Stop trampling on my dreams

31st August 2001 at 01:00
Monday

Only two weeks into the new term and already I wish I were back on holiday. It's not just that the date for us to move house is looming and we haven't started packing, it's also Greenfield Academy's headteacher's tendency to jump, grasshopper-like, from one bandwagon to the next.

Not content with his ceaseless quest for advantageous press coverage, Richard Dick is determined to ensure that the forthcoming inspection of the school will lead to his emergence from the whole farrago smelling of anything but the ordure which should rightly accompany it.

Last year it was the Holy Grail of information and communication technology that exercised his fevered brow, as he strove to push the school to the forefront of the electronic revolution. Like most of his initiatives, it trickled into the sand after we got five computers linked up on an intranet, followed by a clutch of photographs in the Parkland Gazette.

This term Mr Dick seems to have walked slowly off the bridge of sanity as far as dynamic management schemes are concerned.

"I've had a wonderful holiday," he reported on our in-service day two weeks ago. "I've had time to reflect, time to recharge my batteries and time to learn from the management practices of the private sector. I think they can teach us a thing or two," he announced to a collective shudder.

"First of all," he continued, oblivious, "I'd like to introduce a Staff Member of the Month award.

"I was in three different Cornwall hotels over the summer and each one had an Employee of the Month noticeboard in the lobby. All the managers I spoke to confirmed the enormous motivational benefits that accrued as a result. So we'll have a similar noticeboard in the staffroom as of September.

"Number two," he drove on, to the sound of jaws hitting the floor all across the room, "will be a pupil-centred programme entitled 'Are you being taught well?'

"It's an idea that came to me in a flash," he bowed his head modestly, "as I was driving home up the M5. "Every so often I'd pass a lorry that said 'Am I being driven well? Telephone 0800 I' and I thought what a wonderful chance something similar would be for kids to give us positive feedback about their educational experience here at Greenfield Academy.

"So, I've commissioned a set of stickers for every classroom door. They'll say 'Are you being taught well? Telephone Mr Dick's hotline' and there will be a number linked to my direct line or an answering machine for the rare occasions when I'm out."

George Crumley guffawed but managed to turn it into a cough. Everyone else was speechless.

"And number three," said Mr Dick, delivering his coup de grace, "will be the setting up of an Ethos Committee.

"It's very clear that we're losing out in the ethos war compared with some of the other schools in the authority and I'm conscious that it's an area of great interest to inspectors. So I've decided we need a committee to sort it all out and make sure we have an ethos. I'll be looking for volunteers but I've got a shortlist of potential members just in case.

"Any questions?"

After a long silence, Crumley voiced the unspoken thoughts of all. "Beg your pardon, Mr Dick, but doesn't the fact that you, as headteacher, think we need an ethos committee suggest something about why we don't appear to have an ethos in the first place?" Sadly, Mr Dick didn't seem to get the point.

Tuesday

I'm not the only one who yearns to be back on holiday. Mrs Harry appears to have had a bountiful summer, taking two foreign holidays plus a Mediterranean cruise.

"Gosh!" I said to Mr Crumley at morning break. "I know we had a generous pay award in the spring, but did she win the pools as well?" "Not quite, but as good as. She took the Dalkeith shilling."

"The what?"

"Extra exam marking, plus extra weighting meetings. Got herself into the principal examiner's inner circle and found herself at umpteen extra 'evening meetings' " - he waved inverted commas around the description - "plus a lot of 'extended meetings' as well, with extended claims for overtime to go along with them."

I told him I didn't believe him. "Rumour will fly half-way around the world, Crumley, while Truth is still putting on her boots."

He snorted. "No smoke without fire, Morris. And anyway, as long as we know that the extra pound;11 million has been well spent, why should anyone worry? Good luck to her!"

Wednesday

We're getting worried about our new house. The site manager assures us it will be ready for the end of September but it still hasn't got a second storey! However, I have to say I'm glad to be moving because our street has begun to suffer from an unpleasantly large influx of adolescent detritus.

This afternoon, I had cause to remonstrate with some 14-year-olds whose football had entered our garden for the umpteenth time and whose chosen path of retrieval almost always seemed to incorporate a walk across Gail's bed of prize roses.

"Excuse me, boys," I chided them in friendly manner. "D'you think you could keep off the rose bed when you come in to get your ball?" I addressed their evident cheerleader, a red-faced and overweight little tyke with a baseball cap worn back-to-front atop his squarely-shaped skull.

He looked at me as if I had a disease. "Whit? Wur no oan yur fuckin' rose bed!" he said, despite all evidence to the contrary. "Wur just gettin' ur ball."

"Fine. Fine," I said, to prevent any potential conflict. "But I just wanted to check that you'd avoid the rose bed when you're coming into the garden. OK?"

"Aye, fine!" He shrugged an aggressive shoulder and curled a scornful lip. Then he booted the ball back to his friends, blasting the top branches from Gail's prize Earl Spencer in the process.

Notwithstanding my reservations about the cost of our new house, I must say I'll be glad to leave this area. It's not the same as it was when we moved in.

Thursday

As if the children outside our house weren't enough, I am having disciplinary issues in the classroom as well. Take my fourth years - and I wish somebody would, as the old joke goes.

Joanna Grieves and Kylie Paterson have returned to school with a completely new image. It's called Goth. Frankly, I've never seen anything so depressing and unattractive in my life, as both girls stretch our uniform regulations to the limit by covering themselves in gloomy drapes and sporting leather-studded armbands beneath their blouses as well as pasting their cadaverous cheeks and eyes with the darkest imaginable shade of black.

Alas, not everyone shares their enthusiasm for this murky dreariness. Michael Willis, in particular, has taken great delight in renaming his classmates Morticia and Lurch. As one can imagine, the classroom has become a battleground for their taunts and my patience has been stretched beyond endurance by the endless arguments.

I think this is going to be one of my most difficult Standard grade groups for some years.

Friday

We had a distressing meeting after school with the site manager responsible for our new house. It won't be ready until the end of October.

"You'll have to rearrange your moving out date," he told the pair of us, helpfully.

"And if we can't? Presumably you'll pay to put us up in a hotel while we're homeless?" He replied in the negative. And incredibly, as a conversation with my lawyer confirmed, he is within his rights.

"Builders have got new house purchasers by the proverbials, Morris,"he said. "If you can't move in when they've told you it will be ready, they'll still demand your money. But they've got no liability to have it ready when they say they will. So it's heads they win, tails you lose.

"You'd better get on to Mr and Mrs Williams to see if they can hold off for a month."

I knew the answer to that already, so it was with an enormous sense of depression that Gail and I contemplated our roofless house - and with an even greater sense of shock that I witnessed the square-headed horror responsible for the invasion of our garden emerging from one of the inhabited houses down the road.

"Are you I d'you I erI d'you live here, then?" I asked nervously as he skateboarded towards us.

He clearly didn't recognise me. "Aye. Whit's it tae youse?" "Nothing, nothing at all. You'll be at Crosston High, then?" I said, knowing our new house is in that school's catchment area.

"No' furr much loanger," he informed me. "Ah've bin permanently excluded, so ah'm gaun ty Greenfield Academy. It's a right dump, so it is."

I froze, then shuddered, as he spat a wodge of chewing gum on to the pavement and skated down the hill. All I need now is his parents asking whether I want to join the school run.

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