Thursday, 7 April 2011

Made in China

I haven't spoken much of life at the School of Hard Knocks recently. Our OFSTED report was finally published online, for all to see. It was as dire as anticipated. I can picture the inspectors; priggish, power-crazed pencil-pushers, giddy as kippers, thumbing their government-issued thesauruses, gleefully looking up synonyms for 'average'. However, I was rather tickled, that despite all his blustering hubris, Pompous Pilate's leadership only warranted a 'mediocre' rating.  The buffoon acts like he is some sort of pedagogical visionary, a Local Education Authority Ghandi.  According to OFSTED he is more clod than god. I have to love them for that.

Pompous gave us all a pep talk after the inspection:  don't be demoralised, don't lose momentum, keep working hard for the children. But, it is he who has been locked away in his office-lair ever since.  Who knows what the oaf is doing there. I imagine him, bloated and toad-like, weeping while he pours over the reports of better-performing schools. He possibly even beats himself with a rolled up copy of the Times Educational Supplement.  

I think Pompous will be moving on soon. He is only in his early 40s, yet this is already his 4th headship.  That speaks volumes, I think.  He views each post as a rung on his dastardly career ladder.  Our previous headteacher was bonkers, but I loved her.  She retired (unwillingly) at 68, after having worked for over 40 years at the SOHK. There was NOTHING she didn't know about our kids' families.  She was fearsome. I have seen her pick up a snarling, spitting and kicking Year 6 boy and carry him out of the school gate.  Government guidelines or rules held no sway with her.  Her view of badly behaved children was simply to kick them out,

'Call the parents, Miss Underscore. Tell them to get up here and remove their children.  We're not tolerating any cheek. Do that every time.  Trust me, the parents will soon get fed up.' 

No one crossed her,  not children, not parents,  not teachers.  The thing I loved about her was her unyielding commitment to the children. It was down to the sheer force of her personality that she got a brand new school built, a school with a gym, recording studio, dance studio and theatre.  It is the best equipped school in the city.  Her children deserved it, you see.  She persuaded (bullied) the LEA into funding music lessons for EVERY pupil.  She lived and breathed the SOHK. It was her whole life. It depresses me that, for Pompous, the SOHK is simply a means to an end, just another line on his CV. His ultimate goal is to end up as a gratingly smug and supercilious educational consultant. Someone who charges hard-up schools thousands just to hector them about the latest educational 'good practice' and cunting 'mission statements'.

In other news, I took my class on a trip this week. We went to a local archaeological museum. Our kids don't get out much, so they were FIZZING with excitement at the thought of a jaunt.  To be honest, the museum activities were rather lacklustre.  The kids got to 
  • look at a suspiciously shiny and new looking Tudor coin and draw it.  There was only 1 coin though, between 28 children. 
  • write with a quill pen (well, a BIC pen with a feather stuck on the end)  
  • design their own coat of arms (using the traditional Tudor materials of ASDA felt tips and A4 paper).  
In the afternoon we went on a guided walk around town. We were looking for Tudor architecture. When I saw this on the agenda I was intrigued. I didn't think the town had any Tudor architecture. It transpires that it doesn't. None at all. Consequently Rafe, our guide (a lisping museum boffin, all frizzy hair and rumpled corduroy) struggled to make any valid Tudor links.

"Look at Lidl over there.  Would that have been there in Henry VIII's day?  What about Gala Bingo, did the Tudors play bingo?  Look at Greggs, Tudors liked pies you know. What would the streets have been like in the Tudor period? Yes, squalid,  caked in excrement and riddled with crime.  Very different from the estate where you live eh?" 

(I don't know quite how I remained silent during that last line).

The highlight of the laughingly titled 'Tudor Walk of Discovery' was when my class spotted a greyhound.  The winsome creature was wearing some kind of waterproof pyjamas and had her snout in a discarded Greggs bag. Indeed, today, when I asked my class to write 'thank you' notes to the museum and to mention which bit of the day they enjoyed the most, EVERY SINGLE ONE OF THEM mentioned the greyhound.  I hope Rafe is not too crestfallen at that.

Unexpectedly, the day did prove to be too thrilling for a little boy called Wayne. He wet himself. I expect it was the excitement of seeing a priceless Tudor sundial for the first time.

'Miss Underscore, I have made a discovery, it says 'Made in China' on the bottom of the sundial.  Do you think Sir Francis Drake brought it back from an expedition?'

The museum staff were terribly kind and solicitous. They leapt into action and offered several changes of clothes for little Wayne.  Sadly the choices were:
  • a greek toga 
  • a Tudor boy's costume (including tights)
  • a Victorian nurse's outfit.
Dear God. What to do? Let Wayne sit in damp trousers for the rest of the afternoon or put the boy in a tights. Either way I was fucked as Wayne's mam is utterly bonkers and has a notorious anger management problem.  

As it happens I need not have worried. The morning after the trip I went to collect my class from the yard.  They were patiently lined up waiting for me.  My heart sank when I noticed Wayne's mam at the head of the line.  Seeing me approach the screeching harridan announced (to the whole yard)

'Here, I dinnea believe that our Wayne pissed himself yesterday like. What's he like? I think he's special needs ye kna. Does you think I should take him to the doctor?'


  1. Thoroughly marvellous! I have never heard OFSTED antic's (from their school-made-burrow) penned so well.

  2. Pompous can spin it however he likes, but don't you think he is on his 4th headship BECAUSE he is "mediocre"?

  3. Oh Frances, hi, thanks for the comment.

    Laura, my class are having a royal wedding street party next week. There will be bunting. I shall keep it for when Pompous moves on from the School of Hard Knocks. That way we'll be able to literally put the flags out.

  4. So funny! They'll always remember that greyhound.
    It sounds like Pompous' pep talk was really intended for himself.

  5. Another lovely post, thank you. Also, I have just had my first M&S cherry bakewell trifle, it was A-MA-ZING. To be honest, I thought you'd made them up, as I live in London and frequent a large M&S foodhall, and had never seen them, but today, there they were, large as life and twice as tasty. Yum. I sense a new, diet-unfriendly addiction coming on...

  6. You have such a gift for capturing the essence of personalities, as well as the local politics. This post makes me fear my future career as a teacher. If only I had other prospects.

  7. Oh Juli. I do hope I haven't put you off teaching. I love it. Yes, the paperwork and politics will get you down, but it is all worth it.

    Mind you, I will be blogging later about a horrible incident that happened to me this week that would make the most saintly and dedicated teacher question their career choice.