School diary - Doggone! Donations disappear in a pool ..

20th March 2009 at 00:00

MONDAY

We are still getting over the effects of last Friday's Comic Relief activities here at Greenfield Academy. There were many positive outcomes, not least the closer pupilstaff bonding, plus the very obvious benefit of our donation to charity. It was just a pity that - after an over-exuberant custard-pie fight - our recently completed community swimming pool had to be completely drained and refilled, the cost of which negated much of our fund-raising efforts.

Still, it was all in a good cause. And our swimming pool is now ready for its official opening on Thursday, only two years later than in the original plans.

TUESDAY

My new faculty head, Madeleine Nichol, passed me a leaflet this morning advertising a commercially-run workshop for teachers on marking procedures for Higher English. "Thought you might be interested, Morris," she smiled thinly. "Especially after the results of our last moderation."

"Madeleine, you weren't even here at the time," I bristled, "so I don't see how you can fully appreciate what ...".

"When was the last time you marked for SQA, Morris?" she butted in needlessly.

"Well, it was quite a long time ago," I admitted, "and I've not been keen to return, given their appalling rate of pay - it's worse than the minimum wage, when you take into account the time it involves."

"That's as may be," she conceded, "but at least it keeps you aware of what the examiners are looking for. And if you're not actually going to do it, this looks like the next-best thing," she indicated the leaflet. "Plus, I've just enough money in the budget to pay for it, if we get it invoiced before the end of the month."

I said I would consider it - as it falls during my Easter holiday.

WEDNESDAY

One of the problems associated with Madeleine Nichol's faculty headship is that she is a modern linguist rather than an English specialist. Consequently, she asked me to go and visit the publisher's representative who was standing in the staffroom corner at morning break.

"I haven't a clue what you need in the English department," she conceded without any apparent shame at taking a responsibility payment for being in charge of it. "Go and see if there's anything worth looking at, will you? Not that we've got any money to buy it even if there is!" she laughed uproariously at her own joke.

I could see that it hadn't gone down well with Mr Thomas, the aforementioned traveller.

"It's hellish," he admitted to me after I asked how business was going. "I've been over 20 years in this lark and I've never known it as bad."

"Credit crunch?" I queried.

"Credit crunch my ar - sorry, my backside," he retorted. "This started long before the credit crunch, at the moment the SNP government stopped ring-fencing money for education and let councils do what they want with it. In some places, it's gone to social work; in others, it's gone to roads; and in others, it's gone to funding equal-pay settlements - and in just about every authority in the country, schools are starved of money while parents haven't a clue how bad the situation is."

"So why don't you make a fuss in the media?" I queried.

"Hmmph!" he shrugged his shoulders. "They'd just say we've got a vested interest - which we have - so until some of you lot stop moaning about a lack of money and start making proper protests about it, then nothing's going to happen this side of an election."

He seemed quite depressed, so I tried to cheer him up by asking for an inspection copy.

He certainly brightened up at that. Apparently, it increased his orders for the day by 50 per cent.

THURSDAY

The grand opening of Greenfield Community Swimming Pool, planned for this afternoon, had to be cancelled after our chief janitor, Mr Dallas, had availed himself of his usual early morning opportunity for a brief dip.

"Ten lengths, Mr Simpson," as he said to me only yesterday. "Furrst thing in the mornin' afore all the kids arrive - it ferr clears the heid!"

All of this is, of course, sanctioned by the proper authorities. What they have not sanctioned, alas, is the additional prospect of Mr Dallas's friendly Irish Terrier joining him in the aforementioned swimming pool, as he did this morning. Usually tied to a post in the playground, Stanley had slipped his moorings, and - barking gleefully - jumped in to accompany his master on his fourth length of the morning.

It must have made an awesome prospect for the clip-boarded council official who arrived shortly thereafter to check the day's arrangements. Needless to say, he called for the immediate draining of the pool for the second time in a week on health and safety grounds, and cancelled this afternoon's Grand Opening, along with the synchronised swimming display by our third-year girls.

"Probably no bad thing," commented biology teacher Davie McManus later on. "They're about as synchronised as an elephant herd, and almost as graceful. But I don't know why they bothered draining the pool. It'll be cleaner after it's had Stanley the Terrier in it than it is after our finest have had a dip ...".

FRIDAY

Frank O'Farrell has tried to stop me attending the Higher English workshop on the grounds that it takes place during the school holidays.

"As union rep, Morris," he berated me this morning, "I'm objecting to Madeleine Nichol forcing you to go on a course in your holidays. It's completely contrary to the union ...".

"Hang on, Frank," I said. "I think I'd quite like to go."

"Doesn't matter," he replied. "You shouldn't be working in your holidays."

"But aren't you forgetting something?" I questioned. "I'm not in your union, remember?"

"Oh!" his jaw dropped. "Right. OK. Well, I'd still advise you not to attend, but it's up to you. But nobody else is going."

That settled it, then. I'm going.

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