I am wearing three hats as I write this letter, which concerns the paltry sum of Pounds 6.50 owing by a school to my mail order publishing company.
Under my commercial hat, I would be in liquidation very quickly if I allowed all my customers to forgo paying bills or gave them extended credit. In this case, the respect due from a school to its supplier was sadly lacking. The attitude that it is "hardly worth the fuss", which appeared in red in the margin of my own letter to the headteacher, returned with the payment after ten weeks' self-imposed credit, is an appalling one.
My second hat is that of a lay school's inspector. This then becomes a school management issue. Do all schools treat suppliers in such a cavalier way, I ask myself? After numerous statements were ignored, the reply to a final demand was the return of our letter aggressively marked in red, pointing out the school's closure date as though this made non-payment acceptable. Not the courtesy of an apologetic reply on the school's letterhead, but the blame thrown squarely back at us as though we had committed a crime by pursuing the matter. This teacher's obligation was to have paid the bill before the school closed. (The money was outstanding from a larger amount as the books had been underpaid but we had supplied them as an act of goodwill.) My third hat is that of a magistrate faced with rising numbers of young people up before our courts whose attitude to authority and towards their fellow men and women is equally contemptuous. If teachers adopt such attitudes towards others in the community, how can we possibly expect the youngsters for whom they are in loco parentis to behave any differently?
It makes no difference whether the amount is Pounds 6.50, Pounds 1.50 or Pounds 650. The principle is still the same. If those in authority do not have the honesty and maturity to accept responsibility for their own actions, and show respect for others, what possible hope is there for future generations and the rest of society?
43 Norwood Avenue