Augustus Snodbury, Senior Master of St Birinus’ Middle School,
sank into the greasy chintz of his favourite armchair in the corner
of the staffroom.
He put down his mug of builders’ tea and picked up a glossy
It was the June edition of The TES. He had managed to survive
for nearly forty years without having opened its covers. On this
occasion, however, he had completed all the crosswords in other
publications, so he took a look at the editorial.
Could the old hands be the Saviours of Schools? ran the
Snod had no wish to take on the mantle of a Messiah.
Apparently Baroness Warnock wanted to place older
people from other professions into schools, in a quest to
elevate the status of teaching and to ease staff shortages.
Gus slurped some lukewarm tea. A second profession! he snorted.
I’m just about about oven-ready and I haven’t finished my first one
yet. It’s all right for them to bang on about people being at the height
of their powers and having energy, imagination and further capacity for
work. They should try having 2C on a Friday afternoon for a double.
He continued to read about ‘the dormant talent between retirement
and the Pearly Gates.’ He nearly had a heart attack. Or was it the
after-effects of too much steamed pudding and an inactive lifestyle?
Whatever. He had no wish to join a ‘crack team of creaking
interesting educationalists‘- not now, nor in the future.
There seemed to be other riveting reads lying on the table. He picked
one up: Life at the Chalkface by Mike Kent. The author claimed to have
compiled a ‘love-letter to thirty eventful years’ in an endlessly fascinating
and challenging post, or series of posts. Snod wasn’t going to spend any
time finding out the details. The only semi-interesting snippets appeared
to involve a description of a fight between parents at a school play. (Well,
Gus had experienced that scenario on many occasions.) There was also a
compelling account of pigeon infestation in a school roof.
Snod wouldn’t have thought there was anything endlessly fascinating about
either of those incidents and, if that was the best the author could offer by
way of entertainment, then, frankly, he should have got out more, or perhaps
have got out of teaching.
Having started flicking through the publication, Snod felt that he should finish
and so he picked up on a remark by Prof Engelmann. Here was something
with which he could concur:
Teachers should be consumers of curricula, not their designers.
Precisely. As Dr Johnson said, if one knew where to find knowledge,
it circumvented the need to carry it around in one’s noddle. If young
newly-qualifieds wanted to generate masses of worksheets, then let
If Snod could pinch someone else’s lesson material, then all the better.
He would then have time to do something more important, such as watching
As for taking failing children into a summer school for extra tuition, it would
be over his dead body- perhaps literally. If the Baroness thought that retired
diplomats and business people were going to flock into schools, carrying a kind
of authority that- sadly- teachers did not possess, then she was deluded.
Most of that particular breed are out playing ex-pat golf and improving their
He threw the magazine onto the floor and sighed. It’s as John Cleese said
in his role of Head Teacher, Brian Stimpson:
‘It’s not the despair… I can take the despair. It’s the hope I can’t stand.’
Perhaps Snod was exhausted by the Summer Term, but teaching for him
was increasingly like the exam season for Tom Bennett. And the latter
described the pressure thus:
[It’s] like passing a kidney stone…you desperately anticipate it at the same
time as wanting it to be over.
But perhaps the Baroness had been spared such experiences.