The writing's on the wall: building trouble ahead

18th April 2008 at 01:00

A host of building contractors looks set to descend upon Greenfield Academy in the coming months, as our privately financed, new-build initiative hopefully comes to its conclusion, with a complete renovation of the appalling heating and ventilation problems that have plagued us since the opening ceremony some years ago.

Helen Tarbet's home economics department, for example, has been the source of numerous health and safety concerns, given that the extraction facilities for cooking - and other - odours seem completely inadequate.

And the heat in Christina Harry's business studies classrooms - incredibly oppressive due to the number of computers and laptops in operation at any one time - is exceeded only by the sweltering conditions in Mr Walsh's computing department, where ventilation provision was equally poorly planned for such a technology-dependent subject.

Meanwhile, extremes of another sort have been frequently witnessed in the top-floor biology rooms, and regularly recorded in the minutes of senior management team meetings - if not in quite the terms regularly employed by "Coarse" Davie McManus, our senior biology teacher, whose regular and crude assertions that the temperatures in question "would freeze the balls off a brass monkey" are not the stuff of proper reporting procedures.

Anyway, it means that the construction company in question - a Dutch consortium by the name of Kostuss - will be in evidence once again, and Greenfield Academy's normally industrious air of academic endeavour (sic) will be disturbed anew.

And it means that the council is in for a lengthy legal battle about who pays for everything. But I have a sneaking suspicion that whoever it is, it won't be Kostuss.


It seems hard to believe that our elder child, Margaret, will be leaving primary school this June. And it seems harder still to believe that Gail and I are pondering the option to explore alternative schools for her beyond the associated secondary to which she would normally be sent; to whit, Greenfield Academy.

"So the school you teach in isn't good enough for your own daughter, then?" queried Mr McManus, as I outlined our visit to the open night at St Ainsley's, a denominational establishment, wherein we had assured the headteacher of our enthusiasm for the spiritual dimension of Margaret's educational needs.

"It's not like that, Davie," I assured him. "It's just that, well, you know, it's always going to be difficult for her. I'm teaching in the same school and I just want to avoid any likelihood of bullying, or maybe ... ".

He held his hands up. "You don't need to rationalise it to me, Morris. And you don't need to flannel me with all that self-justification about why you'd send her to Greenfield if it wasn't for the fact that you're here. I didn't when it came to my kids."

"Oh?" I queried. "I didn't know your children would've come here as well. Did they go to St Ainsley's?"

"No way!" he scoffed. "We went private, and I'd advise you to do the same. They only get one chance, after all."

I thanked him for the advice and kept my own counsel. If there's one thing I won't be doing, it's sending Margaret to a private school. Apart from the financial consequences, the very notion is complete anathema to my egalitarian principles.

But I think I'll keep quiet about the McManus experience in Gail's hearing. She's already made tentative noises about exploring the independent option.


An argument has broken out between Kostuss and our school management team. Apparently, the contractors are refusing to pay for the removal of a store cupboard installed in Gregor Greig's physics laboratory after they had "signed off" the building.

Mr Greig's contention that the cupboard was essential, due to the completely inadequate storage facilities offered in the original design, has been countered by the not unreasonable argument that the cupboard blocked off the room's "emergency stop" facility, essential to safety in any science laboratory.

I think we are in for a long and acrimonious summer term.


Jodie McLatchie, my fourth-year student who goes by the unkind soubriquet of "Muffin" among her classmates because of her bulging midriff, seems to have developed a touching trust in my pastoral capacities. She came to me this morning after our English lesson and asked if I would check a recent job application for her.

"I'd be delighted to help you, Muff - er, sorry, Jodie," I caught myself just in time. "What's the job?"

"Part-time waitress, surr," she said, and proffered an application form whose literacy levels belied her status as a Standard grade student.

I sighed, and made some gentle suggestions to improve the document (such as spelling "waitress" and "restaurant" correctly), but was stopped in my tracks by the section that asked the candidate about previous employment.

Understandably bereft of much in the way of work experience, Jodie had inserted her only paid service to date, that of babysitter. Alas, in the column headed "Reason for Leaving", she had responded with the literal truth: "Parents came home".

I suggested that she request another application form and start again.


A shortleet has been drawn up for the new headteacher's post at Greenfield Academy, and Kevin Muir is in the frame. And if all accounts are to be believed, this will make for two men on the list, which would appear to be a very brave decision indeed on the part of the education authority.

Anyway, we're all behind Kevin. Since taking up the top position in a temporary capacity at the turn of the year, he has made a real success of the role, winning the support of staff, and even (most) students, for his no-nonsense approach and a desire to concentrate on the needs of the school, rather than make a name for himself with outlandish theories or spurious educational visions, which seem to be the normal gateway to advancement these days.

So it seems pretty unlikely that he'll get the job. But we can always hope.

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