CARBON HATED: Sometimes the Department feels more like a cross-Channel ferry operation. Things are always being rolled out or ramped up, or both. Our manager Scary Paula wants new ideas for creating "greener, leaner" schools by 2010, which doesn't give us much time. All the radical ideas for reducing schools' carbon footprints - less shouting, shallower breathing, naps at breaktime - have been implemented. Everyone's standing on carbon tiptoes as it is. Paula is adamant. We need a new carbon-neutral, cost-neutral green initiative. Oh, and it has to be "pupil-calming", too. She sweeps out, her carbon heel clicks receding down the corridor.
AYE, ROBOT: Maybe we could "roll out" this rapping robot idea being piloted in Sutton. It tours local schools, raising awareness of recycling. We all wonder what it actually SAYS, and email the council's Urban Dance and Ecovironment section. Their response? "It may be a bit unorthodox, but the message is simple - everyone can be part of the team that keeps Sutton clean, even three-foot tall robots." That is a shit rap. It doesn't even RHYME.
BLAME DISPOSAL: The Counter Intelligence Unit has discovered a statistics bomb and it needs us to defuse it. Very carefully, we open the email attachment. There's the bomb, safely contained for now in quote marks: "A staggering 28 per cent of teachers say they have had a false allegation made against them by a pupil." No time to lose. First we cut the responsibility wire linking the sentence to the Department. Snip. Now we need to highlight the words "staggering 28 per cent" to imply drunkenness. But which highlighter pen - red or green? Red? Or green? The tension's unbearable. We choose red, highlight and ... it's safe. Phew. Now for the delicate rewiring. A "false allegation" suggests it wasn't corrected properly. That's sort of ... negligence. Snip. Very gently, we remove the quote marks: good, no bang, crisis over. Now all anyone needs to know is that more than a quarter of teachers are drinking too much and failing to correct pupils' basic allegation errors. We go to lunch knowing the Department has been made a little safer, and order a bottle of that nice Rioja.
PLANT IDEA: We present our Green Initiative to Scary Paula: oblige children to bring a "green buddy" to school. A plant, in a tub, on wheels. Each plant absorbs the pupil's CO2. And accompanies them everywhere, making rough behaviour more difficult. Buddleias are ideal as they can be nicknamed "Buddy"!
GRIM PAULA: "I have to inform you that I am suspended with immediate effect." Then she's gone. I feel an immediate effect, too. A knot in my stomach. My phone goes. It's Stephen, our Departmental Head of Intelligence. He wants to see me. Now. Inchworm.