Thank God it's summer

28th July 2000 at 01:00
Continuing our peek at a London teacher's diary of last term.

Monday I am perked up by my morning mail addressed to the school staff development officer. It is a course entitled Genital Massage for Teachers. I promise the head I will make a list of any applicants and pass the names to him. He asks me to make a photocopy. I check the calendar. It is not April 1.

Tuesday The latest container lorry-load of guidance from the DfEE has arrived. It includes a form for the head to fill in about why he has so many forms to fill in. Of interest to me is the guidance on implementing the Government's proposals for teaching citizenship. I notice a draft specification for a GCSE in citizenship. I speculate on what will happen to those who fail. Will they have their passports withdrawn? Will they become stateless non-persons by virtue of their failure to master the basics?

It emerges at break time that a former pupil has scaled the heights and is featured in that morning's Daily Star in a state of considerable undress under the title Today's Starbird. A few of the older members of the staff who remember her peruse the immodest picture for the sake of nostalgia. A vitriolic argument breaks out between the feminists, who argue that what she has done is degrading and exploitative, and the male PE teachers, who claim "she has done the school proud".

wednesday Guidance for union members has arrived on how to stop fights between pupils. Those between staff I ignore. "Do not physically intervene" we are told, "as you may become liable to an assault charge." We are told that we are to stand close to the protagonists ( but not too close in case we are struck by a wild blow and are, I assume, charged by the police with damaging one of their fists) and we are then to pronounce in a "commanding and authoritative tone" for the participants to "stop fighting". It does not say what to do when this command is ignored.

I listen to a New Labour MP on the radio, a former teacher, saying that teaching is the best and most important job in the world. I agree and it would of course be churlish of me to inquire as to why she is no longer teaching and is instead loafing around the House of Commons waiting to be interviewed.

thursday Oh dear. The head has obviously been on a particularly ghastly management course, probably at a Post House Hotel just off a motorway somewhere in the West Midlands. The staff meeting starts ominously with a lesson in natural history.

"Geese fly in formation because it is more effectie than flying alone. Sometimes the lead goose gets tired and another goose will take over. Sometimes a goose will fall to the ground and the other geese will stop and help it on its way. Sometimes a goose will fall to the ground and the lead goose must decide whether it is better to leave that goose there to die." We all look around for a sign of the goose who is going to die. As the staff parade out of the meeting room there are faint sounds of honking from the mass of teachers and discreet flapping of arms.

Friday There is much animated discussion in the staffroom on the merits and demerits of performance-related pay. The Socialist Workers cadre insists that the government wants to degrade and humiliate teachers by forcing them to jump through a series of hoops before giving them a decent pay rise. My morning mail has contained a letter from a firm of management consultants offering to fill in the application form of any teacher wishing to apply for assessment for a fee of pound;200. As the DfEE insists, this is not an exercise in form filling.

At lunchtime a notice appears from the head that the school must close next week for a day so staff can be trained in making threshold application. So GCSE and A-level students in their last few days of formal schooling, preparing for their most important exams to date, lose a day's teaching courtesy of the Government.

The author is a teacher in a north London comprehensive Nox928 ACROSS 1 Such mathematics will not be for pure students (7) 5 Teacher's pet almost (5) 8 Is acclaimed and departs, slamming the door (4,4,1,4) 9 Into the lead I step (5) 10 Don't allow bitterness to remain (7) 11 It's not chalk that's used to score in skittles (6) 12 Place where children may go between two and five (6) 15 Occasionally imitates assembly after head has left (2,5) 17 Girl's returning a plant (5) 19 Disconcert one's school principal but give no indication (5,4,4) 20 Names grounds for development at a hearing (5) 21 One who feels the heat for one who feels the cold (7) DOWN 1 In a way age is some protection (5) 2 Resolute drama students are (8,2,3) 3 Is drawn up inside towards the centre (7) 4 Dislike writing notes before exam (6) 5 Soundly study an English novelist (5) 6 Statistics may be vital in obtaining the result of this (6,7) 7 Naive woman found in genuine confusion (7) 11 Top-quality work produced by Form IC (7) 13 Book is in stock (7) 14 Legally prevents a posset being prepared (6) 16 Hunts - with seeming success (5) 18 Unpopular mathematician (5)

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