Chalk Talk: What a carry on over a new state boarding school


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The Independent Online

Controversy over the proposal to open a state boarding school for inner-city teenagers in the heart of the West Sussex countryside appears to have reached fever pitch.So much so that elements of the controversy have a distinct feeling of Carry On films about them.

Take, for instance, the decision by the local parish council serving the village of Stedham, where the school is to be sited, to hire a coach to drive round the leafy lanes around the school site to prove that the roads were unsuitable for such traffic. (Six coaches will deliver the pupils from Stockwell in south London every Monday morning and take them away again on Friday afternoon.)

According to Anne Reynolds, who chairs the parish council, the coach was constantly stumbling across tractors and the like in areas where it was impossible for two vehicles to pass. It would not have taken too much of a stretch of the imagination to see the coach with its load of pupils ended up in a ditch, she added.

Not to be outdone, Greg Martin, the headteacher of Durand primary academy in Stockwell, who is masterminding the project, insisted his side should take to the leafy lanes as well.

A coach was duly despatched and not only found that the route was used by other buses – 360 of them a week, according to Mr Martin – but also discovered a couple of alternative routes to use to get to the school.

You can imagine Hattie Jacques at the wheel of one coach and Charles Hawtrey at the other (for younger readers, these were stars of the Carry On films).

The whole saga begs the question, though: what would have happened if the two coaches had stumbled upon each other going in opposite directions? Which one would have given way?

Overheard from a teacher in an inner city school where reading standards had been dire but a substantial improvement has now taken place: "We knew we were succeeding when they started stealing the books."