'Babamide is the sort of child who can drive an NQT insane...

5th September 2003 at 01:00
...Never absent from school, polite, earnest, friendly...and absolutely infuriating'

Gemma Another summer over. Just when you're relaxed and used to treating the day as your own, education calls and you're into the autumn term. Groan.

Gemma text = But I don't groan that much. I look forward to seeing everybody again and autumn always brings renewed energy. And last year's new teachers are no longer NQTs.

Their voices have acquired that throaty tone of authority, they've emerged from their first year no longer viewing their charges as dewy-eyed innocents. They're ready to face them with that "Now come along young man, I wasn't trained yesterday" demeanour, denoting a teacher who has acquired a new confidence. I was chatting to one such yesterday, as she enthused about her new class. "And just think," I said, "you haven't got Babamide this year."

Babamide is the sort of child who can drive an NQT insane. Eight years old, stockily built and one of three children, none of whom is ever absent from school, he's an updated version of Richmal Crompton's William. Polite, earnest, friendly, and absolutely infuriating. My mind wanders back to the last few weeks of summer term, when I'd find him working (I use the term very loosely) outside my room at least twice a week. I'd sigh, and the usual bizarre conversation would ensue.

"Hello, Babamide. No, don't tell me, you've come to see me because you've been working especially hard."

"No, my teacher sent me down here."

"Really? For a good work sticker?"

"No, because Nancy fell over on the stairs."

"Don't tell me. You pushed her?"

"No, I was jus' walkin' like a chicken and she got in the way..."

"I see. You are aware that walking like a chicken is not our recommended method of travelling up the staircase?"


As usual, there's no point in pursuing the matter unless I want to be there until lunchtime, so I leave him, tongue enthusiastically emerging from the side of his mouth, struggling to draw a Roman soldier.

The next day, I'm listening to one of the violin groups, and I notice that Annisola, Babamide's sister, isn't using her own violin. Tentatively, I ask her where the violin is. I already know the answer.

"Babamide broke the string again. He keeps trying to play it."

"Why don't you hide it?"

"Me mum did. She put it on top of the wardrobe."

"And he found it? How?"

"He sleeps on the wardrobe sometimes..."

Like all children, Babamide has lots of good points. He loves taking reading books home. Trouble is, he loses them. Three so far. He's been told he can't take more home until his father has paid for them. Worried about a walloping, he takes matters into his own hands and his teacher intercepts a letter to his dad, purportedly from her, that he's written himself. "Dear Babamides Dad," it says, "I am pleesed to say Babamide as found his books so you won't hav to pay no munny."

But time has moved on, and now his teacher has a new class. "Funny thing is," she says, "I do rather miss him."

She won't have too long to wait. His brother just joined the nursery.

Mike Kent is head of Comber Grove primary, London borough of Southwark.

Email: mikejkent@aol.com

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