11th November 2005 at 00:00
The staffroom is sacrosanct. And Bill Hicks discovers no crime is greater than stealing the tea fund

How fond are you of your staffroom? The real one at your school, that is, not the virtual TES one that I rabbit on about, week after week. Do you cherish it as a refuge, a relaxation zone where you can socialise with fellow teachers? Or at least an oasis of peace where you can catch up with some last-minute assessment, grab a coffee or even a brief snooze before your next lesson?

I ask because of the palpable sense of outrage expressed in a thread that kicked off last Monday, as many schools went back after their mid-term break.

"Staffroom broken into!" was the anguished complaint of seiglinde. "During half term, and they broke into lockers and stole tea fund!"

Wise-guy packerguy couldn't resist the quip: "Our staffroom was broken out of and three NQTs escaped into the community."

But Ceinwyn knew it was not a joking matter: "They took the tea fund! They know how to hit where it hurts!"

Enter not-telling!: "My office was broken into and they took my laptop. Am most upset as first time i've been given my own one - made me feel all important!"

It was seiglinde's turn to offer comfort, using the multiple parentheses beloved of personal forum users: "((((((((((not-telling)))))))))))". Then added: "We had pound;250 saved towards Xmas booze-up. All gone."

When bombaysapphire offered her anecdote involving an arson attack on the HoD's office, it wall all getting a bit too much like Crimewatch.

It was left to Admin Princess to dispense sensible advice: "Sorry to hear you've had the cash stolen... but take note everyone else - don't keep large sums of cash in school. If we have to, it goes in the safe, which is bolted firmly to the floor."

But lardylegs was still fuming: "Bloody hell! Did they get away with any biscuits?" While Prep-room boy invoked the nightmare scenario: "Could have been worse, they could have drunk out of everybody's 'own' personal mugs and sat in people's 'special' chairs."

So it seems teachers still love their staffrooms and are as upset when their sanctity is violated as if it had been their own home.

But what of the TES staffroom? It's not strictly comparable, being open to anyone with an interest in education and not just teachers, but the regulars are protective of their digital territory in some of the forums, especially when what they regard as interlopers stick their heads around the door.

They have fended off marauders from other websites (The Guardian) and resisted attempts at infiltration by a well-known parents' network. They just about tolerate the frequent visits paid by journalists and TV researchers - but usually give short shrift to salesmen and evangelists.

This week, we had another of those surprisingly rare visits by a pupil, or at least someone claiming to be a 13-year-old. Usually, they disappear after a few days, beating hasty retreat before a tide of all too authentic teacherly advice. Some attempt a dramatic, expletive-hurling exit, before being escorted off the premises. One or two have stayed the course, and who knows, might even become teachers themselves.

Bill Hicks is editor of the TES website. www.tes.co.ukstaffroom

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