Living in fear of Fatty Bum

18th February 2000 at 00:00
I KNOW my problem : I'm too easily excited by life. The night before John Major published his Citizens' Charter, I was the one person who queued round the block in order to guarantee a copy. And when Channel 5 came into being, I persisted in believing they'd show something watchable days after everyone else had given up. I even thought the Millennium Dome sounded worth a visit.

You might say my life lacks stimulation but you'll understand, I'm sure, that it came as quite a surprise to me recently to receive a note from the girls' headteacher which pointed out how persistently taking my children late into school was a breach of the home-school agreement we'd all signed three months ago.

What shocked me was not the rebuke but the fact that I had absolutely no memory of this piece of paper. Given the uneventful nature of my life, you'd think that signing such a document would have been the high point of the day. After all, these agreements, pioneered by John Major, and endorsed by the equally exciting Mr Blunkett, were supposed to galvanise the parent-teacher-pupil relatinship into a powerhouse partnership for the new millennium. How had I missed such a revolutionary tract?

When I did eventually discover our copy, filed in among a pile of Tom's Pokemon drawings, I began to see why. My part of this social contract consisted of the totally obvious - sending the kids into school with appropriate equipment, supporting the school's learning policy, not calling the head "Fatty-Bum" - while Ginny and Sarah have signed up to walk rather than run in the corridors and to complete their homework by given deadlines. Yawn. Yawn.

It's all totally laudable but, be honest, it's hardly Rousseau. All we have here is what used to be known as "The School Rules" written out in contract form. The fact that Ginny and Sarah have signed a written agreement to abide by the non-running rubric is hardly likely to help them remember when the mood to throw caution to the wind comes upon them. "Oh my God, we can't do this! We signed the agreement!"

Only two things change people's behaviour. The desire to conform or, in my case, fear of Mrs Fatty-Bum.

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