Chocks away at careers night

4th May 2001 at 01:00
Previously, the sun came up over the horizon, but this year's sun has just set on HORIZONS - our annual careers night for senior pupils. For seven years now the school has hosted more than 30 representatives from the universities, colleges, training agencies, armed forces and public services, trying to provide local focus for informed career choices.

As my tireless collaborator, the school librarian, and I set out the hall last month we rehearsed the potential pitfalls. Would it snow (one year numbers were curtailed by an unseasonal sprinkling)? Would that night's live telly football keep the fourth-year summer leavers away (we have long since ceased worrying that Rangers or Celtic being in Europe by March would be a likely distraction)? Would the RAF fail to land for two years running (last year our pilot mistakenly went on holiday to Saudi Arabia)?

All the preparations made, the doubt remains - who will turn out? The posters go up, the strips saying next week, this week, tomorrow, today - but it's still a relief when the doors open and the crowds appear. One colleague, amused at my early morning scurry to alter posters, asked if I had prepared yesterday strips for afterwards.

Negotiations with the principal teacher music to play soothing tunes at the rand piano in the hall had broken down. The burly Navy man had already requested sea shanties, and the jannies wanted an 8.30 slot for "Show Them the Way to go Home".

Tradition demands that, between setting the hall up and the opening, my librarian pal and I sit with a contemplative fish supper. As one of the high street banks had abruptly cancelled for the second time in three years we sat at the empty stall, taking great care to ensure streaks of grease covered the notice explaining their non-arrival.

Happily, only two of the 33 exhibitors reneged this year, the others seduced by the quality of the home economics purvey. We placed the Scottish Ambulance Service on stage, so that if anyone fell off help would be at hand.

Unlike last year, when the bricklaying stand was quiet for long periods, we didn't have to ask our ace violinist and school orchestra leader to occupy the man by asking about careers in construction.

Biggles flew in on time, and, mindful of last year, offered a huge box of careers information. Then quietly he handed me a plastic bag and said:

"That's for you, Peter."

The rest of the senior management team have taken quite kindly to me sitting at meetings with my RAF baseball cap on - skip backwards, of course.

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