Stories from a staffroom

8th October 2004 at 01:00
It looks like zero tolerance has reached St Brian's. Under pressure from the LEA adviser, an arse-kicker called Oriel Grier, and the local press, which has run a series of lurid stories (all true) about the school, the head has announced an arms amnesty and random drug tests - for pupils and staff.

Dr Scarlett says we have to regain the trust of the community. This will not be easy. Last week the front page of the local paper carried the headline "Is this the most dangerous school in Britain?" above a story about the airgun battle that took place in Judith Crock's Year 11 class a couple of years ago. And inside there was a detailed account of the siege at the end of last term which was only ended when Roy Striper, the caretaker, shot and hospitalised Gabriel Mooney, our deranged RE teacher.

Perhaps most damaging were the allegations, under the headline "The filth of St Brian's", of a porn ring operating inside the school. These centred on the discovery that Ramona Lynch, a wayward Year 13 student, has set up a webcam in the disused domestic science room from where she has been running a site called "Ramona's Kitchen". The images consist mainly of Ramona, wearing only a gingham pinny, demonstrating "101 things to do with an oven chip".

Scarlett is furious about the reports. It's generally known that he calls in favours with his Masonic friends at the police station whenever there's an unsavoury incident at St Brian's. But his network has let him down this time; it appears Oriel Grier has friends in even higher places. The rumour is that she wants the school shut down and sold off as a city academy. Her husband's consultancy, Grier Education Solutions, would no doubt head the list of bidders.

So it's no more cover-ups. At the rousing whole-school assembly on Monday morning, Scarlett, fidgeting all the while with his Kabbalah bracelet, talks of purifying St Brian's and starting anew as staff clap along lethargically to the strains of "Give Peace a Chance" drifting out of the speakers.

By the end of the day the amnesty box in the foyer contains a can opener and four teaspoons. The staff are even more resistant to the idea of disarmament. Many of the older teachers argue that the inclusion drive has gone too far and they have a right to defend themselves. Les Twigg, a lifer from the science department, insists he will resign rather than surrender his antique mother-of-pearl penknife.

The drug tests are similarly problematic. Deprived of their mood enhancers, Year 10 have become even more unpredictable and casually violent, and the sick bay has been overrun by sixth-formers suffering from acute bouts of the DTs. Year 7 say their human rights are being breached.

And there is uproar in the staffroom. John Baller, the union rep, tells the head that St Brian's would cease to function without prescription drugs. He says tranquillisers and antipsychotics are the school's lifeblood. "And what about community links?" he rages. "The 13 Horseshoes will bloody well shut down if we all go on the wagon!"

It's all too much. I need a drink.

Next week: An evening with Blaine Harrington. Charity Begins: Adventures of an NQT, Charity Casement's diary of her first year at St Brian's, is available from TES Books, pound;2.99. Tel: 0870 444 8633 or visit the TESBookshop at

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