Just your average Plum

25th June 2004 at 01:00
There goes Dennis Plum walking out the school gates forever. He's just failed his last GCSE.

"How'd it go, Dennis?"

"Oh, you know Sir."

I do. A good solid plodding D grade - on a good day.

We don't seem to have added much to the value of Plum. He came in Plum. He went out Plum. He's a bit wider and plumper but seems otherwise only lightly scathed by the national curriculum.

This might be reason to be cheerful. The school motto is "Seeking Genius in People". I have not found the genius of Plum. He's just sat at the back with his placid moonface and inhaler and gazed upon us all with benign indifference. He's read a few SAS yarns and Brentford FC programmes. He has written tedious, thankfully brief, stories in large round letters and wobbling grammar. And, when especially bored, he has drawn lighthouses.

I called in Miss Limpet the shrink. Could she plumb the hidden depths of Plum? Nope. Still waters seemed to run shallow.

Too much of Plum has gone unremarked. Well, there was that time he got stuck on the big wheel on the Margate trip. We all forgot him. He missed the train home. Headteacher Keller had to zoom off on his Harley for a hundred miles and put Plum on the pillion. Or that time when he forgot every line every night of the school panto ... or that last-minute own goal past Dervish against the Oratory. One nil.

The blizzards of government initiatives seem to have missed out on Plum.

Not for him the gifted and talented. You can't hothouse Plum. It won't take. You can't put him in the loony bin. He's beatifically sane. He's not special needs. He's not special anything. He's just Plum - a quiet decent boy who eats sausage rolls with his chums Dillygig and Snooze by the Lions in the North playground. In the inner-city school they're nearly invisible.

You won't see Plum on documentaries. There are no conferences on Plum - Working with the Cheerfully Average. And you won't see him at these school gates punching the air on results day.

"Yo! 3 Ds and 2 Es and 2 unclassifieds. Yo! Key Skills here I come!"

He shuffles about in front of me.

"Probably did rubbish. Still it's all over, Sir."

More shuffling.

"Bye then Sir!"

I shake his hand.

"It's been a pleasure, Dennis. If I had anything to do with it, you'd get an A star."

I watch him plod unacknowledged through those school gates for the last time.

Whither Plum?

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