John Walsh: 'If bouncers stand in for teachers, what on earth will the children learn?'

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The Independent Online

The life of a supply teacher in the Armageddon of the classroom was never a bed of roses. Called in as a pale substitute for a respected teacher who'd gone off to have a baby, had fallen ill or been sent on some "refresher course," stand-in teachers were like koalas introduced to a bear-baiting pit.

They were seldom drawn from the top drawer of the teaching profession (had they been, they'd have been employed at Winchester or Charterhouse) and they were often weird compendia of vocal tics and behavioural mannerisms. I remember one called Mr Boggis who had wild staring eyes, theatrical hand gestures and seemed determined to elongate Russian place names into "Petrograaaard" and "Vlaaaardivostock." He was a gift to the pubescent satirists and pimply assassins of Syntax II class, and he lasted two sessions before retiring in tears to the staffroom and tendering his resignation.

I can understand, therefore, what has prompted schools in the Midlands to sign up professional bouncers, club doormen and ex-military personnel to go into the killing fields that men call state secondary schools, and become "cover supervisors" – that's cover as in "Cover me, men, rapid fire, I'm going in."

It's true. The National Union of Teachers, at its annual get-together in Cardiff, has said it's alarmed to find that many school heads now hire untrained staff from the more, ah, robust professions to take classes whose teachers have gone Awol.

A Midlands employment agency called Aspire People Ltd is urging ex-Marines, firemen, stunt men and other examples of paid muscle to consider taking jobs in schools as "hardcore cover," earning £70 a day to control the kids and "get involved in a school environment."

Does this mean the bouncers will do the actual teaching as well? Surely not. Things may not be perfect in the public sector, but I don't think we're ready to have our children taught by unqualified classroom pedagogues wearing shades and Hugo Boss suits and carrying clipboards. But if the new brand of bouncer-teachers were to be accepted in schools, what would the kids learn? About history, for instance?

Origins of the Russian Revolution.

Right. The revolution in 1917 got started because a bunch of Russian peasants wanted to get into the Winter Palace to join the nobs dancing a polka inside, right, but they weren't allowed in. They weren't on the list so no way. I'm not saying they were wrong, I'm just doing my job. Then this guy Lenin gets all mouthy, and insists the poor should all be treated same as the rich, with no red rope or nothing. The owner of the club, Sar Nicholas, says, "you poor people can't come in 'ere dressed like that, this is Smart Casual, can't you read?" But then the army only goes and mutinies and it all kicks off...

Origins of the Indian Mutiny

In 1857, right, India was like this huge Bombay nightclub, with lots of English guys behaving like they owned the place, and lots of Indians being told they were too lower -class to run the place. Everyone kept asking the Indians for ID, and talking about caste, and then they went and insisted that these religious people ate bullets covered in pork fat. Well, that's a situation waiting to happen. I don't hold with waving firearms about, someone could get hurt, I'm a bit of a diplomat, me. As for the pork fat, they could have offered some vol-au-vents or some nice club pretzels, I've seen that defuse a situation, but they wouldn't let it lie and then after the Cawnpore Massacre, it all kicked off...

Invasion of the Falkland Islands

Okay, the Falklands were like a backstreet club that everyone's forgotten and no-one knows who owns it, until this bunch of Latino ponces move in, do it up and start up the banging music until 3am. So the British say, "oi, you got some nerve, that's our club." But the Latino doormen say, "you're not coming in,'ere, it's too late, it's members- only, you're in the wrong uniform, sling your hook". We weren't 'aving that so we got this fleet of lads together, all tooled up, and hung around outside giving them a lot of eyeball. We were polite but firm, and we asked them to vacate the premises before there was any unpleasantness...