It's just not going to happen, sport

5th November 2004 at 00:00

More problems arose today surrounding our newly constructed public private partnership school. This time, the difficulties concern the playing fields, where Joyce Honeypot's Astroturf hockey pitch has at last been completed.

The contractors spent most of last weekend - at goodness knows what overtime costs - putting the finishing touches to the 18ft perimeter mesh fencing that surrounds the pitch. Unfortunately, whoever planned the details had obviously never played hockey (or any sport), because the fencing has been erected almost exactly along the touchlines and goal lines (except for the goals themselves), leaving absolutely no room for spectators at the edge of play.

"And no means of putting the ball back into play - or even letting it out of play in the first place!" exclaimed Ms Honeypot this afternoon, her whistle bouncing furiously off her tracksuit front.

"I'd like to get my hands on the architect who designed that little lot.

'Fencing for the hockey pitch? No problem! Let's measure the sides of the pitch and order enough fencing to go round it.' Exactly round it! There's no room to swing a cat, let alone a hockey stick if you're anywhere near the edge!"

"It does seem a little short-sighted, Joyce," I agreed. "Are they going to do anything about it?"

"They'd damned well better," she assured me. "We've organised a prestigious adult ladies' district tournament for Friday afternoon - it's sports provision for the community, now that we're an all-inclusive school - and I've told the council that they'll lose the hire fee if they don't get the pitch sorted out by then."

That should get some action. The council never likes the thought of losing money.


John Hardy from our central college - or, rather, institute - of education, made a personal appearance today in order to beg for student teacher placements.

"It's impossible!" he argued forcefully with Frank O'Farrell, our principal teacher of social subjects. "Here we are nearly two months into the session and I still can't get enough geography placements. And George Crumley was always willing to take a student or two," he reminded Frank of our former PT of geography.

"Yes," agreed Frank with a smile on his face, "especially if they were young and female.

"Nope, I'm, sorry, John," he became more serious, and remained implacable.

"I've said it before and I'll say it again. We don't have a geography PT any more, so there's nobody who could mentor a geography student. And that's my final word," he declaimed and began to walk away.

"Oh, for heaven's sake!" Mr Hardy threw his hands in the air. "It's not as if we're asking you to do it for nothing! I mean, look at the money we give the council to finance the placements ..."

Frank stopped in his tracks. "Money to finance placements?" he queried.

"What money's that?"

"Money to finance the placements," Mr Hardy repeated. "Twenty-seven grand to your council alone and the same across all the other authorities on a pro-rata basis. Presumably that gets fed into the schools who take students, doesn't it?"

"Not to my knowledge," Frank admitted. "But if there's any money coming our way from taking a student or two, now that's quite a different story."

He rubbed a greedy thumb with an avaricious forefinger and narrowed his eyes. "Let me make a few enquiries with Pat Gibbon about where that money gets vired to and I might come back to you, John. After all, I could do with a spare laptop in the department."

Mr Hardy looked like a man given a stay of execution and seemed pathetically grateful for Frank's sudden about-turn.

I wonder if he'd like the English department to take any students I Wednesday

Entertaining news from our neighbouring authority, where my own PT, Simon Young, has an old friend who has recently been on the wrong end of a visit from HM Inspectorate of Education.

"Andy Park said it had been the most exhausting two months of his life," Simon explained, "getting together enough paperwork to fell 16 forests in an attempt to make the inspectors think they produced that kind of reportage garbage as a matter of everyday life."

"Which they don't presumably?"

"No way. Andy's from the old school and has flown by the seat of his pants most of his career, but it doesn't seem to have done his results any harm.

Not that it seemed to impress his departmental inspector, mind you. I think she read between the lines and gave him a bit of a rocket."

I suggested that this must be a source of concern, but Simon corrected me.

"No way. Andy said she was a blonde slip of a thing with pink nail varnish on her toes, and there was no way he was taking grief from a wee girlie inspector."

"He said that to her face?"

"Well, not exactly, no, but I don't think they saw exactly eye-to-eye, let's put it like that. Anyway, he's glad it's all over. But not half as glad as his headteacher."

"How come?"

"Well, the day after the inspectors left, he called a staff meeting to thank everyone for their efforts and express appreciation of how well they'd stood up to the stress of it all. And then, Morris," Simon smiled in recollection, "he went on to announce that he'd found it extremely stressful himself; so much so that he made the public announcement that he hadn't - and I quote - 'managed to get his leg over for the last four weeks'!

"Can you believe it?"

Frankly, I couldn't. It all seemed too much information, but Simon assured me it was true.

If it is, I think I should get in touch with the First Minister. He has clearly been worried by the declining birth-rate of our small country and it would appear that some of the blame could clearly be laid at the door of HMIE.


Frank has drawn a blank in his search for student teacher placement funding and Mr Hardy looks as if he will be cast once more into the slough of despond.

Apparently Mrs Gibbon denied all knowledge of student placement money coming into the school, and for once our headteacher's denials rang true with Frank, especially after he telephoned the education offices.

"They denied it themselves to begin with," he explained, "but I pressed on until I finally got an administration officer who admitted that they do indeed get a funding to support placements."

"So what do they use it for?" queried Simon Young, his own dreams of a departmental DVD player disappearing faster than an October holiday.

"Mostly to fund a student placement officer, who telephones all the schools in the authority trying to arrange placements."

"But isn't that duplicating what the college of education office is doing?"

I asked. "And they'll both get exactly the same answer?"

"That's right." Frank shrugged his shoulders. "And before you suggest anything, I've already suggested it to them. But I think the chances of that money coming directly to us instead, as an incentive to accept student placements, is absolutely zilch. It's far too sensible an idea, after all ..."

Sadly, he's probably right.


Ms Honeypot's hockey tournament has had to be cancelled. This was a pity, because over 50 semi-professional athletes turned up this afternoon to be the first users of our newly instituted communal playing field.

Sadly, after a dismal little opening ceremony conducted by Bill Bennett, our PPP chief consultant, and covered by the Parkland Gazette, plus Ms Honeypot's new digital camera, the respective team coaches declared the pitch "unfit for purpose".

"In what way?" bristled Mr Bennett, stamping a foot firmly on the ground.

"This is the best artificial surface money can buy, and the fence problem has been resolved."

"It's not the surface that's the problem, sport," explained a burly Amazonian in a yellow and green tracksuit. "It's the size of the pitch now that you've resolved the fence problem. By repainting the lines five metres inwards, you've reduced the pitch to beneath regulation size. We can't play a ranking tournament on a pitch that's under regulation size. So we'll just have to go back to our previous venue at the David Lloyd centre."

Mr Bennett looked dismayed, then furious, as his dreams of a revenue-generating sports facility drifted into the frosty autumnal air, a painful loss that was exacerbated at the thought of losing such revenue to the (completely) private sector.

Maybe they'll be able to recoup something from the hire of the badminton courts instead. They're due to be finished by Christmas.

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