head: What's that Humphrey?

Deputy: Just who exactly are you going to sack?

Head: I have already thought about that, Humphrey. It has got to be that idiot Mickey Morris. He has got little more than an A-level to his name. I know for a fact that he watches breakfast television and his lips move when he's reading the football results. Get rid of him immediately, Humphrey.

Deputy: The only snag is headmaster, he is absolutely brilliant as head of Year 7.

Head: Is he?

Deputy: Yes. The little children love him and he is excellent at primary liaison. He performs magic tricks in the primary schools and communicates exceptionally well with that age group. In fact, he is responsible for attracting the majority of our intake to the school.

Head: Oh, I see. Well we can't get rid of him then. I know, we'll go for old Butterworth. I passed his room last week and it was dreadful - children shouting, throwing paper aeroplanes - a complete disgrace. Sack Butterworth, Humphrey.

Deputy: I'm afraid, headmaster, that wouldn't be wise either. Although Charles Butterworth has difficulty with the roudier pupils he has consistently gained the best results in the area from his A-level students. If you sack him we will fall down the league table of results.

Head: I see what you mean, Humphrey. OK, let's settle for Springsteam. He doesn't even teach A-level and his GCSE results aren't up to much either.

Deputy: That's because he always teaches the bottom groups, headmaster. He is quite gifted at dealing with low ability children. He takes them back-packing and mountain climbing. His rock music appreciation club is also extremely popular. Many of the other teachers send troublesome children to him and they are contrite almost immediately.

Head: Yes, Humphrey, I take your point. Well let's look to the women then. There's bound to be one of them we can waste. What about that moon-faced bint, Dorothy Muse? I inspected her record book last year and she hadn't kept it up for three months.

Deputy: Runs the writers' club, after-school drama, yoga, meditation, lower school counselling . . .

Head: I've got it. We'll sack old Tommy Mann. He's only got a few years to go and you've got to admit he's a spent force. Now you can't argue with me there, Humphrey. Old Tommy doesn't run any clubs and his pupils results are good but not exactly brilliant. It's got to be Tommy for the chop, Humphrey.

Deputy: I think not, headmaster. It's true that Tommy has been told to wind down a bit following his heart attack but in his time he was one of our most vibrant members of staff. He used to run the cricket team and, in fact, he organised tours to Devon for several years. The Christmas pantomime was another one of his ventures. They were hilarious, apparently. Also, he taught most of the pupils' parents and they loved him. If you sack Tommy you'll have a riot on your hands.

Head: Oh, this is absolutely ludicrous, Humphrey. Are you trying to tell me that St Doxy's staff are all absolutely perfect and not one of them can be spared?

Deputy: No and yes, headmaster.

Head: Don't talk in riddles, man. Say what you mean.

Deputy: I mean that rather than all being perfect teachers they are, in fact, all imperfect in some way or other.

Head: So find one to sack!

Deputy: I also mean that the sum total of their talents, when aggregated into the form of a collective whole, roughly equates to the mean average to be found throughout the county's comprehensive schools. That is, in as much as we can postulate, that each place of academic study has staff with set intellectual, sporting, social and pastoral gifts - many of which cannot be accurately ascertained.

Head: Stop it, Humphrey! What does that mean?

Deputy: They are a team, headmaster.

Head: Yes, all right then. But still, Humphrey, there must be a weak link in that team. I want you to sit down with a staff list and find me the teacher who doesn't get very good exam results, who is unpopular with pupils and parents alike, who doesn't run any clubs or after school activities, who the rest of the staff hate, who is, preferably, a drain on our budget and who could be wasted without anybody noticing much difference in the running of the school. Find me that teacher, Humphrey.

Deputy: That will be perfectly easy, headmaster.

Head: Of course it will be, Humphrey. You have simply been creating a colossal waste of time.

Deputy: One further question, headmaster.

Head: What is that, Humphrey?

Deputy: Will you be giving yourself a month or a term's notice?

Fred Redwood is a former teacher living in Newbury, Berkshire

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