Beware low-flying food

14th March 2008 at 00:00
Chocolate bars in pigeonholes are an incentive for everything here from data returns to getting your mug into the dishwasher. But while the staffroom is a haven for chocoholics, outside we have a student eating problem that's caused an invasion of seagulls.

In Italy, they sell "walking ice creams", to eat as you go. Our "walking food" is converted into "flying food" as soon as students throw down their litter.

The seagull outside my window a few minutes ago was tucking into a packet of bacon flavour crisps and a tasty-looking chicken wrap. And the processed contents deposited on staff cars leave us with guano lumps that no car wash can remove. Mine looks as if it's been through the custard pie shoot-out from the film Bugsy Malone.

We could soon see one of our little Year 7s swept into the skies. I'm not sure if we've ticked the box for this on the health and safety checklist. I must speak to the deputy responsible.

It's partly the facilities. We don't really have any. The hall holds 150 - great planning for a school of 1,650. To seat everyone we would need, well, er, 10 sittings. So if we began serving lunch at 9am and continued until the end of the day, we could just do it. All in the interests of healthy eating.

But the obesity epidemic means we could soon be judged by the children's eating. The higher the average weight of the year group, the lower the success rate of the school. Picture the scene: nervous teachers around the country waiting with fingers crossed in August to hear not just how many GCSEs their pupils have gained, but also how they score on the bathroom scales.

I can hear the Ofsted inspector now asking for data on body mass ratios. The Every Child's Weight Matters agenda will roll off the tongue as easily as a sausage sandwich.

A letter to the pupils, that gem of teacher subversion - don't mind us, we just work here - in which inspectors tell the kids what they've told the staff to do to put the school to rights could actually become a tonic: "Despite the best efforts of the school, many of you need to reduce your weight by two national curriculum levels." I can see the staff clapping for joy. "That's telling them! They're fat as well as lazy. Just what we've been saying for years."

On the bright side, we now have bike buses, clubs in everything you can think of, and Scoffers, our canteen, serves wholesome outdoor food. As no one at South Dartmoor ever sits still, I think we might do rather well.

But as I glance out of the window, I see another giant seagull fly past carrying something that looks suspiciously like my diminutive deputy holding a chocolate bar.

Now who's going to do health and safety checks for me?

Ray Tarleton, Principal of South Dartmoor Community College at Ashburton, Devon.

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