Sunk by a ship-leaving rat

31st March 2000 at 01:00

Debate rages about Mr Tod's successor. Ever since our esteemed headteacher announced early retirement last month - thus effectively pulling the rug from under the anticipated trashing of the school in the HMI report - the staffroom has been awash with speculation.

I have decided to place my weight firmly behind the Ruth Lees entourage, small as it might be. No matter what anyone says about our depute head - and a lot of things have been said about her, I have to admit - it remains true that my own star has been in the ascendancy since she took me under her wing. Let her have stout men about her, that's what I say, and I'm as stout as they come when you're talking about loyalty. Especially if there might be something in it for me.


The mobile telephone problem has developed new dimensions, as bullying goes digital. Having at last succeeded in the battle to ensure the damned things remain switched off during class time, I was dismayed to witness Kylie Paterson frantically punching the keypad of her latest Nokia as I walked along the tuck-shop corridor this morning.

I was about to admonish her for wasting yet more money when I noticed an unusual demeanour about the girl. Normally resilient, even aggressive, in approach, it soon became apparent that she was close to tears.

"Kylie. What's the matter?" I leaned gently towards her.

Her eyes grew wider, wetter, and then she screamed, thrusting her telephone at me.

"I never touched her!" I jumped back swiftly, mindful of union guidelines in such situations, before recognising the need for a more sympathetic response. Gently accepting the mobile from her, I scanned the text message displayed thereon: "I8U. WF"

"I'm sorry, Kylie. What on earth's the problem?"

"It's an annoanymuss hate-mail, surr," she sniffed in misery. "I8U. WF": it means 'Ah hate yoo. Woof.' Means they think ah'm a doag," she explained. "It's a hate-mail, an' someone keeps sendin them oan a wan-four-wan."

"A what?"

"A wan-foar-wan. They key in wan-foar-wan afoar they send it, an ah canny tell where it came froam. Except tae know they hate me. An they think ah'm a doag!" Whereupon she burst into copious tears once again.

It was at this juncture that I longed for the presence of a comforting lady superintendent of old, instead of the virulent harpies that constitute the female sector of our guidance team. I decided instead to take her to Miss Tarbet, who I happened to know had been making shortbread with the first year this morning. It seemed to do the trick, and Kylie was soon at a point of equilibrium (or as near to it as she ever gets). News of the circumstances which had occasioned the outburst came as no surprise to Miss Tarbet: she tells me that several academics have attracted enormous sums of money to study the effects of school bullying via text messages on the mobile telephony network.

Somehow, it all seemed so much simpler when they did their bullying behind the bicycle sheds.


HMI's preliminary report of last month's snap inspection has today been discussed most fully with the senior management team and also with the principal teachers whose departments were inspected. The results are, of course, extremely confidential at this stage, and Mr Tod was at pains to stress the importance of secrecy to Simon Young, my own principal subject teacher.

"But bugger that!" Simon objected forcefully over a lunchtime doughnut at the departmental meeting he had just called. "I want to know which of you bastards dropped me in it, and I want to know it NOW!" he banged a fist on the table, sending grains of sugar cascading from his paper bag.

Everybody looked everywhere, anywhere, except at Simon. Patricia Harrison looked at the floor; Irene Donnelly stared at the ceiling; Angela Slater exhaled disapprovingly and pursed her lips; and I tried to keep a steady emotional balance despite the beating heart within. Clearly my unguarded remarks to Mr MacIntyre about our department's organisational mayhem and dearth of curricular initiatives had been reported far beyond their intended audience.

Fortunately, Simon was able to vent his considerable spleen upon the only member of the department unable to defend himself: Malcolm Saunderson, absent on further stress-related problems.

"I'll bet it was him," Simon narrowed his eyes. "He went off sick again just after the inspectors had their interview with him, and I'll bet the little squirt's gone and blamed his bloody stress on me. My God, after all the support I've given him during the most spurious absence I've ever seen. Can you credit it?"

We all shook our heads in silent sympathy for Simon, but I must confess that my sympathy extended slightly towards Malcolm as well. Now I know how Judas must have felt.


A please-take for Mrs Harry's third year, who are terribly excited about their Young Entrepreneurs Project. I think it's terrific that the curriculum in business studies gets them thinking about the world in ways that will bear economic fruit for later generations.

Thus it was that I found myself expressing profound admiration for Karen Porter's "Fluffy Easter Chicken", a beautifully decorated soft toy, and Brian Finlayson's "Easter Egg Eggstravaganza", an attractively packaged collection of miniature chocolate eggs. Both efforts stood comparison with many a professional production.

"These are really pretty, Karen," I complimented the founder, sole trader and chief executive of "Karen's-Krazee-Kut-Price-Kapers!" "Thanks, sur," she shrugged modestly. "Ah'm chargin' 50p fur them. D'ye think they'll sell?"

"Fifty pence?" I queried. "Surely not! They must have cost much more than that to make. Why, even the chicken must have."

She shrugged again. "They were oanly pound;1 each. Mrs Harry goat them in 'What Every's'."

"Mrs Harry bought them? Why?"

"Ah wouldny be seen dead in 'What Every's', sur!" she looked as if I'd made an indecent suggestion. I let the matter pass, but pressed her on the issue of cost versus sale price.

"So if your raw material is pound;1 - plus the decorations you've added, plus your time and labour - wouldn't pound;1.50 be a better price? How can you possibly sell them for 50p and still make a profit?"

"Dunno," she shrugged once more. "But naebuddy would buy them fur wan-fifty, would they? So ah'm sellin' them fur 50p."

I sighed, shrugged my own shoulders - it made a change from watching Karen shrug hers - and hoped Mrs Harry would be able to explain the profit motive better than I had.

In the meantime, I don't think Richard Branson's got anything to worry about.


Ms Lees has thrown in the towel before the fight's begun! To everybody's complete and utter amazement, she has stolen Mr Tod's retirement thunder by announcing her own departure to a post with a private educational consultancy firm.

"I don't want anyone to think I've taken this decision lightly," she explained at this morning's staffroom announcement, "because I've devoted more years of my life to this school than I care to remember."

"Same goes for us, sweetheart," whispered George Crumley. Luckily, she didn't hear him.

"... and some of you will be wondering why I'm planning to give up a highly rewarding post where I've been able to influence so many young lives, and so many aspirant careers." (and here she looked sharply at me) "... but I want you to know that it's because I feel that my new post will give me the opportunity to deliver a quality educational message to a much wider audience than the - er - slightly limited environs of Greenfield Academy would permit."

Crumley guffawed loudly, then whispered in my ear once more: "And at a much wider fee structure to boot. Starting rate of 500 quid a day, more if she can get it, and she's got it bloody made."

Personally, I couldn't find it in my heart to frame an answer. I was dumbfounded, as my principal sponsor sold herself down the river and left me naked in the chamber, so to speak.

Having at last aspired to climb the greasy pole, I can't help but wonder whether Ruth Lees's departure signifies the beginning of a slow and uncomfortable descent. I suppose it will all depend upon our new senior management structure.

Let us pray for a happy issue.

Next month: It's all change at Greenfield Academy. Or is it? Don't miss next month's episode, Ave atque vale!

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