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Rough school diet

The Diary's attention has been drawn to a remarkable speech in the House of Commons by former teacher Colin Pickthall, the Labour MP for West Lancashire, in which he made a number of revelations about life in an unnamed schoolin Bootle in the 1970s.

"I regularly witnessed fist fights between teachers and pupils. On one famous occasion, I witnessed a fight between two teachers," he said. Some of his pupils were "undoubtedly mentally unbalanced" and he learned "to look as though I might kill them at any moment".

But such a life had its compensations: "I vividly recall that in my first year of teaching, aged about 23, I lost two stone. That was much better than the Atkins diet."

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