Film buff's admission of defeat

11th December 2009 at 00:00

I have a ticketing problem. Let me explain the context. Throughout the Seventies and Eighties I was an avid cine enthusiast. I turned my loft into a mini cinema and amassed a large collection of Super 8mm films. Naturally, I incorporated my hobby into school life, and almost from the start of my headship I've been running "Friday Film Club" during Friday lunchtimes.

For those of us ancient enough to remember, it's like Saturday Morning Pictures in the 1950s. Children crowd into our viewing room, sit on the carpet and watch a programme of classic films on the "big screen". Tom and Jerry, Laurel and Hardy, Captain Marvel, Harold Lloyd, classic Disney - all are enjoyed by my audience of potential film buffs.

The problem is the ticket system. For those who want to come, it costs 40p. Children originally paid teachers on Mondays, collected a paper ticket on Fridays and handed it in on the door. But paper proved impossible. Tickets got lost in the playground, fluttered away on the breeze, or were screwed into oblivion.

Laminated tickets seemed the answer, but children being what they are, they still lost them. Or separated the plastic from the card. Or put them down for a moment to find somebody had walked off with them. Or, in Simon's case, ate them. Since they were printed on brown card, his mate had convinced him they'd been made from rolled liquorice. A couple of children even tried to gain entry with home-made tickets they hoped would look genuine in the surge through the door. Unfortunately, their forgery skills didn't quite match those of Donald Pleasence in The Great Escape.

The system had to change. We couldn't simply do a roll call when the children were seated - we'd lose too much film screening time. What about button badges, suggested secretary Sandra. They wouldn't get lost or screwed up because they'd be pinned to the children. It seemed a good idea and we ordered several packs.

It lasted a month. Thinking they'd be helpful, children tugged them off as they came into Film Club and the badges fell apart in their hands, or dropped on the floor to be trampled under a million feet. Charlie had a different take on all this. He smuggled his badge through the door and entertained himself by poking the pin into people's bottoms as soon as the lights went down.

Back to the drawing board. Objects were out. What about stamping a star on children's wrists? Simple to do, the ink wouldn't wash off and children wouldn't need to hand anything in as they came through the door. We considered hard, drilled deep, thought outside the box, brainstormed intensely. This plan seemed watertight. We congratulated ourselves and looked forward to Friday.

Everything was fine for two weeks. Then we noticed that the large volume of children coming into Film Club didn't tally with the smaller number who'd paid for tickets. Examining the stamped stars on the children's wrists, it was noticeable that some were paler than others. The children had found they could get their mates in free if they rubbed their wrists together, transferring a faint but passable copy of the star.

The star-stampers were given to teachers to use for good work, and we thought again. Coloured rubber bands this time. The band could easily be slipped off the wrist and dropped in a box. Foolproof. At least, it was until last Friday, when I noticed a paper pellet zip through the projector beam and hit somebody's ear.

Self-evaluation forms, school improvement plans, targets - no problem. But I might just ask my school improvement partner's advice on film club admissions.

l Mike Kent is headteacher at Comber Grove Primary in Camberwell, south London. Email: mikejkent@aol.com.

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