Naked teachers bring Benny Hill into class

20th June 2003 at 01:00
Before anyone else points it out, I admit that if I were a music teacher posing for a cheeky calendar I would need a double bass, rather than the cello chosen by Melanie Macfarlane, now forever known to her pupils as Miss February. And her picture was great.

Great for her sitting room wall, that is. It is full of humour, pleasure and music, all the things she and hers might appreciate with a bottle of red and something surging and swelling on the CD.

But the charity calendar featuring the teachers of a Marlow grammar school with their kit off is heading for a much bigger audience: tabloid papers as well as pupils, parents and the local sad cases. And it is a hilarious story, but only if you're not connected with Sir William Borlase's grammar school.

The calendar is hugely sexual. God knows how they've missed this, but the staff at Sir Bill's have succeeded in fastening the attention of every pupil on their genitals. As Benny Hill could have explained with the help of two melons, the focus is all on the parts unseen.

The maths teacher is covering up with a cycle helmet and the music teacher with a cello. More blatant still, biology is expressing double-handed delight at a large cactus, while technology prepares to beat a hot-tipped metal rod at his anvil.

What they're doing, poor frustrated saps, is tossing off their metaphorical tweed jackets and leather elbow patches and telling us all that really and truly they're very cool indeed.

The trouble is, they're thinking of themselves and not their pupils. A lot of teaching, particularly on the pastoral side, is done by "do as I do".

Have these teachers thought of the message they're sending out? On top of that, the calendar introduces an element of sexuality into the teacher-pupil relationship which is uncomfortable and embarrassing for the children.

The sixth-formers, of course, will have a great time at university telling new friends what they persuaded their teachers to do, but those they leave behind will feel insecure and bewildered behind their giggles.

Boys who already have quite enough trouble with their unruly body parts at puberty will be hideously self-conscious during music appreciation. And how does a 53-year-old assistant head keep discipline if he has just appeared as Mr December behind his electric guitar? He'll be hearing Keith Richards imitations down every corridor.

If a failing school had done this, we would have had a huge hoo-ha about it. This selective grammar school may get away with it, both in terms of discipline and popularity. But I wouldn't take any bets on the fallout of this story.

The Women's Institute did a nude calendar and it was a hoot, but the WI is essentially funny and it has no responsibility for young people. Its members (this column is fraught with double entendre) were trading on their right-wing jam and Jerusalem reputation. Teachers don't have such a reputation, but their belief that they have seems to be the nub of this one.

Perhaps we should sit down and have circle time about this one. Believe me, Sir and Miss, you take yourselves much more seriously than we do. We, parents and the rest, stopped revering you about the same time we realised the sun could set on the British Empire. And that's a long time ago.

As with GPs and policemen, we've known you are human for some decades now, and it is no surprise to us that you have procreative parts. It is just that pointing them out on a calendar seems tacky, even juvenile, like a child's endless bum jokes.

We see you in the main as a good lot, a bit like the rest of us, largely doing a decent job in spite of employers who sometimes act like dingbats.

But part of the job is looking after our children. And we'd rather you did that without nudging, winking and providing enough copy for an entire edition of the News of the World.

I shudder to think what they'll do next year when they need a bigger and better sensation. Violins instead of cellos? Air guitar? We can only hope that Years 7 to 11 mobilise outside the staffroom with placards saying "keep 'em on"!

Next term pupils and parents won't be able to look the staff of Sir William Borlase's grammar school in the eye.

Worse still, they won't even be trying.

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