Hang Ups

6th October 1995 at 01:00
Too many head teachers have the wrong priorities. Faced with swingeing cutbacks, rather than reduce expenditure on luxuries such as light and heating, they foolishly axe their IT budgets. It cannot be emphasised strongly enough that this is a false economy: spending money on the right software can ultimately save money. To prove the point, perhaps it is time to offer readers a tantalising glimpse of some of the exciting products currently under development at Evansoft plc.

The inspiration for our new school administration package came from a report that appeared in the Sunday Express earlier this year. It told the sad story of an English headmaster who was imprisoned for falsifying returns to his local education authority. He simply invented phantom pupils over 50 of them and by so doing won the school an LMS budget quite out of proportion to the number of children who actually attended his school. Succeeding in a scam on that scale calls for skills quite beyond the scope of a mere mortal as the headmaster's prison sentence confirms. If you want to work a serious fiddle, get some serious software.

While other admin packages currently on the market merely record the lowdown on real pupils, ours can be programmed to create as many bogus pupils as your projected spending necessitates. Each pupil is furnished with a plausible name, imaginary next-of-kin, fictitious address, gender, country of origin, mini-biography and a health record brimming with heart-rending childhood ailments. As the virtual pupil progresses through the school, the software automatically generates a national curriculum attainment profile, SAT results, and record of achievement. And, of course, because the data is logged on computer, no one will ever dream of questioning its authenticity.

In beta testing, delighted teachers testify that the Evansoft plc phantom pupils are "a pleasure to have on the register". Ofsted inspectors, too, have commented "off the record" that "if all pupils were like this our job would be much easier".

At Evansoft plc we are giving much thought to the problem of Ofsted inspections. Teachers tell us that it isn't the inspection itself that wastes their time but the vast quantity of documentation with which inspectors insist on being furnished. Evansoft plc has solved the problem. We can provide as much verbiage as any school could wish to have, all of it finely textured with the latest educational jargon. Simply find our site on the Internet, tell us how much twaddle you require (we sell it by the yard) and it will be sent either to you or directly to the inspectors. We hope to interest them in a complementary service offering them ready-made reports.

We are, of course, aware that not all schools who would like to be on the Internet can afford the hefty telephone charges it would entail. At Evansoft we hope to solve the problem by offering the first Internet service which precludes the need for a telephone line. For a modest fee subscribers will be given a plausible Internet address complete with a generous selection of slashes and the obligatory @. It won't actually mean anything in cyberspace, but it will look as impressive on a school letterhead as a sonorous Latin motto once did.

Subscribers will also regularly receive a bin liner crammed with pages of random information frustratingly more than they could ever hope to digest. This, we hope, will simulate what it feels like to "surf the Internet". Teachers who feel that a subscription to the Internet ought to enable them to communicate with other people will, for a small additional fee, be provided with a book of stamps and a pad of Basildon Bond.

Incidentally, cash conscious headteachers should bear in mind that, with a liberal sprinkling of paraffin, the contents of the bin liners and the Ofsted reports could provide a classroom with adequate heating and light for several minutes.

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