Fonts could be fatal

7th October 2005 at 01:00
What ended in tears and a haematoma the size of Kilimanjaro began as a morale-boosting training day on how to raise standards.

Optimism was running high and all things were possible, when some font-of-all-knowledge came to us with the key to school improvement.

Oh, how my heart thrilled to hear him pour cold water on the idea that social deprivation was the cause of our poor key stage 2 results. "No more excuses," he cried, holding us under the cold shower of truth. "The solution is simple; the way to improve attainment is to improve hydration!"

It was a defining moment. Sunlight sparkled through his raised glass and made rainbow patterns on the interactive whiteboard. Even the pathologically sceptical clung desperately to his graphs and found themselves swept along on a tide of evangelism.

"Thus it is written," he continued, punching seven bells out of his training manual, "that a free plastic bottle for every child will become the holy grail of school improvement. Regular sipping from which will throw open the floodgates to academic success. And it shall come to pass that from this day forth ye will shoot up the value-added league tables like a veritable geyser!"

I once kept a Page-A-Day Bible in the bathroom. Mornings began with a little snippet from the New Testament and a big snippet from the Old. Thus it was that every drop of "love thy neighbour" came dissolved in a bucket of blood and smiting.

Hydration too turned out to have its dark side. The mother of all water bottle fights during week one turned out to be the first skirmish in a protracted war. By week three the queue at the sink had achieved former Soviet Union proportions.

The consequent pogrom against refreshing water bottles might have been blamed for the algae-related diarrhoea and vomiting epidemic of week six, which threatened to overwhelm the NHS, had it not been for the cover up.

Lucretia's slip on the wet floor was literally the final blow. We needed a reason to ban water bottles before the lawyers got involved.

"Did you know over-hydration can kill?" said the man who usually wins the pub quiz. "It can lead to a decrease in sodium concentrations, which in turn causes an electrolyte imbalance leading to a decrease in osmotic pressure and an increase in intracellular water concentration."

Really?... Well I'll drink to that.

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