SCHOOL DAZE

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The Independent Online
New year's resolution: start a diary. I've tried it before. Jotted down how they threw the fox at a boy. A dead fox, dripping with maggots! Caned them both, then buried the fox with military honours in the shrubs. Can't do that now - caning, I mean. I have this habit of looking back when I should look forward. After all, I am the headmaster. Should be headteacher, but, damn it, I've always been headmaster, and shan't change the habit of a lifetime just to be PC. Twenty-one years! Talk about reaching maturity.

It seems as if I've never been away. Been planning, writing, checking since Boxing Day. New contract for temporary staff; chairman of governors rang to tell me he is retiring next year, just before I do.

I've checked the school. Boilers OK, windows still there. No break-ins, no graffiti, no burst pipes. Empty in-tray. Things are looking good, touch wood. My God, can't touch wood, everything is plastic.

Up in London there will be some new initiative brewing as the politicians are feeling the freeze of a coming election and they will all have to say something about education. As if they will make a lot of difference. Kids don't change.

This morning I'll watch them coming snail-like into school. What do they talk about as they come in, singles, doubles, groups achitter-chattering? I shall ask them. They will say, "Nothing!" with looks of astonishment. When pressed they might add "My brother's dead pet" or "Christmas" .

I yearn for the day when they will say, "the economic necessity of education". They never will, they have more sense. They are resilient to learning, thank God; were that not the case, we teachers would not have a job to go to this morning.

We have it wrong. Soldiers do not fight for their country, nor for their Queen. They do not fight for their regiment; they fight for their mates. So, too, do kids come to school for the social joy of it all. We fail to tap that. Instead, we chase them from period to period, subject to subject, as if we know no better. Sadly, we shall never break out of the rut, because the politicians have made the furrow statutory. There is but one way and that is the national curriculum way; there is but one target and that is set by Ofsted (Office for Statutory Edging of Bets). All the innovation is gone. Initiative is lost. The profession is on its knees begging for a pay rise, early retirement, peace in our time ...

As the children pour back to school in ski jackets and forbidden hats, they will wave to me and I'll see their youth, their undefeated joy and think: "I don't need a new resolution, I'll stick to the old one. I'll keep on pounding at them! I'll keep a diary, too. Occasionally, I'll look back on the good old days." For now, I'll wave back to them, also smiling.

The writer, Michael Round, is head of Haling Manor High School in South Croydon.

This is the first of a series of personal diaries from serving teachers that aims to reflect school life in all its moods. To contribute, send a maximum of 500 words to:

Wendy Berliner, Education Pages, The Independent, 1 Canada Square, Canary Wharf, London E14 5DL

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