Charity begins a tome

19th November 2004 at 00:00
Everyone's favourite newcomer to teaching is now a collectable item, writes Simon Terry

Nothing you learn in teacher training can quite prepare you for the collection of weirdos, wasters and villains you will meet at your first school - and some of the children won't be much better.

Take St Brian's, a comprehensive somewhere in the South East. The head, Dr Alastair Scarlett, is a regular visitor at Number 10 who is either on semi-permanent secondment to the National College for School Leadership or (depending whom you listen to) has been sectioned at a secure unit in Gloucestershire.

His deputy is the sinister and predatory Nigel Horsmel. But a ruthless bursar, Amy Studds, appears to run the school. Lower down the pecking order are the habitually absent head of history, Judith Crock - that's her on the left on one of her rare visits to the staffroom - and John Baller, Falklands veteran and union rep. Lower still are Orlando Jones, head of lechery and drama, and Gabriel Mooney, an RE teacher who shares his religious visions with Year 7.

They are all characters in "Charity Begins", a series that ran in TES Friday magazine last year. Week by ghastly week, Charity Casement (the alter ego of a north London secondary-school teacher) revealed all with a cast of rogues and heroes recognisable in schools up and down the land.

Now the series has been published as a collection by TES Books, giving anyone who missed it first time round a chance to catch up on the madness of St Brian's.

Michael Duffy, a TES contributor and retired head, said: "Charity Casement's tongue-in-cheek diary of her induction year at St Brian's - definitely a sub-bog-standard comprehensive - does for teaching what Ricky Gervais did for the office. It's a drama for our times with an irresistible ring of truth about it. And what a cast. No wonder St Brian's remains in special measures. All reprobates and villains of staffroom folklore appear to be employed there."

The novelist Jilly Cooper was equally smitten. She said: "It is impossible not to fall in love with Charity. She has all the qualities of a great teacher -kindness, resilience, dedication, intelligence - coupled with a dazzling ability to entertain and find humour in the most grisly classroom situations. Her teachers, parents and pupils are all so dreadfully familiar, but seldom so hilariously portrayed."

So if you've just started your first job, or are preparing for teaching practice, pop your head round the staffroom door at St Brian's - and say hello to your new colleagues.

Charity Begins: Adventures of an NQT is available from TES Books (pound;2.99). Call 0870 4448633 or see the TES bookshop: www.tes.co.ukbookshop

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