Further adventures of Phil Harrass private HMI;Opinion

11th June 1999 at 01:00
It had been a good day. I'd banked a three-figure cheque from a national broadsheet, for a start. They had approached me for ideas on educationally orientated ways to boost their circulation. Facetiously, I had suggested that they printed tokens for readers to collect. The one who picked up the most got the chance gratuitously to attack the teaching profession in a special leader column. The rag ran with it.

To cap it, I had just inspected the school with the best guidance set-up I had ever seen. The children of St Vanessa's seemed to have their unfair share of serious home and social problems.

A kid would be in tears because his mother was dating his sister's jailbird ex-boyfriend. Another would be refusing to co-operate in French because his stepmom had just moved her transexual grandfather into their apartment.

Yet the joint's counselling team seemed able to cope with the lot, sending them out the door at night happy, balanced and high on self-esteem. It beat me how they did it, but they did.

Or so I thought. Things fell apart when I sat down to relax in front of the television. I had recorded Countdown and almost missed the clue when I fast wound the ads.

It was a brat promoting junk snacks who caught my eye. Earlier that day she'd been reintegrated into mainstream classes at St Vanessa's following support to overcome "persistent anti-social behaviour in the school dining area provoked by her junkie brother selling all her birth control pills".

I sighed and called the school. The head answered. "I've rumbled you, Bub," I said. "You've been using fake problem kids in your guidance department."

It was a shot in the dark, but I reckoned I was on target. "Every damned one of them's a child actor."

"Think you can prove it?" asked the voice on the other end of the line.

"Probably."

"I'll level with you," said the head. "It's all about ratings. Our roll is falling due to placing requests. A good HMI report could change all that. Do you have to go public on this?" I felt sorry for the sap, but he blew it when he tried to bribe me. He dropped his voice and said: "I've got contacts, you know. I could get you a bit part on Casualty working next to the broad with the pout."

"Forget it, Bub," I grated. "You either move on or I squeal."

He went before he was pushed. Last I heard, he was guesting on a talk show where the topic was: "I was forced out of my job by people who don't understand how things really are."

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