A turnip for the books

1st June 2007 at 01:00
We have a new council. We have new masters. The Director feels his jacket could be on a shoogly nail. One can only live in hope.

The council is "hung" and many hope that one day they will be. I am allocated to lead a new project, a favourite of the new vice-chair of Education Initiative Excellence Improvement Operations, as we now are to be named. The heidies all say they are working for McDonald's Farm, get it? E.I.E.I.O.? I am to lead the drive to address under-achievement with the Neeps. Our vice-chair wants to rescue the poor wee souls who are not in education, employment or placements.

I did try to point out that, in Scotland, the acronym was open to misinterpretation, but our Guardian-reading Essex girl didn't get it. I had spent my teaching career with Neeps of one sort or another, but most were in positions of authority.

"Just call me Julia," said the vice-chair, as she munched on a Ryvita and lettuce leaf. She was on a mission to save the Neeps. I was to take her to a Neeps area so she could "get a feel for the problem". Wood Lane, here we come. Julia boldly informed me that nothing could shock her as she had an aunt who lived in a "deprived" part of Chelmsford. No comment.

Wood Lane was at its brilliant best. Bricked-up church, barbed wire, graffiti, discarded trolleys, dog mess, broken Buckfast bottles and crowds of track-suited, navel-displaying, tattooed, chain-smoking teenage mums.

Julia got out of the car to "engage". I slid down the seat, trying hard to hide behind a copy of the local paper. I could hear various suggestions being made to the good councillor, many of which were biologically impossible. Julia was shaken. I was not stirred.

She came back to the car, obviously distressed. I started to explain that I used to teach many of these kids. Julia sparked into life. "That's it, Bridget, we'll target the teachers instead."

I couldn't resist it. "Julia, it seems your target audience will be teachers in deprived schools where there are social and economic problems."

"Exactly, Bridget - that's it! I'll take it to our group meeting next week." She was in a state of euphoria.. "But what shall I call it?" she asked, searching for a snappy title to impress her group.

"Teachers Under Multiple Social Handicaps In Education," I suggested, stifling a giggle. "That's it! Tumshies instead of Neeps!"

Julia had a new mission. The Leader of the Group would be impressed. He was relying on Julia to "set the educational world alight". His name was Lars Sorensen. That's right: he's Swedish. I can see the headlines in next week's TESS: "Swede replaces Neeps with Tumshies."

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