School diary - Party, lock-in and a surreal end to the term

19th December 2008 at 00:00


Good news. We have an extra half-day of holiday for those staff willing to attend Christmas parties. Of course, such an arrangement is confidential as far as the council offices are concerned and, in any case, I would have been going along without such entreaties: there are few things in teaching so rewarding as attending the Christmas parties for our charges.

Indeed, 1N seemed anxious to know that I would be there on Wednesday evening. "Surr, Surr. Urr youse comin' tae wur party, Surr?" they asked this afternoon.

I assured them of my intended attendance, only to be asked by Tegan if "yurr gurlfriend's cummin' as well, Surr? Tracy'll be mad if she is."

I dismissed them as the bell went, before heading to Mr Muir's office to avail myself of the promised funds for lucky-dip prizes on Wednesday evening.

"Sorry, Morris," Kevin said. "The budget cuts have hit hard in this area as well." He handed over a paltry sum that might have proved useful for a round of drinks at The Rockston Arms. How things have changed since the SNPCosla concordat took effect.


My half-day of Christmas shopping was mostly taken up with selecting treats for the first-year party lucky-dip. In Poundstretchers, as you might imagine.

Indeed, not only did I find myself scouring the aisles for party gifts throughout this wonderful store: in addition, Kevin Muir had given me a long list of educational supplies to source while I was in town, with the admonition to "try Poundstretchers first - they've got some great deals on blank CDs and felt pens, I understand."

To think that it has come to this: the educational provision for our nation's youth in the hands of cut-price budget stores offering bulk buys on everything from paper to permanent markers. No doubt, before long we'll be soliciting the Higher English texts from their stockpiles of cut-price romances and failed local authors. Who would have believed it?


The first-year party was a major success. Or so I am led to believe, as I was unable to attend. Unbelievably, I was locked in my classroom for the duration, owing to the implausible security arrangements occasioned by our recently-built PPP construction.

To explain, I had popped into my classroom to pick up the lucky-dip contents so pecuniously purchased yesterday. While busy in the corner, I failed to hear the dulcet janitorial tones of Mr Dallas, checking that there was "naebuddy here" before he locked the door. When I tried to let myself out, I found the way blocked - and my key of no use whatsoever, there being no lock on the inside of the door.

It may seem difficult to comprehend, but it soon became apparent that the designers, architects and constructors of our school have seen fit to provide locks to get into all rooms - but none to get out. It was only by the grace of God - or good fortune, depending on your viewpoint - that Mr McManus heard me battering the door three hours later, as his mission for a quiet sip from his hip-flask caused him to walk past my room.

Of course, he refused to believe my protestations that I had been trying to avoid the party, as he used his key to release me. "Tracy Spence and Tegan Kenny have been looking for you all night," he said. "I can see why you chose to lock yourself away."


There were few pupils in school today, which was just as well, given the outrage caused by my unscheduled incarceration last night. Nobody can believe that our school's design has deliberately ensured that doors can be locked from the outside - but not from the inside. Every union has become involved and hard questions were being asked at multifarious meetings today.

A spokesperson from the local authority appeared and assured us that the security arrangements had been approved at the highest level, but he was no match for our own union representative Frank O'Farrell, who assured him that "such security arrangements were indeed legitimate for a place of lawful confinement, ie, a jail."

Frank was cheered to an echo, especially when he reported that a building-wide survey had revealed that all doors in the school seemed similarly affected with no internal lock-mechanism release - "except for the cludgies" - and that he "wanted the policy reversed at once - except for the cludgies."

It seemed like a surreal end to the term.


The real end to the term happened this evening, as our Staff Yuletide Social was conjoined with the retirement of Mr Paige from the art department (the retirement committee having decided that a separate function would be unlikely to attract sufficient support).

For once, it was a grand night. Mr McManus had prepared a wonderful programme for the evening, provocatively entitled How Good Is Our Night Out?, with a programme that included a Journey to Inebriation and (much later) A Journey to Sobriety.

There was a special segment dedicated to those teachers Determined to Escape - and here he looked pointedly at me, which remark I took in the festive spirit intended - before he introduced Brian Paige for his valedictory remarks.

Brian looked back over an illustrious career, with many happy memories, but my abiding memory is his recollection of the dialogue he had experienced this afternoon, when Kevin Muir had asked him: "Are you coming back on supply?"

Brian recalled his reply with admirable precision: "Come back on supply, Kevin? As Blackadder once so memorably said: 'Frankly, I'd rather French kiss a skunk.' Merry Christmas, all - and have a wonderful 2009 without me - as I will without you."

It is a Christmas speech that I will remember for a long time.

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