Further adventures of Phil Harrass Private HMI

21st July 2000 at 01:00
I WAS given no name, just a location and 30 big ones up front, plus the promise of another 30 if I came up with anything. We met after dark at a shingle beach, cars drawn up with the drivers' windows alongside one another. He faced inland. I faced a coastal power station.

"What gives, Bub?" I asked.

"We need advice," the man in the other car said, "about the teaching side's response to McCrone."

I didn't need to think this one out. I already had.

"The way I see it, you have two choices. You can accept it with two small conditions."

"Accept it?" he gasped."But . . ."

"Cool it, Bub. Wait till you hear the conditions. First, you welcome the cut in hours."

"Cut?"

"Sure," I said, "cut. Make it clear nobody should be expected to do more than 35 hours a week. That should represent a cut for most teachers. The condition you ask is that the hours under the discretion of the headteacher are set aside for marking and preparation in the first couple of years until you see whether there is time to join school working groups on the council's latest bonnet bee."

There was a snort from the other car, but I continued: "Condition two is that the chartered teacher posts are unlimited, available to all who fulfill the conditions, whatever they may b."

Though he said nothing I could tell he wasn't buying it. I pressed on. "If you don't accept it, do diddly-squat," I told him.

"What do you mean?" he said, speaking at last.

"Do nothing. This reform is going to cost half a billion smackaroonies. Your bosses would love it if you guys were the ones to blow it out of the water, especially for losing five days' holiday. Every rag in the country and three-quarters of parents would see teachers as the bad guys."

An engine started. The sap next to me popped his clutch and floored the loud pedal, shimmying on the loose surface before speeding off. It looked like I wasn't going to get my other 30 bucks.

I sat where I was, drumming the wheel. In 20 minutes, someone from the management side would pull alongside me. I'd be asked how they should respond to McCrone. When I told them to either accept it or do diddly-squat, they'd be irritated but curious.

After I'd explained that since they lacked the will to finance the deal and they should wait until teachers rejected it for reasons the public wouldn't grasp or sympathise with, they'd hightail it without giving me my dough.

I reckoned I had enough time to get out and look at the sea. There it was: always in turmoil, never really changing.


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