School Diary - Quality pastoral care gets a sporting chance
A new member of the junior school guidance team arrived. Mike Baggs is also in the PE department, making this subject highly represented in guidance, with the percentage almost 70 per cent, a statistic which alarms Frank O'Farrell from modern studies.
"Another beanbagger in charge of children's moral and spiritual welfare," he said as he read the email welcoming Mr Baggs to Greenfield Academy. "What is it about PE staff and guidance? Do they do a college module on it that makes them specially suited?"
"I suppose they don't have any marking," I suggested, "so they've got more time for pastoral duties."
"Hmm," he mused. "As I see it, Morris, guidance needs sensitivity, tact, discretion - three qualities eminently missing from any PE teacher I've ever met."
"Well, I think he's going to have his work cut out," I remarked. "Douglas Kennedy comes back to school today . ".
Kennedy is the most iconoclastic first-year pupil I have ever met. He returned today after his second exclusion (for another minor assault on a teacher) since August, and a betting slate has been opened on the date of his next one.
Rosemary Slater has issued the timetable for our next in-service day at the end of the month, preceding our St Andrew's Day break, a holiday that causes much staffroom irritation for its theft of a day from our summer vacation.
It makes for a startling contrast with in-service days of yore, when highly-paid consultants would be wheeled into hotels to cascade their wisdom to whole-county gatherings in preparation for Curriculum for Excellence. And all surrounded by morning coffee muffins, three-course lunches and afternoon tea with croissants.
"Changed days it is now!" said "Coarse Davie" McManus. "Talk aboot CPD on the cheap! Noat an expert in sight, wur stayin' in school and bringin' wur own sandwiches fur lunch `cos the dinin' hall's shut, an' the day's timetable's goat us visitin' each other's departments tae explore interdisciplinary oppurtunities an' reportin' back tae wur own faculties after lunch. It's like musical bloody chairs!"
"And we could be in trouble with the local authority if they see the plenary session schedule," remarked Frank O'Farrell. "She's got us down for 30 minutes' brainstorming."
"What's wrong with that?" I asked.
"Keep up, Morris!" he scowled. "Brainstorming's an inappropriate term these days. It has shades of epilepsy, and its use is contrary to council guidelines. Somebody needs to advise Mrs Slater that we should be having `thought showers' instead."
Alas, our discussion was interrupted as Mike Baggs broke into the staffroom to ask for help with an incident involving Douglas Kennedy and the B Floor toilets .
Not only will our dining hall be closed at the in-service day, it is looking very deserted just now, as our healthy eating policy takes full effect. Most pupils are voting with their feet as sesame-buns and carrot juice supplant burgers and Coke, locating their preferred a la carte selections from the array of vans in our streets at lunchtime.
Rumour has it that Mrs Slater has decided if she can't beat them, she'll join them, and is considering the entrepreneurial solution of inviting selected fast-food vans into the playground in return for a cash contribution to school funds.
"But surely that would be bordering on illegality?" I queried Frank O'Farrell, who disclosed the news at lunchtime.
"Maybe," he admitted, "but it's not entirely without precedent, I understand . ".
Douglas Kennedy is in big trouble. Having circumvented the school's IT policy to download a quantity of pornographic images during Mr Walsh's "introductory IT" lesson, he emailed a selection of same to various members of staff.
But more serious matters are afoot, as local councillors try to persuade our educational masters that we should be granted less non-contact time in order to save on salaries. I think it's a disgrace that we are having to pay for the profligacy of the banks that have caused our financial ruin, not to mention the cost of cutting back on our essential preparation time.
Sadly, my case was undermined by Pauline MacDonald, our modern studies probationer, who said she was planning to be "McCroned off" this afternoon for a spot of Christmas shopping.
"How d'you mean?" I queried.
"I'm taking my McCrone time to nip out while the shops are quiet," she replied. "I'm free after 2.30."
I sighed, and expressed the view that I didn't think this was how Gavin McCrone had envisaged his reforms affecting a teaching profession for the 21st century.
"Who's Gavin McCrone?" she enquired artlessly.
I sighed again, more deeply. "I don't suppose you've heard of Cubie, either, Pauline? Or Howie or Houghton? Or Clegg?"
She shrugged her shoulders. "Did they play for Hibs?"
I wonder what they teach them at college these days?
Douglas Kennedy seems a changed student. Yesterday, he was loud, yobbish, violent and vulgar. Today, he seems calm, reasonable and approachable.
The cause of such dramatic change appears to be an informal interview that took place between him and his new guidance teacher in the school's "garden quiet area", ground normally reserved for tranquil introspection but which on this occasion saw the towering, track-suited figure of Mike Baggs abandon negotiating skills and threaten Kennedy with immediate and violent personal harm, should he step out of line again. Rumour has it that his threat was supported by a demonstration of physical strength that brought tears to the boy's eyes.
Whether that's true or not, maybe having PE teachers in guidance isn't such a bad thing after all. Mike Baggs certainly seems to have the necessary skillsets.