I'd laugh, but the gag gets in the way

18th September 1998 at 01:00
"Someone must have been telling lies about Hugh R for without having done anything wrong he was instructed by the directorate to send all articles to headquarters to be vetted." Erudite readers will recognise the sentence as a paraphrasing of the opening line of Franz Kafka's The Trial. The non-erudite, ie all science teachers, will see it as further evidence of my paranoia.

This may be my final article. It seems I have upset the decision-makers in Glasgow education department by, inter alia, commenting on their Titanic flagship school and generally "undermining the service". The department, with access to national press and television, can manipulate and spin ad nauseum but a monthly column in The TES Scotland written by a classroom teacher is unacceptable.

Apparently some people have been offended. Embarrassed would be a more appropriate description. Interestingly, the veracity of the articles has not been questioned. My crime appears have been to satirise the failings of the service. Have those in authority had humour bypass surgery?

The situation is surreal. Although I don't mention my school by name, "people know where you work", the directorate informed me. Although no one has been named, "people know who you are talking about". Articles "masquerading as general themes" have attacked individuals. It appears I have to pay the price for someone else's mental torment. No doubt a certain individual will be counting his strawberries (science teachers please note - this is an allusion to The Caine Mutiny, made into a film starring Humphrey Bogart).

Articles should only contain positive statements about education in the city. Unfortunately, under my contract with The TESS I am obliged to write 700 words. Writing "feel-good" pap would give me terminal writer's block.

Failure to comply with the vetting procedure has dire consequences although to date I still have not received the extract from the conditions of service I have allegedly contravened. Like a condemned man I am hoping for a reprieve from the governor (ie the education committee) but I feel like a Dead Teacher Walking. And those bleedin' heart liberals can't do a thing to save me!

I am a little unsure how Big Brother will punish me. Being put under house arrest would be an acceptable sanction. My four kids are at school, I can laze around watching the idiot box and finally understand what it feels like to have ME.

Suspended on full pay while the matter is investigated is my preference (and I pray for a thorough and extremely lengthy investigation - purely in the interests of natural justice, of course). A written warning for truthful articles would put Glasgow right up there with Burma (only joking, I don't want to be kept sitting in my Volvo for four days).

If the department successfully exercises its right to silence critics, I fear for the future. In a recent bulletin, all Glasgow teachers were invited to send submissions to a free magazine distributed to all households in the city, detailing "positive" aspects of the service.

I am undermining the service? Approaching the millennium, thousands of Glasgow kids are taught in huts, euphemistically called "temporary classroom complexes". Does having the highest pupil to teacher ratio in Scotland undermine education? Who is Glasgow trying to kid? I may be today's scapegoat but who will officials, and others, blame tomorrow?

I'd like to thank all my colleagues, both inside and outside my school, for the support they have given. The truth will always come to the surface. He who speaks the truth is always at ease. It is a pyrrhic victory for the opposition. Silence is not golden, it is cheap and tawdry. Writing about the service has been a journey into the heart of darkness. The horror! The horror!

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