PAT tests, photocopier jests and fight deserving an arrest
The school has been electrically certified for the new year, with our annual "PAT tests" - except this year's testing seems to have been more rigorous than ever. As well as the portable appliance testing deemed essential for health and safety, the company has seen fit to test every single light switch as well, with the result that all switches are festooned with multiple purple, white and black stickers of compliance - it looks as if the Christmas decorations have been left up by mistake.
"I didn't think they had to approve light switches as well," I remarked to Frank O'Farrell at lunchtime.
"They probably don't. But the testing company will have persuaded the council that testing light switches is an essential part of a rigorous health and safety policy - and one that allows them to add 25 per cent to the price of the contract."
I know that safety is our first priority. But I wonder how many jotters we could have bought with whatever we pay for PAT testing - and light-switch testing as well.
Further illustrations of apparent council profligacy have come to light in our photocopying charges: we have been told that all copying has to be stopped because of a massive overspend.
"But our figures in the English department show a decrease in copies made since last year," I protested to faculty head Madeleine Nichol, as I explained the essential nature of the close reading papers I wanted to distribute for my fourth year's prelim practice.
"You'll have to project them on the whiteboard instead, Morris," she explained, "because the new council contract with Fookarwi Services has actually increased the cost per copy by 25 per cent compared with last year - because, unlike the last contract, there's no price cap. So we're being screwed left, right and centre by our `utilities provider' while the kids go without the stuff they need for their education. It makes me as mad as you, believe me."
Two distressingly unpleasant fourth-year year girls have arrived at Greenfield Academy, and they are making their presence felt in every lesson they attend, with their boorish behaviour and anti-social tendencies, manifested by extreme mental and verbal aggression towards any figure of authority.
To be fair to them, Sharlene and Melinda have had a difficult upbringing, and have spent much of their young lives in foster or care homes, and hardly any time in education: they seem to be the perfect example of the "Neet" brigade - people not in education, employment or training - who have caused so much disaffection in society of late, as I remarked at lunchtime.
"Morris!" Pauline McDonald upbraided me. "You can't say `Neets' any more. It's got far too many negative connotations. These kids are MC2 these days - because MC squared makes them realise that they've got multiple choices, and multiple chances ."
"When we all realise they've got none," chipped in Frank O'Farrell unhelpfully.
Mr Fraser, a member of the PTA, has kindly donated a copier from his company. It is an old machine, but perfectly service-able, if a little slow. Best of all, its costs are a fraction of our own contract machines, being limited to paper and toner until it gives up the ghost and dies, or needs repairing.
But while joy has been unconfined with regard to copying procedures, our disciplinary policies have been stretched to the very limit by incidents involving Sharlene and Melinda, our MC2 representatives. Trouble started brewing this morning, when Bill Reid of maths tried to give both of them a punishment exercise for spitting in class - only to be spat at himself.
His subsequent referral of the pair to Kevin Muir led to them being placed in the depute's office for the rest of the morning, where they maintained a constant stream of low-level indiscipline, incorporating swinging on their plastic chairs, "scrunching" empty plastic water bottles and aiming "pretend" headbutts at Kevin when he moved in for some low-level eye contact to persuade them to stop.
Eventually, he gave up and passed them upwards to Rosemary Slater for rectorial justice. Alas, she was unable to dispense this as fully as might have been expected, owing to the fact that her "close-up-and-friendly" style of interview was interrupted by Sharlene pulling her by the hair, then wrestling her to the ground, at which point Melinda jumped astride her and started to dispense liberal blows to midriff, chest and face.
Needless to say, the police were called, and escorted both girls from the premises. To her credit, Ms Slater remained in school for the rest of the day, and was even heard to blame herself for not engaging with the girls more fully.
Personally, I'd say she's had all the engagement she needs with them.
The council says we aren't allowed to use Mr Fraser's photocopier. For one thing, it hasn't been "PAT tested". And for another, it's in apparent breach of our contract for any photocopiers to be used on council premises other than the ones provided by our usurious friends at Fookarwi Services.
Meanwhile, Sharlene and Melinda reported for school at 9am this morning, much to collective staff surprise, even outrage. Apparently, the girls are both part of a care order, and officialdom has decreed that they are "at risk" if they are not attending school, so won't be safe if they are suspended.
It beggars belief.