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Sorry Sir! I was swept up by the spirit of the Games


It's the second week of the school year, and the nation's scholars are buckling down to some serious work. In classrooms across the nation, with new colour-coded Ryman files and newly sharpened pencils, they are throwing themselves into the autumn term, their eager faces shining with desire for information on geometry, Artesian wells and To Kill a Mockingbird…

Though not, perhaps, in London.

We suspect there will be an unusually high absentee rate today. A suspicious number of schoolkids will call in sick, having fallen prey to autumn flu, verrucas or diarrhoea. A remarkable number of school attenders will disappear at lunchtime and fail to return. Teachers may find themselves facing echoingly empty classrooms at 2pm.

We would never condone acts of truancy. But frankly, if the Olympic Games committee will organise a major-league parade of Team GB Olympians and Paralympians through London at lunchtime, with 800 athletes (including Mr Davey, Ms Ennis and Sir Christopher) showing off their medals on 21 gaudy floats processing from Mansion House to the Mall via Trafalgar Square, the whole thing to be broadcast live on BBC1, what can they expect?

There are some historical events it just seems right to bunk off school for. Fifty years ago one took the Tube to Heathrow to scream at the Beatles or the Stones, returning from conquering America. Twenty-three years ago, it was the fall of the Berlin Wall – if you couldn’t be in Berlin with the cool kids hacking bits off the wall, you could be at home devouring it on television.

Having your team win the Premier League would justify it too. And now, if you’re called to the headmaster’s office, you can say, “Sorry sir, I was swept up by the spirit of sportsmanship, endeavour and patriotism, sir” – and who would criticise you for that?