So, farewell then, Ruth

12th May 2000 at 01:00

Greenfield Academy has been roundly condemned after our snap inspection two months ago. Although the members of HMI inspected only three departments during their brief sojourn, their damning - and now public - report has seen fit to extend criticism beyond the narrow subject boundaries of geography, maths and English and has made sweeping recommendations about our entire management structure. In short, they made us sound like a cross between Dotheboys Hall and St Trinian's.

Indeed, their only words of praise were for the firm leadership provided by the deputy head, plus a small commendation for "occasional lessons in the English department which took cognisance of the pupils' genuine interests and aspirational modes".

"What the hell's that all about?" queried George Crumley, shaking his head in bewilderment at morning break.

I looked cautiously around before admitting responsibility. "Well, modesty forbids, George," I confessed, "but I think it's a reference to a lesson that I gave the fifth year on the use of codes in text messaging for their mobile phones. Mr MacIntyre seemed to like it."

"And that's your Higher class you're talking about?" George raised his eyebrows in disbelief.

"Yup," I continued in proclamatory vein. "It was a great session of interactive give and take, with a whole host of multi-task opportunities in every corner of the room, all related to practical applications for use in later life."

"I see," sighed George wistfully. "So that's why they weren't so keen on the lesson that I gave the fifth year."

"Oh? Why not?"

"Thought I'd impress them with some rigid exam preparation, so I dictated notes on river basin management for half an hour, then gave them a test."

"Ah, George," I advised sagely. "Exam preparation's about so much more than drills and skills."

"Ach, stuff it!" He thrust the voluminous bundle of reportage on the staffroom table. "If the only things they can find to praise in Greenfield Academy are your bloody worksheets on mobile phones and that jumped up tart's style of leadership, then it's no wonder the educational boat's going down the Swanee."

"Oh, that reminds me, George," I said as I put my hand in my pocket. "Could I have a ticket for Ruth's leaving party?" "Sure thing." He produced a garish brief which had a less than flattering caricature of our deputy head beneath the legend: "The Deputy's Last Stand - Ruth Lees's Leaving Party. Tickets pound;5".

The price seemed rather steep, but George assured me it would be worth the money. "We're having a lot of celebratory fireworks," he remarked drily.


Second year parents' night tomorrow and I'm certainly looking forward to meeting Mr and Mrs Willis. Michael has been a difficult child ever since he entered our academic portals and today he tried my patience beyond all reasonable limit.

Finally - after his fourth intentional outbreak of flatulence - I cracked and sent him to the exclusion room. This tastefully decorated room is Ms Lees's latest alternative to whole-school exclusions: she is of the firm belief that a spell or two in this chamber, replete with soothing posters of mountain streams and decorated in relaxing pastel shades, will provide a considerably more positive and rehabilitative effect on persistent miscreants than temporary exclusion orders.

Plus, of course, it helps us stay out of the lower quartiles of the exclusion tables in the local press.


A fairly disastrous parents' evening.

Of course, most of the night was spent in answering fatuous questions about the HMI report instead of discussing the appalling behaviour demonstrated by the offspring of most attendees. If I was asked once, I was asked 100 times about whether I really thought Greenfield Academy was going to give their children a "decent start in life" after "that report".

What did they think I was going to say? "Not really. I think you'd be better sending them to Abbotsgrange Academy," or something like that? I ask you!

Sadly, my assurances about the fully rounded moral, spiritual and physical education provided at Greenfield Academy came a little unstuck, so to speak, when the first batch of parents headed for the tea room, housed imaginatively by Ms Lees in our attractively decorated exclusion room.

It was here that Miss Tarbet attempted to refresh our guests from a tea urn that proved resolutely unwilling to pour hot water. Until, that is, she had investigated the spout's reluctance with a metal prod and released the most embarrassing outpourings of effluent it had ever been her apparent pleasure to see.

Happily, this coincided with the arrival of Mr and Mrs Willis at the refreshment point, for it transpired that the reason for the tea urn blockage had been a large wad of Blu-tack collected by their only child from the room's posters and stuffed with resolute determination into the spout.

It was with a supreme sense of irony that I was able to inform them that Michael had been responsible for their drenching in scalding water and the subsequent lack of refreshment for the rest of the school's visitors this evening.

And it must surely have been with a greater sense of irony - though I suspect not, to be honest - that Mrs Willis looked at me in tearful reproach afterwards and uttered the immortal response: "Aw, Mr Simpson, he's a bloody nightmare at hoame. Whit're ye goanny dae about him?" Thursday

Examination study leave has been cancelled for the senior pupils.

The reasoning behind the new injunction is that any senior pupil absent on such grounds is henceforth to be considered an "unauthorised absence" and Ms Lees is having none of it, despite her imminent departure.

Apart from the fact that the expression "study leave" has always implied a gross contradiction in terms for Greenfield Academy's finest, this removal of a long hallowed tradition will have serious consequences for many of the staff. In particular, it could mean the end of the most hallowed tradition in our sporting calendar, George Crumley's long-standing annual Exam Study Leave Staff Scrabble Championship.

George remains fairly sanguine. Apart from the fact that we expect nearly all senior pupils to be absent for the next four weeks anyway, it wouldn't really matter to him if the competition didn't take place at all. After 16 years as supreme champion, he is assured of his place in history.


I nearly ruined Ruth Lees's farewell party. Not, you understand, through any importune moments of ill-advised drunkenness or debauchery. Rather, my sin was to advise the fons et origo of the whole affair that it was happening in the first place!

To explain, my eager anticipation of this evening's event was proving hard to contain, so at the morning interval I chanced to remark to her that I was looking forward to seeing her off in style.

"Sorry?" Ruth remarked, clearly puzzled.

"Your farewell party," I smiled. "I'm looking forward to tonight."

"Tonight?" she repeated. "But I've not got a farewell party until next month. I'm joining up with Mr Tod, so we can ... " "But I've got a ticket!" I protested, drawing the necessary documentation from my inside pocket.

"MORRIS!" George Crumley screeched to a halt by my side. "I think you're getting a little mixed up," he advised, grasping the ticket from me and examining it with studious intent. "This is your ticket for the men's staff bowling outing, and ..."

"The what? But I didn't ..."

"Yes, the men's staff bowling outing," he emphasised sharply. "The one we arranged only recently," he clenched his teeth desperately.

I can spot a fellow in trouble as quickly as the next man, so I nodded wisely, winked an eye and asked him 10 minutes later what in God's name he was on about.

"It's Ruth Lees's farewell party," he explained with deep frustration, "but we haven't actually told her about it, Morris! The whole school wants to celebrate the departure, right enough, which is why we've sold more tickets for this than for any function in the past 10 years. But we don't actually want her there as well - it would spoil the whole ruddy evening."

"I see," I said, although I didn't, not really. Ruth Lees has been very good to me, in her own way, and this Machiavellian plot to keep her away from her own departure party showed an intrigue that was beyond me.

Still, it didn't stop me going to the affair in the end. Almost everyone in the school was there except for Mr Tod (and Ms Lees, of course), and I have to confess that I had rather too much to drink and enjoyed myself immensely.

It was just a pity that Ruth herself couldn't be there. Who knows? She still might be very useful to my future career.

John Mitchell

Next month: Puffs of smoke - the new head teacher is announced, plus the new deputy.

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