Excluded need inclusion

7th February 2003 at 00:00
Monday

Richard Dick is abandoning his zero tolerance approach to graffiti, in the wake of significantly reduced incidences of the problem, subsequent to the janitorial endeavours of Mr Dallas to cleanse any sprayings or daubings almost as soon as they appeared on school walls.

"I think we've got the problem licked," our headteacher announced, with unintentional irony this morning, as he outlined plans to use the moneys thus saved to pay for the appropriation (some would say misappropriation) of yet another room for exclusion purposes.

As well as our assignment room, whither we send pupils responsible for serious and repeated misdemeanours, Mr Dick is introducing a "sin bin" for pupils guilty of minor offences requiring short-term exclusion from the classroom, plus a room intriguingly titled "the haven", for use with pupils suffering from emotional disturbance, and staffed mainly by our resident social workers.

"At this rate, there'll be more kids in exclusion rooms than in the ruddy classrooms," muttered George Crumley, before Mr Dick played his trump card.

"Plus!" he waved a grandiloquent arm aloft. "We've been selected by the council as the venue for the authority's social inclusion centre."

Most of us looked puzzled, so he went on to explain that this oxymoronically named room will be "a secure room, an extremely secure room, for pupils who have been excluded from their schools for the most serious of offences - assaults, arson attempts, that kind of thing - but pupils who are still entitled to receive a full education under the terms of the council's social inclusion policy."

The casuistry of such an arrangement bewilders me, I confess - a social inclusion room for excluded pupils - but Mr Dick is cock-a-hoop that we have been chosen for this honour and that Greenfield Academy will be accepting, even welcoming, the social and educational outcasts of the entire county to ensure that council policies are implemented.

I suppose it brings a whole new meaning to the term "magnet school".

Tuesday

I have had to suspend Peter O'Farrell after Mr Wilson reported that he had caught the boy urinating down the back of Donny McIntyre's left leg in the PE block showers this afternoon.

Unpleasant though it remains to relate the episode, I am left with an even nastier taste in the mouth by the father's response when summoned to collect his son. Clearly, the man had been drinking since lunchtime, but no amount of alcohol-induced bravado could excuse the appalling example he set his offspring in the ensuing confrontation with me, the boy's guidance teacher.

"So, whit's it furr this time?" he demanded aggressively. "Pee-urr's goat his preelims comin up, an' he shouldny be oan suspension weneez goat preelims comin up."

At which point he belched loudly in my face.

I tried to recall the last time that Mr O'Farrell had shown the slightest interest in his son's academic progress, but without success. Instead, I moved on to explain the outrageous nature of Peter's behaviour in the showers.

After I had described the incident, I awaited his shocked reaction and fulsome support of the school's discipline policy. I should have known better.

"Ye whit?" his mouth opened wide with incredulity, revealing a set of teeth that had seen decidedly better days. "Yur suspendin him fur peein oan somebuddy's leg? In the showers? Ach come oan, Mr Simpson," he urged with fervour. "Yur no tellin me that you nivvur peed oan naebuddy's leg in the showers at school! Urr ye?"

I chose to leave his double negative uncorrected and assured him that such an assumption was entirely erroneous, after which I sent them both packing.

Maybe it's just as well that guidance is due to become a whole-school responsibility, once McCrone is fully in place.

Wednesday

Peter McLeish and Simon Sheridan rose somewhat in my estimation this morning - and sank without trace by this evening.

To explain, they were just leaving my Standard grade English class when I heard an unusual tone from my mobile telephone. Withdrawing it from my pocket, I examined the screen carefully, where a little envelope icon was flashing.

"Oh!" I exclaimed brightly. "I think I've got a text message!"

McLeish and Sheridan were just passing by and confirmed the fact for me.

"But how d'ye mean ye think ye've goat wan?" Sheridan enquired. "How d'ye no know?"

I explained sheepishly that I'd never actually received a text message before but that my wife had recently been encouraging me to enter the 21st century before it's too late. "So it's probably from her," I concluded.

"How I er I how do I read it, then?"

They looked contemptuous in the extreme but at least had the grace to open the message for me, which turned out to be a disappointingly mundane domestic request to bring home some frozen peas. I was just working out how to respond when McLeish offered to help out.

"D'ye waant me tae reply fur ye, sur?" he watched me jab the buttons tentatively with the forefinger of my right hand. "Yur phone looks pretty heavy" - here he sniggered at McLeish - "but ah think ah'll manage tae lift it."

"Thanks, Peter." I gave up the unequal task and handed him my somewhat dated phone, after which he proceeded to dash off my dictated message in the same time as it took me to utter the words, his thumb racing around the keypad at an utterly bewildering speed and at no time leaving the rest of his hand behind.

It was a pleasing demonstration of pupilmaster co-operation, I thought.

Except for the fact that the two of them obviously concocted an extra communication to my own (which had merely explained that I would be buying the supermarket own-brand peas rather than a more expensive proprietary make).

In short - as Gail's subsequent and angry questions confirmed - they had suggested I would be looking forward to an amorous encounter this evening and had signed off the exchange with the name of a certain East Anglian town (Norwich, to be precise), after which they had spelled out in full an acronymical consequence that suggested my lady wife be divested of her underwear "When I Come Home".

Little bastards.

Thursday

The plans for Greenfield Academy's public-private renovation are being prepared as we speak and I begin to wonder if I should ask for a transfer before next session's educational diaspora starts. It's beginning to look as if we'll be decamped to another campus three miles down the road: ironically, the site of the former Parkland High School, where I started my teaching career nearly 20 years ago.

The school itself was burned to the ground after our merger with Rockston High, but the site was subsequently occupied by a collection of grim concrete buildings and a set of transient Portakabins masquerading under the name of Parkland Further Education College. Unsurprisingly, the college's bid for university status has failed and their dwindling numbers look set to herald imminent closure. Which is where we come in.

I just hope there will be space for all the exclusion (and inclusion) rooms if we go there. Student incarcerations are not usually high on the agenda of FE colleges, many of whose lecturers are ironically happier if students stay away. As long as they've registered for the course, of course.

Friday

Mr Dick has reverted to the zero tolerance policy on graffiti and Mr Dallas is once again equipped with a scrubbing brush and a bucket of bleach.

The reason behind this sudden volte-face was the defacement of several school notices yesterday afternoon. Mr Dick might have been prepared to overlook the addition to our staffroom door plate (someone had artlessly added "All Pupils Bugger Off During Intervals. Please") but he wasn't willing to countenance the defacement of his own nameplate.

Whereas it had previously proclaimed his name and position - Mr Dick: Head Teacher - the anonymous artist had carefully daubed mahogany woodstain over the colon and the word "Teacher" and inserted a dash between "Dick" and "Head", thereby completely altering the import of the sign.

It was an old joke but well worth it, I thought to myself as I silently applauded the perpetrator.

I just wonder which member of staff was responsible.

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