Thank God it's Friday

20th April 2001 at 01:00

"Are you leaving, Sir?" the umpteenth pupil asks me. Can I confirm the rumour that is sweeping round school? Yes I can, and yes I am. Gratifyingly, a number of pupils express regret at my impending departure but the majority add a supplementary question: "Who are we going to have for English?"


A touching number of staff go out of their way to say how pleased they are that I'm leaving. I should rephrase that. I explain to colleagues that it's a sideways move, not a promotion. "But less travelling, perhaps?" "Er no, more actually."


"Will you be getting more money?" Year 11 have a more cynical grip on life. Their main priority lies with the exams in a few weeks. "No." They meet my muttered explanations about 10 years in post and needing a new challenge with sceptical gazes.


Lunchtime rehearsals for the staff Comic Relief concert sees the improbable pairing of the curriculum deputy and the young drama teacher belting out a number from The Bles Brothers while a sea of faces presses against the windows. Over in minutes, but the image of staff and pupils sharing such enjoyment will endure for some time.


I do have doubts - of course I do. Moving on after 10 years will not be easy. Not that I have much time to dwell on these thoughts during the last lesson with the Year 9 bottom set who are a testimony to the success of strategies for inclusion. Remain calm, be firm but fair and, if you can, smile. But the smile is misconstrued as the lid blows with John. He releases a torrent of abusive language in response to a number of jibes, real and imagined, from his classmates. He turns on me: "You're leaving, you don't give a toss." I emerge from the bureaucracy of the discipline referral system and practise my contribution for the concert. My Comic Relief party piece? "Bye Bye Love".

John Clarke left his post as head of English at Castleford high school at Easter to take up a similar post at Balby Carr school, Doncaster

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