Want a job? It could be you...Summer diary

1st August 2003 at 01:00
MY feelings were a mixture of jealousy, resentment, envy and also, I have to confess, relief. Fiona's husband had won the National Lottery, and they were off to live in the Bahamas. That he chose Fiona as his companion in the Caribbean paradise was laudable. It could so easily have been one of his tennis partners, or indeed the long-lost "niece" he found at the golf club.

Anyway, Fiona was off - and that meant that I had my first vacancy. What a performance!

The person specification and job description had been devised by the Inhuman Resources team, and neither bore any relation to reality. Jargon and meaningless twaddle mixed effortlessly with antiseptically neutral terminology. All I wanted was a good teacher, who liked children, would do her best and would mix well with the staff. They took five pages to say that.

The applications went to Elizabeth Rose, who would "sift" through them.


Her track record in selection left a lot to be desired, as Jannie Jim would readily testify. Whether it be boyfriends at school, or husbands in later life, my friendless neighbourhood education officer knew how to pick a wrong one every time.

Her advice was to go for what she called "academic excellence". I had seen examples of this too often, where teachers had armfuls of certificates, but precious little in the way of humour, humanity and personality. I knew my school. I knew what we needed. It didn't need the interfering conceit of Elizabeth Rose to determine the leet.

The teacher grapevine is a very effective means of candidate assessment, but not without difficulties. Impressions can be misleading, and information gleaned third-hand can be well wide of the mark. Scotland is a small country, and Scottish education is a small village.

Elizabeth Rose swept in, clutching the application forms, carefully avoiding the glance into Jannie Jim's open office, and slumped down into the best chair in my office. She proceeded to tell me about the rigours of her day, and I resisted the temptation of laughing in her face. Let her try arranging two supply teachers at short notice, dealing with an irate (and possibly inebriated) Mrs Johnstone, mopping up the after-effects of Janine's late-night vindaloo and removing three syringes from the playground - and all before 8.45 am.

I offered the poor wee lamb a cup of coffee. I forgot her herbal infusion addiction. Hot water it was. She launched into her view of the applicants which, I have to say, was diametrically opposed to mine. One of her front-runners was a fellow member of her fitness club, while another couldn't control a room of sleeping, contented babies.

Elizabeth Rose had been an ordinary home economics teacher, and rumour had it that she did a mean raspberry pavlova. Just how that gave her an insight into the workings of a difficult primary school is beyond my comprehension.

As always, we agreed to differ, and I managed to get my three candidates on the final leet. To avoid the complete breakdown of relationships between us, I conceded that one of her selections, the delectable and "charismatic" Sonia, could be included. She had a good reference, albeit from George "At a Meeting" Wilson, and I think I could expose her lack of empathy for children of the human variety.

I kept the school board informed, and fought off its request to join in the interviews. Reggie would offer the delectable Sonia the job, his affections and the keys to his villa in Spain, given half a chance.

The interviews were arranged, and the candidates visited the school. Sonia was late, as her Porsche was in for a service, and she didn't know about bus timetables. I'm sure one of the others was in the early stages of pregnancy, as she kept asking about the loos.

One was a timid little creature, whose appearance and behaviour didn't match the glowing testimony afforded her by her headteacher. She physically backed away from the P1 and P2 children, careful not to get her well-manicured hands contaminated by paint or Plasticine.

I liked the look of the lady from Joan's school. She was not interested in promotion, wanted to remain a class teacher, hated testing, loved children and exuded warmth and good humour.

Elizabeth Rose and I were about to go to war.

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