A fine line between Neets and knights

18th January 2008 at 00:00

We remain leaderless at Greenfield Academy, with the headteacher post as yet unfilled. Kevin Muir will not apply, despite acting head, and I ventured to offer lunchtime support in the dining hall.

"I can see why you're not keen on the hassle, Kevin," I said, "and maybe this could be a chance for others to share the burden. After all, remember what HMIE says: 'If your school's only got one leader, then you're almost certainly short of leadership,' and I ..."

He interrupted me. "Well, that's a load of cobblers, Morris. For me, the lead comes from the top, and that's what's been missing here for years. So I aim to run a tight ship, crack down on indiscipline, and get the staff onside. Even if it's only for a short time."

At which point he demonstrated his intent forcefully by standing up to confront the lurching figure of Billy Woodman, one of the sixth-year's most gormless specimens. "So where were you this morning, when you should have been at Intermediate maths?" he questioned, but did not wait for answer. "Don't bother, son," he held up a hand: "I know you were at the amusement arcade spending your educational maintenance allowance. And if I catch you doing that again, I'll have an attendance report off to the council offices faster than you can say 'one-armed bandit', and it's 'Cheerio, EMA!' OK?"

Woodman's slack mouth gaped, and his eyelids drooped as Muir walked away. Our acting head may have had greatness thrust upon him, but he certainly cuts an impressive figure.


I was telling Mr McManus about Muir's interchange with Woodman, and even he was impressed with the episode. "Mind you," he qualified, "it won't make the slightest difference in the long run. If anyone was destined to be a destitute Neet layabout, then it's Woodman."

"Ah-hah!" I cautioned him. "You can't call them 'Neets' any more, Davie. The Government doesn't like the term. Says it smacks of hopelessness."

"But so does Woodman!" he held his hands out, the picture of reasonable argument. "Oh well," he sighed, "that's a pity. It always reminded me of that Monty Python film, with the 'Knights Who Say Neet'."

"I think it was 'Ni', actually," I corrected him.

"Doesn't matter. I always thought of education officers standing in front of gormless idiots like Woodman, saying: 'We are The Knights Who Say Neet, and will not let you pass into society until you answer our questions!'"


Peter Taylor, one of our younger members, was sounding off in the staffroom about behaviour management strategies, and was most concerned with the fact that corporal punishment used to be endemic. "I can't believe they used such a barbaric instrument as the belt," he said, "not with all the alternative strategies at their disposal."

He went on in similar vein for several minutes until Frank O'Farrell, PT social subjects, could take it no longer. "Did you ever get the belt, Peter?" he asked.

"Too young, Frank. It was banned by the time ..."

"Hold on," urged O'Farrell, and left the staffroom, returning with the tawse he had kept locked away for over three decades. He introduced it like an old friend, as it slowly uncoiled: "My 'Springer Special'! Like to try it, Peter?"

Foolishly and laughingly, Taylor agreed to cross his palms, and O'Farrell raised his right arm high above his shoulder. The leather seared through the air and connected with an impact that had birds taking flight. I suspect that behaviour management will not be discussed further for some time.

Alarmingly, Kevin Muir entered just after the event, and witnessed Taylor writhing in agony, his hands between his thighs, as O'Farrell smiled in evil triumph. Sensibly enough, he decided to turn a blind eye, and coughed discreetly as he turned on his heel and departed the staffroom.

He seems to be developing Nelsonian leadership qualities as well.


Mrs Harry has developed a new activity in her enterprise course. One half of the class puts posters on the corridor outside her room, then the other half goes out, examines them, and returns to tell the other half what they think. Then they reverse the process.

She says it's fulfilling several enterprise outcomes at once, but was remarkably uncertain about the details when I questioned her.


I have been assaulted. And a chaplet has certainly fallen from Kevin Muir's brow, I can tell you!

To explain, I was in the middle of a moving lesson with 1N this morning, outlining the horrors of the Warsaw ghetto that forms a backdrop to their class reader, when I heard a whispered - but indisputably racist - comment from Charlie Connelly about "the Germans havin' the right idea". Unsurprisingly, Janak Fafinski, one of our Polish students, was out of his seat like a greyhound from the traps, and launched a fearsome physical attack on his classmate.

I moved swiftly to break up the affray, but in so doing was caught forcefully in the midriff by a misplaced punch from Connelly. It winded me severely, and I ended up on the floor in some distress.

I wanted to press charges, but Muir dissuaded me, "in the interests of the school". He is keen that we don't figure in the "league table" of schools recording assaults on teachers. "It wasn't as if he was aiming the punch at you, was he?"

I told him I thought it a specious argument, but I succumbed out of sympathy for the man: frankly, he looked exhausted after only two weeks in charge.

In truth, "uneasy lies the head that wears a crown" - even if it's an acting one ...

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