Cake sales. Don't you love them? You spend the Easter holidays camped out on cross-trainers and eating the sort of natural yoghurt you'd normally only buy to treat thrush, then you arrive back in school to be hustled by a Year 9 girl with a traybake. "Buy some brownies miss, it's for charity." When it's put like that you can hardly refuse, so you hand over #163;1 and grab 1,000 calories of chocolate goo - a logistical turning point in your war on flab. You console yourself with the delusion that you are "taking them home for the kids" but they never get as far as the car. Once your diet is surrendered you go mad, and by the end of the week you are so full of butterfly buns that your hips pupate into a size 16.
Cake sales are the fat-fighting teacher's arch enemy. At least in the Catholic sector we get shot of most of ours before the Easter holidays. Lenten Alms is the period from Ash Wednesday to Easter when faith schools engage in ritual acts of self-denial and sponsored gluttony to raise alms for the poor. Given a choice, I'm sure the needy and destitute would prefer a direct debit or a hedge fund to the one-off proceeds of a Year 8 tuck shop, but beggars can't be choosers. It also strikes me as odd that in the Catholic church we choose to commemorate Christ's passion by eating cherry bakewells rather than the more traditional contemplation of the Eucharist.
Students' tuck shops form the backbone of our Lenten Alms fundraising. These used to be dominated by Mr Kipling's exceedingly well-priced cakes, but the recession has seen the pricey French fancy ousted by a new market leader: the economy krispy cake, a bottom-end product which seems to be fashioned out of rice snaps, Scotbloc, and Japanese akita hair. Our Year 11s also launched their own culinary innovation last term: fluffy fairy cakes, swirled with strawberry butter icing and sprinkled with scarlet hearts. But the sprinkles were the sort meant for gluing on cards, not scattering on buns, and by the time the students alerted us to this, several hundred miniature metallic hearts were slowly serrating their way through our large intestines which - being Catholics at Easter - seemed almost an unlooked-for bonus.
But because we are conscious of our "healthy school" status, we make sure our Lenten Alms fundraising doesn't rely solely on eating cakes. We also run competitions, raffles and quizzes, although the PTA seems to have overlooked the first rule of raffles - that the prizes on offer have to be something you actually want to win. A box of Matchmakers, an unwrapped bath bomb and a half-price voucher for Alton Towers are about as enticing as someone else's phlegm. More of a successful money-spinner this year was the "Guess the name of the teddy" competition, where you could take home a vapid pink teddy by correctly guessing its name; a prize I successfully avoided on account of it not being called "Twat". The Year 10s' "Wash a Teacher's Car" also looked promising until we discovered their modestly priced carwash was less competitive when you factored in the cost of replacement windscreen wipers.
Thankfully, our worries that the recession would affect this year's alms-giving were unfounded. By encouraging childhood obesity, clogging up our arteries and putting the digestive tracts of the entire school in peril, we raised #163;1,000. I'm sure the Pope would be proud.
Anne Thrope (Ms) is a secondary teacher in the North of England.