Thank God it's Friday

17th June 2005 at 01:00

Exams begin in my pupil referral unit. In mainstream schools, this would be the scene of frantic last-minute revision and impeccable silent behaviour.

Here, many of the students have forgotten that they are taking exams and their behaviour depends on what's happened the night before.

Today is numeracy. I have only two candidates, until Sasha arrives late with a wild look in her eye. She doesn't realise that numeracy is maths and fills in her name and number quite happily. When she opens the paper she begins to scream "What the f*** is this? I don't do maths!" After five minutes of Sasha screaming and me ineffectually hushing, the other students crack and make violent and vivid threats. Sasha subsides. I write a report for the exam board that even to me sounds incredible.


Literacy. Unfortunately, the first paper is a listening comprehension. Zoe lasts two minutes before she storms off, unable to stand my "posh voice" any longer. She joins several other students who have also been unable to listen to posh voices. I make a note to see if the actress who plays Janice Battersby in Coronation Street is available for the next reading. Or Peter Kay.


We have an exam mysteriously called "Preparation for working life" (not many of our students intend to work for a living). Fortunately, Aisha, who has been in care for most of her life, is able to write pages in response to the question "What is foster care?" Unfortunately, most of our students are baffled by questions about tax and human resources. Zoe collapses, weeping that she will end up in McDonald's. Lee imaginatively draws a smoking spliff in every blank answer space. We send the papers anyway.


The exam planned for today takes second place to a giro fraud perpetrated by several of our girls, who arrive waving the cheque and sweep other potential candidates away with them, despite our weak protestations that they really should gain their qualifications and, besides, cheque fraud is illegal. Our long-suffering community policeman arrives in full body armour and tells us, as he always does, that he couldn't do our job. We learn that the giro was stolen from a man attacked with a broken bottle. Childcare qualifications pale into insignificance.


An end of week treat. We are visiting one of the most famous football grounds in the country. Unwisely, our tour guide begins with a rule: no one, not even he, is allowed to set foot on the turf. Our students do not wrestle with temptation for long. Aisha is first to leap across the barrier, followed by the rest. They perform a lap of honour, before we are forcibly ejected. The tour guide yells at the departing staff, "Can't you control these kids?" No. Could you?

Mary Carmichael lives in the north of England. She writes under a pseudonym.If you have a diary you would like to share (of no more than 520 words), write to TES Friday, Admiral House, 66-68 East Smithfield, London E1W 1BX or email We pay for every article we publish

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