Further adventures of Phil Harrass, Private HMI;Opinion

19th March 1999 at 00:00
I HAD never surfed the Net before - hell I hadn't even removed my virtual shoes and socks and paddled at the edges. There were rumours of some pretty specialist teachers' sites that I supposed I ought to investigate sometime: www.oldgit.uk.com was apparently the place to go to find out all there was to know about early retirement.

I heard of another when I visited Q, the genius technician of the Special Teaching Service, the GTC's equivalent of the SAS. Q's new workshop was in a former nuclear bunker under Corstorphine Hill. He had fitted it out with home built state of the art computers and high-speed communications links so that he could trawl the Internet for information that would benefit teachers.

"I'm a nuts, bolts and solder man, Harrass," he said, "and building this lot was more fun than using it. But I've come up with something you should see."

He did a few rapid mouse clicks and typed in a stream of what appeared to be chiefly punctuation marks. In seconds we were through to the Awkward Parents website. There were buttons to click to find out how to ignore a school dress policy. There was what Q called a "high res video clip with 32-bit stereo sound" on how to bring a legal action against a school. Most curiously, every page offered the advice: "Learn all you can about every subject so that you can challenge your child's teacher's inadequacies."

"Looks like someone's in need of some Chicago feng shui," I said.

"How d'you mean?" asked Q.

"When someone's upsetting you you get the boys round to rearrange their face,"

I explained.

"Then you'll be surprised to learn that I tracked this website to a group of teachers," Q smiled without humour. He gave me an address and I set off to investigate.

Two days later I was back to see him, having pledged his help to the group who had set up the website. It turned out that they were all keen and dedicated teachers. They reckoned that awkward parents who followed the advice to learn everything they could about each subject would eventually rediscover a love for learning. In time they might even gravitate towards schools as returning adults.

Perhaps my new-found associates were being naive in believing that the result would be a greater understanding of and co-operation with the teaching profession but it had to be worth a shot.

Q agreed, though he took a lot of persuading that this was a better course of action than simply dispatching the fleet of guided missiles he had cobbled together from some surplus physics equipment to the homes of those who regularly hit the website.

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