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What have Louis Vuitton bags got to do with performance management?

It's performance management time, and rebellion is in the air. As usual, most staff have failed to agree any kind of target or objective with their team leaders.

John Baller, maths teacher and union rep, sent a memo to the senior management team informing them that the only realistic target for a teacher at St Brian's was "to stay out of the nut house and get your retaliation in first". Tiziana Fausti, our dazzling media studies teacher, ventured that banning Year 11 girls from bringing fake Louis Vuitton bags on to school premises should be a priority for the coming year. When asked how such a measure would energise the development plan and enhance pupil attainment, Tiziana said it wouldn't - she was just sick of seeing a top brand treated with such disrespect.

Down at the 13 Horseshoes, where work life imbalances are being washed away with pints of Hawkins' Old Spot bitter, Baller is preaching to a dishevelled congregation.

"The problem with you young 'uns," he says, spitting bits of crisp in my direction, "is that you don't think about people like Les. He's racked up 40 years, and what's he got to show for it? Chronic hypertension, that's what. Not even a threshold payment. People like him have put St Brian's where it is today!"

The exact location of modern-day St Brian's is third from bottom of the national league tables after a record-breaking three years in special measures. I have an image of Les Twigg in his heyday, a dynamic chemistry teacher forging his career in the white heat of the 1960s. I see him erecting a molecular structure out of polystyrene balls for the benefit of some mop-topped kids, a jolly, ruddy-faced LEA inspector mucking in.

My reverie is interrupted by the sound of Orlando Jones, enfant terrible of the expressive arts faculty, slamming a double brandy on the table. "You're living in the past, Baller. Old Les is bound for the knacker's yard.

Welcome to the new world order." He raises his glass. "Here's to Blaine bloody Harrington - a suit in a hurry." Baller spits on the floor.

Blaine Harrington, the new advanced skills teacher of maths, is dividing opinion in the staffroom. Having won the hearts of the admin department he has yet to win the minds of his colleagues. John Baller refuses to accept that a man with highlights in his hair can possibly have a masters in string theory.

I decide to come clean about where I stand on Blaine. "Before you go any further, John, there's something you need to know about Blaine and me."

Faces turn.

" We're... well... we're going shopping together on Saturday."

John shakes his head like a disappointed father. "Be careful Charity, he's practically senior management, you know." "Oh, I think she'll be quite safe," sneers Orlando. "It's you and me that have to watch out, old chap."

I grab my coat.

"Oh come on, Chaz, just my little joke," says Orlando. "Where are you off to?"

"I'm going to Blaine's. He's straightening my hair tonight. Says I need a more professional image. See ya!"

Next week: Tears at lunchtime. Charity Begins: Adventures of an NQT, Charity Casement's diary of her first year at St Brian's, is available from TES Books, pound;2.99. Tel: 0870 444 8633 or visit the TESBookshop at

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