No bother, Tony has sorted it

13th April 2007 at 01:00
The wisdom of Henry Walpole. EASTER is here. Normally most of us use the evening glass of wine (or three) to try to blot out our career choice. But this is a real holiday, so if we keep busy enough we might just feel a bit more human without recourse to alcohol.

There are, however, some more committed members of our profession who like to spend this time of year jetting off to Whinging-on-Sea to discuss what is really wrong with education. It was the Association of Teachers and Lecturers' turn in Bournemouth last week. Checking their website, I see that they are currently running a campaign to make water sprinklers mandatory in rural schools. As this is perhaps the most interesting link on their homepage, it won't surprise you to learn that when I attempted to watch a live video stream of conference debates, my computer simply blew itself up.

Of course, union business is generally so entertainment-free that these videos make the Parliament channel look like Sky One. The brief sections I did watch contained more "propositions" in five minutes than any woman braving the Streatham High Road could expect in a whole night.

In order to try and drum up some media interest, conferences like to commission a survey. At this one, the ATL revealed that teachers are concerned about the bad influence of TV and the way Catherine Tate's "not bovvered" catchphrase is used against them. Are teachers now really that thin-skinned and humourless? Children giving you a hard time? 'Twas ever thus. From my (admittedly sketchy) knowledge of ancient history, teachers in Roman-era France were constantly belittled by children threatening them with menhirs. And Daily Mail columnists of the 1950s often complained about Rupert Bear's malign influence over boys' dangerously rakish scarf-wearing habits.

Teachers should be thankful that children are influenced by Catherine Tate and not The Sopranos. I'd rather face a sulky attitude than someone threatening me with death because I "played them" - of course, if you work in an inner-city, you may face teenagers who manage to combine both traits.

Anyway, teachers don't have to worry about Catherine Tate's catchphrase anymore. I don't watch Comic Relief myself (preferring to lock myself in a cupboard rather than endure a national outbreak of "charity wackiness"), but apparently the highlight of the evening featured a sketch with the Prime Minister and that catchphrase. No self-respecting pupil is going to quote Lauren the teenager again.

Now if we could just get Tony Blair smoking a big spliff and discussing how he never used to do homework because it was "saaad", we could sort out some of the nation's other education challenges.

More from Henry in a fortnight

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