In the news - John Budden

7th May 2010 at 01:00

Who is he?

An English teacher at Hayes School in Bromley, south London, and newly-published author of Everything Happens in August, a novel about the bumbling, hopelessly inexperienced Jefferson Tweedy who, through family connections, is put in charge of the nation's exam system.

So what's the book about?

"It's an English comic novel set around education and the media," Mr Budden explains. "Jefferson Tweedy is a classic dupe. He's put in charge of the exam system and hasn't the first idea of what is going on. It's a satire on education and the preoccupation with exams - with hilarious results. There's a mix up between the top and the bottom schools - that's what happens when each school is known only by a number."

Why did you write it?

"I got the idea while entering predicted grades for GCSEs, and a pal said to me: 'Why the hell do we have to do this?' When I was head of English, every year we'd send back so many exam papers to be remarked, and every single year so many papers would come back with increased grades. The entire system has been based around these results, but what if six out of ten of them are wrong?"

Are you Jefferson Tweedy?

"No! There are no laughs in efficiency so you need a buffoon involved to expose things inadvertently. Jefferson isn't based on anyone, but a couple of the teachers are based on real-life figures. I have got the entire school staff pouring over it wondering 'is that me?'"

Your literary influences?

"I'd been reading William Boyd and Evelyn Waugh and that's where I got quite a lot of my ideas from."

What exam ploys do you have?

"I'm going to play the DH Lawrence card: you have to separate the tale and the teller. It doesn't do anyone any good if they have no faith in the system. The kids have sort of got on to what the book is about - they've even made a Facebook group about it!"

More books in the pipeline?

"Not at the moment. I need a bit of space and time, but they are at a premium because I've got a third child on the way. I'd absolutely recommend (writing) because it's enormous fun and it's lovely having people read your work."

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