A HUNDRED times a day I give thanks that the Office for Standards in Education has entered our lives only in its post-Woodhead era. Well, all right then, putting aside the journalistic hyperbole for a moment, I will admit that it occasionally crosses my mind.
This is particularly the case when, as seems to happen with increasing regularity these days, someone rushes through the door of the staffroom in a state of advanced hysteria and shouts: "We could be inspected at any time."
But even though old Woodentop is out of the picture, you cannot help but notice that he is still refusing to lie down and play dead. Just the other day, for instance, I heard him on the radio banging on about one of his pet topics: the perfidy that is media studies.
Media studies, hissed the Woodentop, has no rigour and no theoretical background - hence no methodology. Which is, of course, exactly what was said when his old subject, English, first emerged as a "discipline" in its own right.
Personally, as a relatively recent recruit to the media studies teaching camp, I find it tends to suffer from too much theory rather than too little. We do more, Mr former chief inspector, than sit around ogling page three of the Daily Whooper and counting the nipples.
Not that we completely eschew the tabloids, although it tends to be the language rather than the female anatomy that we study in Level 2 GNVQ Media. "What's a sex romp?" one eager searcher after linguistic exactitude asked me the other day, as she picked her way through the day's headlines.
This was a question that natural caution and long experience of the adolescent mind persuaded me was best left unanswered. But still, it raised an interesting question: what precisely is a sex romp? It is certainly a term beloved of tabloid sub-editors, but what does it actually mean? And how does it differ from regular, common or garden sex of the non-romping variety? A casual question had turned itself into a class project. After an exhaustive trawl through a week's worth of Fleet Street's finest, we drew up the following tentative conclusions.
A sex romp (or SR), as defined by the tabloids, is not going to happen with your regular partner. More likely it will be with somebody else's regular partner. "Romps" are also considerably enhanced by occurring in a place other than the bedroom (the one major exception being the three-in-a-bed sex romp, to which we shall return later).
Locations with an element of risk help add to the authenticity of any SR experience. Vehicles of various kinds loom large in the canon, as do lifts and lavatories, particularly those in aeroplanes, at which point the term "mile-high" invariably comes into play. SRs in mid-range cars are two a penny, but the more interesting headlines come from those at either end of the automotive spectrum, as in: "Rolls rolled as we romped" or "Sex romp set my Reliant Robin a-bobbin". If an SR has to occur indoors, then it invariably takes place in a "love nest", which sounds exotic, but in reality turns out to be a maisonette in Chadwell Heath.
Surprisingly, age is no barrier to participating in an SR. In fact it can be a positive advantage, as exemplified by the headline: "Stan, 85, in Eventide Home Sex Romp Marathon". Ministers of religion too seem to spend an inordinate amount of their time (when not preaching morality) engaged in very lively SRs with an assortment of interesting partners. For them, location is particularly important, given the extra edge that the desecration of holy places always brings.
Mention of the clergy brings us unswervingly back to the numbers game, as that old standby, the three-in-a-bed SR, can be considerably enhanced if two of the participants happen to be nuns. This also opens the way to a veritable cornucopia of puns based around the word "habit". It is also instructive to note that three is generally the limit to the headline writers' fevered imaginations, as four or five-in-a-bed SRs are very rare birds indeed. And so we come to the question that all FE Focus readers will be asking: can FE lecturers ever get to participate in a sex romp? Sadly the answer has to be "no", given that for most lecturers, when faced by the question, "Shall we nip upstairs for a quick sex romp, or have that second cup of Ovaltine?" the Ovaltine gets it every time.
There is, however, one exception to the above rule: when the lecturer becomes involved with a student. Then all bets are off and the Ovaltine goes out the window. We did not actually find the following headline, but how those salacious sub- editors would have loved to have written it:
"Student's three-in-a-bed love-nest sex romp with lusty theology lecturer, 92". And if only the third point of the love triangle could have been a chief inspector of educational establishments ...
But no, we do not want to go there, now do we?
Stephen Jones lectures at a south London college