Sex and scandal in school? They need spanking

17th April 2009 at 01:00

Anything can happen in the fantasy school soap world that is the BBC's Waterloo Road, and it usually does. The headteacher, a former prostitute, employs her sister, a double bigamist. Both of them fancy the deputy head.

She believes a student who is Crippen and the Krays combined to be the Angel Gabriel until he shoots his girlfriend and she has to reconsider. She allows sixth-formers to run a hairdressing salon from a van in the playground. She keeps a racist, sexist and everyone-else-ist teacher on the staff. And she has spare time. Come on.

Waterloo Road is pure joy. But I don't watch it for its realistic portrayal of school life. Quite the opposite. I actually have a couple of storyline ideas that might interest its producers. One is about a PE teacher - let's call her Natasha Gray - who does the pouty pink lips, stilettos and thong thing on a modelling website. Another is about an English teacher - let's call her Leonora Rustamova - who uses the real names of her headteacher and students in a self-published novel that describes her pupils' sexual fantasies.

Oh, whoops. I forgot to say. I didn't make these up. They're both recent stories from British schools. Miss Gray is undergoing disciplinary procedures and Miss Rustamova has been suspended pending investigation.

But they could have been Waterloo Road storylines. And that's what I find incomprehensible. The teachers concerned took on a job that has inherent within it some givens: that you have common sense and will at least try to behave sensibly in public. Teacher training colleges don't normally ask wannabes to sign the disclaimer: "I promise not to pose provocatively in pink pants or sell sexy stories about students." But should they start thinking about it? Some people aren't getting the message.

Come back, Miss Read - all is forgiven. I thought her tales of village school life prissy and moralistic. They had you getting all uptight about a teacher who left at short notice because she couldn't wait to get married. She seemed far too sensible in her tweed skirt and brogues, giving out hymn books and warm milk and tutting when the infants' teacher met her boyfriend too near the school gate. But maybe we could do with some of Read's "teachers are pillars of the community" stuff (although you can keep the brogues, thanks).

Perhaps I'm being narrow-minded. But if someone approached me and said: "You're gorgeous, sweetheart. Fancy modelling near-naked for me on a public website?" I wouldn't have to consult Citizens Advice to realise this a silly idea. (Stop looking at my photo - I know what you're thinking.) However desperate you are to be published - and I am, HarperCollins, Penguin, anyone - you don't have to be a genius to know that writing about your students' "orgasmic moans" won't endear you to a governing body.

Pose for the boyfriend, perhaps. Write a private journal and lock it away. The important thing is to keep it out of the classroom. What people do in private is one thing, as long as they can keep it secret (just ask Jacqui Smith). But what teachers do in public really matters - if anyone is to believe that Waterloo Road is, in fact, unbelievable.

Fran Hill, English teacher at an independent girls' school in Warwickshire.

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