In the first of an eight-part series, a London teacher opens his diary on his life last term
Monday Some light discussion over morning coffee concerning the case of Frederick, who so far this term has committed 14 serious assaults on his fellow pupils. Opinion as to remedial action is divided. His year tutor wants to encourage Frederick to discuss his problems in class circle time. But the rest of the class are terrified of him and agree with everything he says.
Alternatively, she wants him to be issued with a special pass so that whenever he feels he is going to hit somebody he can leave the room and go to find his form tutor to receive a reward. Frederick is often seen flitting along the corridors clasping a bar of chocolate. The other broad band of staff opinion reflects the belief that the rest of the class should gang together and give Frederick a beating every time he assaults one of them. This belief rests on the assumption that once Frederick realises the consequence of hitting someone will be a double dose of his own medicine, he will modify his behaviour.
The discussion is unresolved as the bell goes for the end of break. A boy is standing outside the staffroom with a bleeding nose. Frederick has punched him. We believe in an inclusive philosophy.
Tuesday Jonathan, one of our cleverest Year 13 A-level students, has gone up to Oxford for an interview. He returns crestfallen. He tells me the tutor told him that "we prefer to take our PPE candidates from Winchester as at least we know they have been properly taught there". I ring to complain and am promised that the incident will be investigated. I am not optimistic but I am depressed.
wednesday I have a long and unwilling discussion with the head about the scheme for fast-track teachers and the method for identifying them before they have even begun to teach. I read aloud the lengthy list of criteria that will be applied to find these youthful paragons of teaching excelence. The head becomes increasingly exasperated until he shouts at me most unreasonably. "I don't give a bugger about that. What I want to know is can he get a dog out of the playground at breaktime without causing a riot?" thursday It is close to the end of the day. I am alone in an isolated part of the school sorting and counting textbooks into sets. Across the quadrangle I notice an unfamiliar car, a rather battered red Sierra Estate parked in the half light. I can see two young men in the opposite classroom. They do not look like scholars of this school. They emerge from the side door carrying a large television set. It is obviously being stolen. I walk over to where they are loading it into the back of the car. "Can I be of any assistance?" "No mate, caretakers told us to take this for repair." They smirk at each other. I contemplate for a moment some heroics. I am rather attracted to the idea of the head congratulating me publicly and being the toast of the staffroom. I look at the two young men cautiously. They look muscular and fit with the possibility of all manner of weaponry concealed beneath their coats. "Fine," I say. They drive away into the gloom. The television will be sold for pound;20 in a local pub. I go to the classroom and survey the broken plastic on the floor where they have wrenched the television from the stand - then report the theft to the bursar.
friday I need to see the head urgently. He is at his desk filling in an important form, masterminding the strategic future of the school. "Do you think you could come back later," he says. "I'm just filling out my car insurance form."
Joy unconfined. A particularly unpopular deputy head has arrived back in school with the news that he has been appointed to a headship. "Just think," he says, beaming at me, "I will never have to teach a single lesson ever again." "Why bother in the first place," I think to myself.
The author teaches in a north London comprehensive