Category Archives: The Education Fables

These are all stories I made up in my brain. They are ready to collapse under the weight of the clumsy education allegories that they carry, so best read them quickly.

An art history of back to school

Ever since I published ‘An art history of school inspections’ a few years ago, studying the way that art has portrayed schools has been somewhat of a hobby of mine. In this post, I’ll take you through the ways that artists throughout time have interpreted that key moment in a teacher’s year: going back to school.

To begin with, one of my favourites is this classic from the Dutch Golden Age by Jan Steen, which depicts teachers in the midst of the summer holidays.

‘Teachers on Summer Holiday‘ (c.1655-65) by Jan Steen

In Steen’s painting, entitled ‘Teachers on Summer Holiday’ (c.1655-65), you can see the teachers really throwing themselves into relaxing. The teachers featured in this painting were very keen to explain that the artist captured them at the moment they were “taking a short break between reading some books, eating healthily and working out at the gym”.

Another painting depicting the leisurely mood of teachers during the holidays is Lucian Freud’s ‘I Might Even Get Dressed At Some Point Today’ (1950-1), shown below. You can tell from the way that the light falls that the moment captured is around 4 o’clock in the afternoon.

‘I Might Even Get Dressed at Some Point Today’ (1950-1) by Lucian Freud

The pastel shades and relaxed mood of Freud’s painting is often contrasted, by critics, with the dark ominous colours of Isaac Israels’ ‘One Week In, The First “Back to School” Shop Window Display’ (1894).

‘One Week In, The First “Back to School” Shop Window Display’ (1894) by Isaac Israels

Israels’ somewhat sombre painting shows the portentous moment when the idyll is shattered and the thought of having to go back to work at some point comes crashing down on the teachers stood at the window, as they stare at the display.

Moving on to the painting below, we are introduced to one of the key themes of back-to-school art: school nightmares.

‘The Back to School Nightmares Begin’ (1886-7) by Théodore Roussel

This classic of the genre is Théodore Roussel’s ‘The Back to School Nightmares Begin’ (1886-7). Here, the painter portrays the dream of a teacher in the days just before the autumn term begins. The teacher dreams that she is in the staffroom looking through the staff handbook. He captures the dream in the moment just before she realises that she has forgotten to put any clothes on and will wake up in a state of sheer panic. This particular genre has been the source of many works by a range of artists, notably Bosch’s ‘I Dreamt My Voice Wasn’t Working and None of The Children Were Listening to Me’, and Vermeer’s ‘I Think I Just Said **** In Assembly’.

‘Sorting the Classroom and Putting Up Displays’ (1964) by Richard Hamilton

The above piece of artwork, by British pop artist Richard Hamilton, is entitled ‘Sorting the Classroom and Putting Up Displays’ (1964). A famous piece of contemporary art, it shows the teacher in her classroom in the days before the pupils start back at school. The teacher has spent hours making the classroom look nice and freshening up the wall displays, and here she takes a moment to look around her and absorb the room, disheartened by the knowledge that it will never look quite as nice as this again for the entire year.

As the day of return grows ever closer, such preparations truly begin in earnest, as we can see below.

‘The First Week’s Lunches’ (c.1620-5) Sir Nathaniel Bacon

Sir Nathaniel Bacon’s ‘The First Week’s Lunches’ shows a well-meaning teacher preparing her daily lunches for her return to work. She has optimistically bought lots of vegetables and fruit for various healthy meals, the sheer volume of which suggesting that her intentions are to continue in this vein. Yet the real genius of this painting is in the detail: note how the artist cleverly depicts a look of uncertainty on the teacher’s face, showing us that even she knows she’ll be eating chips from the school canteen by the second week.

There are many paintings that depict the reality of the first day back, but none are more well-loved than George Elgar Hicks’ ‘You Have to Go In, Dear, You’re the Headteacher’ (1863), below.

Woman’s Mission: Companion of Manhood 1863 by George Elgar Hicks

In the painting, the headteacher tries to pretend that it is still night-time by covering his eyes and making it dark. His wife is deploring him to pull himself together and get into work as she is sick of coming home from her tough, high-flying job in the city only to find that he’s been lounging around watching Netflix all day and hasn’t done any of the jobs around the house that he’d promised to do.

‘These Are the New Guys’ 1766 by Benjamin West

The first day back has finally arrived in Benjamin West’s ‘These Are the New Guys’ (1776), which depicts the moment when the school’s new staff members are introduced in the first staff meeting, and the entire faculty stare back at them. The new staff members hang their heads and blush as every current member of staff looks at them, some with a sense of envy at their youth, and some with a sense of pity at what these new guys have let themselves in for.

‘Memories of Empty Roads’ (1998-9) by Julian Opie

Contemporary British artist Julian Opie turns his attention to the daily commute. Opie highlights the misery of sitting in traffic every day by presenting it in relief: ‘Memories of Empty Roads’ (1998-9) cleverly shows us not the gloomy traffic but the clear open roads enjoyed by everyone during the previous six weeks, starkly reminding us all of happier, carefree times.

‘End of the First Week Back’ (1856) Henry Wallis

Perhaps the most famous image in the whole of the back-to-school genre is Henry Wallis’ ‘End of the First Week Back’ (1856). Here, the clothed teacher is bathed in early morning light, showing that he has fallen asleep in his clothes, such was his fatigue. The peaceful look on the teacher’s face is in contrast to the ripped-up paper on the floor, which is the result of various shredded worksheets that he has printed and then subsequently realised are riddled with spelling and content errors, due to his sheer tiredness. One should note that the exhausted teacher shown here is actually positively vibrant when compared to how he will look some eight weeks later.

I hope you have enjoyed seeing some of my favourite pieces of back to school art – I’m sure you’ll agree that the genre has inspired some great works throughout the centuries.

 

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A Glossary of U.K. Education (Vol. 4)

We present Vol. 4 of our glossary. For previous volumes, please follow these links:

Vol. 1

Vol. 2

Vol. 3

biro

/ˈbʌɪrəʊ/

noun

apparently one of the most explosive materials on earth, with a level of volatility somewhere between uranium and hydrogen.

collaboration

/kəlabəˈreɪʃn/

noun

the positive action of working with other likeminded people in order to produce something or promote an idea; this is one of the most important things one can do in education and is widely encouraged, unless of course the thing that is being produced or idea that is being promoted is one with which you disagree, in which case it isn’t collaboration, it is a neoliberal conspiracy.

data

/ˈdeɪtə/

noun

a substance that is difficult to control and can wreak havoc unless it is captured cleanly; it increases its potency as it gets more and more out of control, bouncing back and forth throughout the environment; it is vibrant green in colour and goo-like in its consistency. (Wait… this is the definition for Flubber, isn’t it? Oh, what the hell, I’ll just leave it here. I’m sure nobody will notice – Ed.)

Didau, David

/ˈdvd dɪd… er… dʌɪd… um…ˈdʌɪə… oh say it however you want/

noun

former All England Hula Hoop Champion and prime antagonist of everything you know about education.

dog

/?/

?

iono, is it even a word?

Festival of Education

/ˈfɛstɪv(ə)l ɒv ɛdjʊˈkeɪʃ(ə)n/

noun

like Glastonbury, though with more toilets, less beer, but exactly the same number of Tinie Tempah main stage appearances.

further education

/ˈfəːðə ɛdjʊˈkeɪʃ(ə)n/

noun

an education that is at a greater distance from one’s current location than other educations under consideration.

glue sticks

/ɡluː stɪkz/

noun

the most valuable currency in schools; should you find yourself in possession of a reasonable number of functional glue sticks in the summer term, it is advisable to have these valued by an expert, insured, and locked away in a safety deposit box in the vault of a high security bank.

OECD

/oʊ iː siː d/

noun

the official Finland fan club.

PISA

/ˈpzə/

noun

the Eurovision Song Contest of education, the prize for which is the legal mandate that the winning country must be mentioned in every single education speech or panel for the next few years; could be made better with an irreverent commentary by Graham Norton.

sports day

/spɔːtz deɪ/

noun

either the hottest or the wettest day of the year.

Teacher, The

/ˈtiːtʃə, ðə/

noun

your magazine from the NUT; you know, the one that you don’t even take out of its plastic wrapping; yeh, that’s it, the one that sits on the side for a month before you decide to throw it out; you don’t even know how often it’s published, do you? Is it monthly or quarterly? Nobody knows. Nobody.

textbook

/ˈtɛks(t)bʊk/

noun

a pejorative term for a pre-printed large collection of sequenced subject resources (cf. individual resources which, due to the fact they are unsequenced, uncollected and you have to spend time creating and printing them yourself, are far superior).

TEDx Education

/tɛdɛks ɛdjʊˈkeɪʃ(ə)n/

noun

conferences for new media types who hated school themselves but think that schools might be a way for them to monetise their ‘creativity’ whilst simultaneously avenging their own schooldays; talks from these ‘thinkateers’ are interspersed with the occasional actual teacher to give the conference some credibility.

toilet break

/ˈtɔɪlɪt/

noun

a luxury for teachers.

Six Thinking Hats

/sɪks ˈθɪŋkɪŋ hatz/

noun

a system designed by U2 frontman Bono as a tool for discussion; each of the six coloured hats represents a particular way of thinking: blue = lewd thinking; white = try not to think about anything (it’s hard, isn’t it? give this hat to the member of your group you want to keep occupied); red = think like a socialist (make placards, etc.); black = harness your dark thoughts, give in to them, strike me down with all of your hatred and your journey towards the dark side will be complete; yellow = what would SpongeBob do?

A Glossary of U.K. Education (Vol. 3)

Following on from volumes one and two, here’s the latest edition of our education glossary.

Bennett, Tom

/bɛnɪt, tɒm/

noun

Scottish outlaw and folk hero; known colloquially as ‘Tam’ Bennett, he formed the researchED clan and led the VAKobite Rebellion against the neuromyths laying claim to the throne of pedagogy; he ultimately overthrew the House of Brain-Gym and restored evidence to its rightful place.

Bloom’s taxonomy

/bluːmz takˈsɒnəmi/

noun

a hierarchical model of classification which organises learning into six levels of complexity: remember, understand, apply, analyse, evaluate, create; once you have overcome all of these levels, you must ultimately defeat the end-of-level boss: obfuscate.

Blue’s taxonomy

/bluːz takˈsɒnəmi/

noun

a hierarchical model of classification which organises items on a scale of least irritating to most irritating, based on the members of the boy band Blue: Simon Webbe (least irritating), Duncan James, Antony Costa, Lee Ryan (most irritating); e.g., “The consultant delivering that CPD was absolutely Lee Ryan.”

caffeine

/ˈkafiːn/

noun

life-force of teachers; they can cut our budgets, they can freeze our pay, but if they come for our coffee and tea, they’ll have to prise it from our cold, dead hands.

Christodoulou, Daisy

/krɪˈstɒduːluː, ˈdeɪzi/

noun

the only prominent educationalist who is most commonly referred to by their first name alone.

fair funding formula

/fɛː ˈfʌndɪŋ ˈfɔːmjʊlə/

noun

unfair funding formula.

grade descriptors

/ɡreɪd dɪˈskrɪptəz/

noun

occult apparatus used for supernatural divination; a form of cleromancy in which prophets will look over a document and then interpret it using the grade descriptors to guide them to a grade, which will then be challenged by another prophet who used the same descriptors to come up with an entirely different grade; a process of debate will follow until the prophets can agree on an interpretation of the descriptors that angers the spirits the least.

Hirsch, E.D.

/hɛːʃ, ˈiː ˈd/

noun

educationalist and academic; be honest, you think his name is Ed, don’t you? I mean, maybe not consciously, but subconsciously, you sort of think of him as Ed Hirsch, don’t you? Yeh, you do.

interactive whiteboard (IWB)

/ɪntərˈaktɪv ˈwʌɪtbɔːd/

noun

a large interactive

display that,

when written on with an

interactive whiteboard pen,

displays the writing wherever the                                               hell

it

wants.

Even after calib

ration.

Mantle of the Expert

/ˈmant(ə)l ɒv ðə ˈɛkspəːt/

noun

educational approach in which novices spend their time pretending to be experts so that they can remain novices for longer.

Slough of Despond

/ˈsl əv dˈspɒnd/

noun

the filthiest, most festering, fungus-ridden mug in the staffroom, as mentioned in John Bunyan’s The Pilgrim’s Progress: “This miry Slough is such a place as cannot be mended; it is the descent whither the scum and filth […] doth continually run, and therefore is it called the Slough of Despond.”; it is traditionally discarded in the waste bin at the end of every term, only to magically return in another form within a few weeks of the following term.

snow

/snəʊ/

noun

the gift given to tired teachers from the benevolent gods every few years as a reward for their hard work in educating the children (cf. wind, which is a punishment handed down to teachers from the vengeful gods for not keeping up with the marking).

Summer Holiday

/ˈsʌmə ˈhɒlɪdeɪ/

noun

1963 British film starring Cliff Richard, in which he plays a character who wanders about feeling utterly purposeless at the start, then writes himself a to do list of household jobs he’s been putting off all year; he goes on to read a couple of books, binge watch some boxsets, fall asleep in the afternoon a bit, and he finally goes into work to put some displays up on the walls; just as the credits roll he suddenly realises that he hasn’t done any of the household jobs on his to do list.

Teach First

/tiːtʃ fəːst/

noun

charity which focuses on giving bankers hearts.

wind

/wɪnd/

noun

powerful chemical catalyst; just one part wind mixed with 100+ parts children will cause uncontrollable agitation and ebullition of said children.

wine

/wʌɪn/

noun

a form of neuralyzer (the memory-wiping device made famous by the Men in Black film franchise); it is used by teachers on themselves each night in order to forget the ignominy and upset of being told to “!@$# off” or that “your lessons are boring”; sometimes these things are even said to them by pupils.

A Glossary of U.K. Education (Vol. 2)

Volume One of our handy glossary of commonly-used terms in U.K. education was such a success that our publishers have rushed out the second volume. We hope that you find this a useful tool in navigating the debates and discussion around education, both online and in real world situations.

assembly

/əˈsɛmbli/

noun

the action of gathering a group of children together in order to watch a short video of an athlete doing something inspiring to uplifting music.

Bjork, Robert A.

/bjɔːk/, ˈrɒbət ˈ/ 

noun

cognitive psychologist, famous for his work on learning, memory and forgetting, and for his hit single “It’s Oh So Quiet”, which spent 15 weeks in the U.K. singles chart in 1995; he was hoping you’d forgotten about that.

cake

/keɪk/ 

noun

main fuel source of teachers during the latter weeks of a term; as a child, cake is something that someone buys you on your birthday; as a teacher, cake is something that you have to buy for everyone in your department on your own birthday; how did that happen?

Chartered College of Teaching

/ˈtʃɑːtəd ˈkɒlɪdʒ ɒv ˈtiːtʃɪŋ/

noun

see General Teaching Council for England (GTC).

Dead Poet’s Society

/dɛd ˈpəʊɪtz səˈsʌɪɪti/

noun

elaborate teacher recruitment video from the late 1980s; data shows that the two-thirds of teachers who remain in the profession after five years only stay on in the hope that their pupils will one day stand on their desks and declare “O Captain! My Captain!” at them.

detention

/dɪˈtɛnʃ(ə)n/

noun

punishment given out to teachers whereby they have to give up their break time, lunchtime or after school to spend time with someone who has previously been rude to them or otherwise ignored their instructions.

enquiry learning

/ɪnˈkwʌɪri ˈləːnɪŋ/ 

noun

for a clear understanding of the way that enquiry learning works, see entry for inquiry learning.

GCSE results day

/ˈˈsˈɛsˈiː rɪˈzʌltz deɪ

noun

the second most exciting day in the school calendar, after stationery order delivery day.

growth mindset

/ɡrəʊθ ˈmʌɪn(d)sɛt/ 

noun

a powerful incantation used as a magic word; legend has it that, if SLT and the board of governors hold hands in a circle with their eyes closed and chant the words ‘growth mindset’ three times, when they open their eyes the DfE will have made further cuts to their school budget.

inquiry learning

/ɪnˈkwʌɪri ˈləːnɪŋ/ 

noun

for a clear understanding of the way that inquiry learning works, see entry for enquiry learning.

lunchtime duty

/ˈlʌn(t)ʃtʌɪm ˈdjuːti/

noun

(Oops, sorry, I totally forgot to do this one – Ed.)

mastery

/ˈmɑːst(ə)ri/ 

noun

a Rorschach inkblot, often associated with a curriculum, which can be interpreted to mean absolutely anything a person sees in it when they look at it.

mindset

/ˈmʌɪn(d)sɛt/ 

noun

the mental attitude or disposition that predetermines a person’s responses to and interpretations of a situation; according to psychologists, there are three types: fixed and growth (Dweck), and dirty (Freud).

red pen

/rɛd pɛn/

noun

principle weapon of torture, used by teachers who don’t take children’s feelings into account (cf. the marking pen chart below, showing the range colours preferable to use when marking); red pen is also famously mentioned in the old adage of teacher lore that goes, “Red pen at night: normal. Red pen in the morning: I fell asleep doing my marking last night.”

Spectrum of colours preferable to use when marking children’s work, in order to not cause unnecessary anxiety. ‘Sensitive White’ is a popular choice.

retention deficit disorder (RDD)

/rɪˈtɛnʃ(ə)n/

noun

an employment disorder that can be found in the U.K. education sector; it is characterised by a person openly lamenting teacher turnover whilst they are simultaneously creating the conditions that cause teachers to leave their jobs, e.g., “Justine Greening spoke earnestly about the ‘challenges on recruitment and retention, but also on workload’, just before she announced a funding formula that will see 98% of state schools’ funding cut.”

self-assessment

/sɛlf əˈsɛsmənt/

noun

process in which children show that they have had enough of the topic being studied; this is sometimes done by the pupil displaying an emoticon of a smiley face, or through the use of traffic light colours, but is more commonly achieved by the children putting their thumbs up, as pioneered by Scottish pupil James Krankie in the late 1970s (see image below); however, it should be noted that Krankie is still at school some 40 years later, which may be an indication that this method is a flawed way of gauging a pupil’s learning.

James Krankie, eternal schoolboy and pioneer of the thumbs up method of self-assessment

 

 

 

A Glossary of U.K. Education (Vol. 1)

Debates around education on social media can sometimes be hard to follow if you aren’t well versed in the jargon of education in the U.K. With that in mind, we’ve produced this handy glossary of commonly-used terms.

academisation

/əˈkadəmʌɪˈzeɪʃ(ə)n/

noun

1. the process in which a school undertakes a Faustian pact resulting in the handing over of its pupil data to Amazon, the selling of the school fields to Starbucks, and eternal damnation for all staff in exchange for better SATs/GCSE results.

or

2. the process in which a school merely alters a word on their signage and stationery.

children

/ˈtʃɪldrən/

noun

small human beings cared about by progressives and hated by traditionalists.

free school

/friː ˌskuːl/

noun

evil, bloodsucking entity, set up to appease the greed of its vengeful ruler by educating the children of the local community.

Gove, Michael

/ɡəʊv ˌˈmkəl/

noun

pantomime villain, originally from Old English folklore where he is often depicted as having the body of a Tory MP and the head of an agitated baby; in many stories in which he features, Gove is vilified by the adults of the village for trying to give their children more knowledge.

Grüppwerk

/ɡruːpˈvəːk/

noun

Kraftwerk tribute band marked by their performance style in which one of the members arranges all of the songs, plays all of the instruments and prepares all of the lighting, sound and stagecraft, whilst the rest of the band take the opportunity to muck about and do nothing.

learning styles

/ˈləːnɪŋ ˌstʌɪlz/

noun

antimicrobial resistent organism that continues to thrive despite numerous attempts to medicate against it.

literacy

/ˈlɪt(ə)rəsi/

noun

word used as part of a compound noun to give an air of legitimacy to an otherwise woolly term, e.g., digital literacyvisual literacyliteracy literacy.

neo-

/niːə(ʊ)/

prefix

versatile combining form that can be adjoined to the beginning of any noun in order to make that thing sound more sinister than it actually is.

neo-trad

/niːə(ʊ)ˈtrad/

prefix

traditionalist, only more sinister. Synonyms: right-wingTory, Nazi, Sith Lord, Agent of Hydra.

Ofsted

/ɒfstɛd/

noun

capricious inspectorate, prone to systematically dishing out unfair judgements. Unless that judgement is ‘Good’ or ‘Outstanding’, in which case it is entirely accurate and should be emblazoned across letterheads and banners. 

pedagogy

/ˈpɛdəɡɒdʒi/

noun

from the Greek παιδός, (paidos), “teachy”, and ἄγω (ágō), “teaching”: literally, “teachy teaching”.

progressive

/prəˈɡrɛsɪv/

noun

1. a teacher committed to the values of progressivism.

or

2. a teacher just out of initial teacher training.

Robinson, Sir Ken

/ˈrɒbɪns(ə)n ˌˈsəː ˈkɛn/

noun

chivalrous knight of YouTubian legend; the folk tales tell of how Sir Ken is bestowed with a golden tongue by TED the Enchanter, and of how he uses this tongue to defeat the Great Sages of Rote Wisdom by invoking the Spirits of Dance.

rote learning

/rəʊt ˌˈləːnɪŋ/

noun

1. that which Sir Ken Robinson opposes, instead suggesting more dance in the curriculum.

2. the most common and effective way to learn how to dance.

Shift Happens

/ʃɪft ˈhap(ə)nz/

noun

bullshit.

traditionalism

/trəˈdɪʃ(ə)nəlɪz(ə)m/

noun

a diabolical cult dedicated the denigration of fun, posters, role play and group work; based on ideology (cf. progressivism, which is ideology-free and entirely based on pragmatism and principles); followers of traditionalism dislike children and can be mostly found in schools.

troll

/trɒl,trəʊl/

verb

to disagree with a view on education that one holds; this is a transitive verb which can only be done unto the first person me and not unto second or third person pronouns such as him, her or you – “he trolled me” is correct usage, whereas “I trolled her/you” is incorrect.

noun

someone who disagrees with your view on education.

 

 

A tour of Stock Photos Academy

We are delighted to welcome you to Stock Photos Academy, a brilliant new free school located in the heart of the country.

We are proud of our focus on learning and on nurturing the next generation.

We hope you enjoy having a look around our school, which we think is a very special place.

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We’ll start the tour in the sixth form, where we stream the students depending on how photogenic they are. This is the top set in Maths. Here, Maths teacher Mr. Smith is making his pi/pie joke. The sixth formers bloody love that joke.

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Whilst the sixth form offers traditional subjects, we are also able to offer special courses too to get those valuable UCAS points. Here, our pupils are taking a short course in, erm, Spectacles Studies.

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As you can see here, we have invested heavily in technology and have whole class sets of tablets. Unfortunately, we only have one charger though.

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Our teachers bloody love chalk. Just the thought of using it makes them excited. You should see how satisfied they look when they get to use it.

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See?

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From Year 7 to the sixth form, our teachers only ever ask really easy questions that everyone can answer.

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Here’s sixth former Stephen from earlier. He’s still thinking about Mr. Smith’s pi/pie joke.

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If anyone knows where the whiteboard rubber is from the Maths room, please let us know?

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Our canteen dinners are delicious! The plain, unaccompanied pasta is always the most popular choice amongst our pupils which tells you everything you need to know about how great our chefs are.

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Mrs. Sumner is very happy. She’s very happy because she teaches at Stock Photos Academy. She’s also very happy because she loves her subject. But mostly she’s very happy because her Year 10 class are away on work experience.

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We really need to get some blinds in our classrooms. There’s more lens flare than a J.J. Abrams film here.

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This is the, er… no, sorry, I’ve no idea what’s going on here… Can someone go and see if Mr Baxter is okay? I think he might be having another breakdown.

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Here’s Mr. Cartwright working out the predicted 9-1 grades for our Year 11s preparing to sit the new GCSEs. As you can see, his concentration has reached meditative levels.

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If there’s one thing our teachers do really well, it’s standing at the back of the class with their arms folded, ignoring the children. Outstanding!

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We knew that the recruitment crisis would mean taking on some unqualified teachers in shortage areas. We didn’t realise we’d be this desperate though. We have since sacked the netball coach after he promised to bring stability to the team, and they just got worse. The Chemistry teacher asked the pupils to decide if they should remain in the classroom or exit. They chose to exit and he buggered off to let someone else clear up the ensuing mess. The Food Tech teacher is very unpopular but we’re finding it hard to get rid of him. And as for the new lower school Teaching Assistant… she’s terrible, but we’re going to have to keep her as the alternatives seem to be even worse.

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Oh, and there’s Mr. Smith again, thinking about his pi/pie joke.