Driven into the Inclusion Unit

11th March 2005 at 00:00
I teach in a dark and secret corner of the school. There are just two rooms in a tenebrous corridor. One is the Inclusion Unit - for those driven half barmy by it all. The other is Room 101 - for those driven half stupid by it all.

I teach in Room 101. Only low-stream pupils venture within. These pupils have been measured and labelled and finally streamed - Not Top or foundation are the fashionable euphemisms.

We're in the land of D grades or under. They're not dim. Most are as sharp as pins. Most are just luckless and lost. Dragana has lost her family.

Shaka has lost his mind. And Decibelle has usually lost her lip balm. Here they come bouncing off the walls. It takes about 10 minutes to settle them down for some rigorous intellectual enquiry.

A face presses its nose against our window door. A ghastly visage. I do not notice it. The class does. It elicits mirth. Then I notice it. I shoo the gargoyle away. He enters.

"Bring out your dead! Bring out your halfwits!" he squawks. He resembles Marilyn Manson. "Yo! Sir! - they look a bit dim - a bit Foundation to me!"

Who is this? The Ofsted Man? The Sats Man? The ghost of Gradgrind? No! It's Thelonius. An A-grade escapee from the Inclusion Unit. A much- disturbed Goth child in the grip of serious demons. He is certainly disturbing my little chums. "Tosser! Nutter! Mentalist!" they yell.

"You are, though!I you're the rubbish!" he bangs on.

Then Thelonious the Goth scuttles back into the Afflicted Zone.

I am furious. So is my tiny crew.

"Oi, sir, he's dissin' us."

"What's Foundation?" wonders Plum. "'Oo's 'e callin' Fundamentalist?"

"We are, tho', sir! Rubbish!"

"Of course not!" No one insults my posse.

"That mean you're rubbish, too, sir?" I feel I'm going "mentalist". My class aren't stupid. Most are children of warzones and famine and poverty, doing a massively pointless syllabus.

I got streamed years ago. It was called the 11-plus. My dad said if I failed I was rubbish. I can still remember the headmaster like a prophet of doom booming out the names of the chosen few: the grammar school boys. We jumped up and down and left our blubbing chums forever. I never thought streaming would come back.

I must label Dragana an F grade. In English. She's from Albania. Shaka is labelled "unclassified". He's just stoned.

It's enough to drive us all bonkers. And into the Inclusion Unit.

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