Staff in a league of their own

22nd October 2004 at 01:00
I'm going to have you after the game," raged a slightly over-ripe PE teacher galumphing around the midfield for the opposing staff football team. His ruddy, perspiring forehead was currently thrust against a much cooler cranium belonging to our Dominic from the maths department, who had inadvertently sent him sprawling into the mud.

"No thanks," replied young Dom, with the wizardly talent for teaching quadratic equations, but with a rather less obvious facility in midfield diplomacy, "I don't fancy you."

It was just the latest ugly incident in our season of inter-school staff friendlies, refereed by the latest sixth-form sap to be caught up in the crossfire.

Government and opposition apparently wish to see a more competitive edge to sport in schools, but when the staff go out to play they need to be advised to move in the opposite direction.

The fixtures are always well-intentioned. We convince ourselves that it will be an inconsequential kick-about amongst people too out of condition to take it seriously. Surely it will be a match full of laughter and self-mockery followed by a further cementing of relations in the pub afterwards. This great sport should help us to overcome the divisions between local schools caused by teacher and pupil-poaching and exam-league-table-fixing. Instead we become embroiled in an unseemly scrap.

Exam league tables are forgotten, but only to be replaced by a much more bitterly fought premiership league based on which staff can "stuff" which.

A particular ambition is to humiliate the local specialist sports college - the rich, Manchester United of local staff football with its swanky dug-outs and strutting midfield of semi-professionals.

Teachers may appear on the surface to be a rather squidgy, politically-correct bunch, but all that changes when our boots go back on.

All those sporting aspirations of our teenage years are reawoken as soon as we breathe in those changing-room odours. We borrow the jargon of real footballers and purport to play in a trendy 5-3-1-1 formation.

Unfortunately, the combined age of our "wing-backs" is 91 and our player given the Thierry Henry role is only there on the grounds that she is our French assistante this year and may cause a distraction.

This unprofessional mixture of French farce and cynical fouling needs to stop if we are ever to be fully recognised as a serious profession. We often complain in teaching about goalposts being moved, but on this occasion it may be in our best interests to take them away altogether.

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