It's the governors' meeting and the head, Dr Scarlett, is facing his third vote of confidence this year. But before the motion can be put, he pre-empts the rebellion by announcing his quality assurance initiative.
This consists of a five-point pledge from the school to the community.
"It's a contract," he begins. "A partnership, a collaboration... call it what you will." "All right, how about, 'a desperate stunt designed to get you off the hook?'" The voice belongs to Jasper Morrison, the chair of governors and very angry middle-class parent who is currently suing the school for gross negligence in relation to the exam performance of his daughters, Jennifer and Hermione.
"Ah, thank you, Mr Morrison, your views have been noted - in accordance, as you can see, with point four of the St Brian's charter." He nods to Amy Studds, the bursar, who is tottering next to him on dangerously high stilettos. (Amy's primary function at these meetings is to flirt with Mr Morrison. In dire emergencies, such as before a crucial vote regarding the head's future, her job is to distract Mr Morrison by whatever means necessary. This can range from a hand on the thigh to a whispered invitation to inspect the newly laid Tarmac in the car park.) Amy hits the keyboard and a blizzard of bullet points appears on the giant screen that covers one wall of the head's office. The fourth line is highlighted: "St Brian's will do its utmost to ensure customer satisfaction and deal immediately and effectively with any concerns and complaints."
Mr Morrison guffaws loudly. "You are joking, Scarlett. I've been trying to contact Jennifer's maths teacher for over a year about a piece of lost coursework. I'm sick of being put on hold for an hour listening to the bloody 'Girl from Ipanema'."
Scarlett grins. He's been expecting this one. "That's all in the past, Mr Morrison. You'll be pleased to know that, as of last week, St Brian's has a new phone system that guarantees a response in just three rings." He smiles smugly at Amy, but Mr Morrison is red-faced and on his feet. "You get a bloody response, all right! The last time I called I was told I'd won a two-week holiday in Barbados, and the time before that someone asked me if I wanted to upgrade my mobile phone. For God's sake, what are you running here?"
Scarlett blushes. "Ah yes, we are having a few teething problems with our business links programme, but I can assure you..."
Mr Morrison cuts him off. "That's enough of your bullshit, Scarlett. I'm going to nail you this time, you incompetent pillock!"
Amy moves in on cue, top button undone, eyes lowered. "Come on Jasper, let's go for a little walk, just you and me..." But he's having none of it.
"Get away from me! We're moving straight to a vote!"
Mr and Mrs Gunner, parents of the fearsome Year 10 twins, whoop with delight. "Yeah, see how you like being excluded," one of them snaps.
Scarlett takes the nuclear option. He clicks his fingers and out of the shadows steps Jessie McNally, the lunchtime supervisor. She walks towards Jasper Morrison, cracking her knuckles and chewing gum loudly. Then she speaks. "Time for any other business, don't you think?"
Charity Casement is the alter ego of a north London teacher. Next week: Extended services