If Conan Doyle were still writing, his detective would be called Ayomide, because Ayomide knows everything, and what he doesn't know he can find out

9th September 2005 at 01:00
Gemma September, and all the children are settled happily in their new classes. I've almost forgotten the detective games they play at the end of the summer term, trying to find out which teacher will be taking which class the following year.

I learned how not to do it when I was a deputy head. The whole school would be brought into the hall on the Monday of the last week, and the head would name a teacher and call out the children who were going to be in his or her class. I remember Margo Huggins punching the air and shouting "Yes!" when she heard she was to be with me, whereupon the head peered distastefully through her spectacles at Margo and said: "I hardly think Mr Kent will want you in his class if you make silly noises, young lady." Of course, I was secretly flattered that Margo was so keen to be in my class, but I also felt sympathy for the teacher who received only a faint but audible groan.

Which is why children at my school don't know their new classes until the last day of term, and they're told in the classroom, not the hall.

Nevertheless, the most inquisitive pupils ask well before the term ends.

At first, they slip a question to Secretary Sandra when they collect a piece of fruit or a plaster. "Have you done the lists for next year, Miss?"

they'll ask sweetly. "Do you know what class I'll be in?" When Sandra professes to know nothing, despite having compiled the lists weeks ago, the child changes tack. "Then do you know what class my friend Gloria will be in, Miss? I won't tell anyone, honest."

Eventually, they give up. But not Ayomide. If Conan Doyle were still writing, his detective would be called Ayomide, because Ayomide knows everything, and what he doesn't know he can find out. He often comes to my room asking if I have any jobs, and his eyes roam quickly over every piece of paper on my desk and noticeboards. This year, when a lot of children seemed to know which classes they'd be in, I remembered I'd left the new lists on Sandra's desk that morning... and she'd been visited by Ayomide just before playtime.

Counter-measures were called for. I wrote a hasty note, saying that we'd be joined in September by some new teachers, including Mr Wackford-Squeers, Mr Chips, and Miss Jean Brodie. I also pointed out that Sandra would be teaching Year 6 each day, once she'd counted the dinner money. I summoned Ayomide and asked if he'd be kind enough to take the note to all the teachers, stressing that it was confidential and that on no account should he look at it. By playtime, children were asking which teachers were leaving to make room for the new ones, and this Mr Wicked-Squares sounded a bit posh, didn't he?

But it wasn't just the children who were inquisitive. Parents wanted to know which teachers would be honoured with their offspring, too; they had been ringing for the last couple of weeks to find out. Even so, I was totally unprepared for the visit from Mrs Andrews, an exceptionally well-endowed mother, on the last Monday of term.

"Are you in the mood for a bribe?" she asked enticingly.

"Sorry," I said. "I'm as honest as the day I was born."

"Oh go on," she said. "Tell me what class Emily is going to be in and I'll give you a nibble on me baps." I stepped back... and then realised she was referring to her bag of cheese rolls.

Now who said being a headteacher doesn't have its moments?

Mike Kent is head of Comber Grove primary, London borough of Southwark.

Email: mikejkent@aol.com

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