182. You’ve got to carry that weight…

“So I called the boys into my office and we had a very stern conversation about swearing in the playground … the need for the oldest children in the school to act as good role models … the consequences should this behaviour recur. Then I sent them off to apologise to the dinner ladies.

“I watched them walk down the corridor and, as they turned the corner, Yob 1 turned to Yob 2 and, um, did this …”

Here Mr Headteacher paused, made a grasping motion with his right hand and moved it up and down.  If you’re not sure what I mean, ask a teenage boy. In fact, my tremor does an embarrassingly good impersonation of the movement when left to itself but that’s another story.

When we’d all finished laughing, Mr Headteacher continued:

“I hauled them back into my room but was pretty obvious that Yob 2 had no idea what was happening, so he was sent away while I gave Yob 1 a piece of my mind. I told him that, in line with our behaviour expectations, I was now going to speak to his parents. So I phoned his mum who seemed appropriately shocked and said that his father would come straight up to the school to speak to the lad.

“When he arrived, the dad asked to speak to his son separately. I found them a quiet space and, eventually, they came back to my office – Yob 1 looking pretty subdued.

“We’ve come to apologise, Mr Headteacher,” said the dad. “I’ve been straight with the lad. I’ve said to him very clearly – ‘Mr Headteacher may well be a w*nker but it’s not your place to say so.’.”

“It’s support like that from the parent community which has made this job such a pleasure.”

Mr Headteacher’s leaving do was last summer: he’s now head of a large Special School where, I’m sure, his sense of humour is pretty essential.

Our first advertisement for a replacement Head fell on stony ground. So, since the summer, Mrs Deputy has been Acting Head, working valiantly to keep the ship afloat with not enough hands on deck, and surrounded by sharks wielding government-issued machetes.

Thrush Woods is a beautiful one-form entry school in an idyllic location with superb staff and its own ark built on top of an air-raid shelter. So, prepared for all eventualities. On the surface, you’d think that working as the Head of such a school would be a complete doddle and, like Miss Read, you’d be back at the school-house by four each day in time to pickle gooseberries and have tea with the vicar.

Alas, no. Smaller schools, however picturesque or outstanding, cannot gets Heads. Part of the problem is the money: the Head of a one-form entry primary school is paid less than the Deputy of a larger school but with vastly more grief. The Head of a small school has the same responsibilities, slings and arrows as the Head of a larger school but with fewer senior staff to share the burden. Both are personally responsible for ensuring that eleven year olds can distinguish their subordinating conjunctions from their prepositions, that children are kept safe and that every class is covered during the worst teacher shortage for a generation. It’s an impossible job and many of my friends work in schools which are on their third or fourth round of adverts.

So there was great excitement in the ranks on Friday when white smoke was seen rising from our Victorian chimney pots confirming that we have bagsed ourself a Headteacher from September.

What’s more, it turns out that the InfantPhenomenon and YoungLochinvar know said Headteacher Elect as they were in the same Woodcraft Folk group as children. InfantPhenomenon was telling us today of the time they were playing a game of Grandmother’s Footsteps. HeadteacherElect hitched her up onto a piggy-back and made his way towards the front.

“Out,” said the Grandma. “I saw you move.”

“But you didn’t see her move,” said HeadteacherElect, as he put down the InfantPhenomenon. “So she wins.”

Very encouraging to think that Thrush Woods is to be led by someone who bends rules and is able to carry others. There’ll be plenty of challenges, that’s for sure. But I really hope that the job also brings him happy times aplenty.


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