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Life in an Inner City Primary - Chapter 9: Burton Edge First School

by flock1 

Posted: 11 August 2006
Word Count: 972

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Chapter 9 Burton Edge First School

“HELLO IS THAT JASON HUNT?” inquired the friendly woman’s voice on the end of the line. “I’m Barbara Cane, Headteacher at Burton Edge First School. I got your number from my daughter.”
“Your daughter?”
“Yes, Clare. Her boyfriend’s Kelvin McKenzie. A friend of yours I believe.”
And then it came back to me. I’d been in the pub with a few friends, one of whom had been Kelvin. We’d been discussing jobs. Kelvin had mentioned that his girlfriend’s mum was a Headteacher. When I’d jokingly asked him about any jobs going spare, he said he’d find out. But that had been months ago.
Over the phone, Mrs Cane explained that a temporary vacancy had just come up for a class of Year 3 children, aged seven and eight. “It’s a small class; only seventeen in total. Interested?”
Barbara Cane told me that Burton Edge was a one-form entry first school. The catchment area included a local council estate and two blocks of flats. The ethnic mix was about eighty percent white. The rest were third or fourth generation Pakistani children. “It’s not an easy school to work in,” warned Mrs Cane. “Fifty percent free school meals. The children are challenging.”
Fifty percent free meals was shockingly high. The national average was about fifteen percent. A high free school meal statistic meant only one thing – the area was deprived. “I’m used to tough schools,” I said. We arranged a date where I could visit the school.
Two days later I was standing in the school library. “Ah, Jason,” said a small, rotund lady stepping out of the office opposite. “I’m Barbara Cane. Nice to meet you at last.”
I stood up, shaking the Headteacher’s hand. She was in her mid-forties and had a pleasant face, rounded by a short crop of blond hair.
“We’re a split site,” explained Barbara, leading me along a corridor. “Key Stage One is in this bottom building. Key Stage Two in the top building across the road. I’ll you show that later.” We came to a standstill. “I’ll show you Reception first.” I followed her into a classroom.
Even though I’d been in a reception classrooms before I was still sufficiently amazed by the smallness of the children. They were not much bigger than babies. All were playing in sandpits, water troughs, or doing gigantic jigsaws that had been placed all over the room. Sitting amid one group of nippers was a teacher.
Edith Swain got up to show us around her classroom. At one point, she broke off her tour to rush towards two boys. One was attempting to bash the other with a large block of wood. “Samuel!” snapped the teacher, removing the offending article from the boy’s hand. “That’s not nice!” Samuel seemed not to care. He wandered off to the sand pit. Mrs Swain began wiping tears from the other boy’s face, explaining that this was quite normal behaviour for Samuel. “He’s special needs,” she whispered to us knowingly. “Needs a lot of attention.”
In Year 1 and 2, the thing that struck me most were the skinhead haircuts of all the boys. It was the same in Key Stage Two. The only difference were the kids were bigger.
When we arrived outside the Year 3 classroom, instead of opening the door like she’d done everywhere else, Barbara Cane simply peered through the glass panel. I joined the Headteacher, looking inside. The children seemed more boisterous than normal. Kids were wandering about, not really doing any work at all. One was even under a table playing with a ruler. The teacher seemed to be ignoring most of them, bent down talking to a child at the back.
“This could be your classroom,” said Mrs Cane.
I felt my heart skip a beat. My own classroom! My very own class! It sounded so grown up. “But who’s that?” I asked, pointing at the woman inside.
“Miss Taylor. She’s leaving at Easter. She’s not really worked out. She finds it hard to maintain discipline. As you can see.” We headed off towards the staffroom.
Mrs Monica Denson, the Deputy, was waiting in the staffroom. About forty, with a large pleasant face and even friendlier smile, I felt relaxed in her company from the start. The three of us sat down and Mrs Cane started by asking if I’d visited any other schools. I told them I had.
“Any interviews yet?” asked Mrs Denson.
“No. But I’ve got one next week.”
Both women glanced at one another. “What would you say then,” said Mrs Cane, “if we offered you the Year 3 job?
It seemed an odd question to ask. They knew nothing about me. They’d not even asked about where I’d worked before. However, I needed a job and from what I’d seen, Burton Edge seemed okay. Hypothetically, I told both women, I’d probably say yes.
Mrs Denson looked serious for a moment. “Let’s get this straight. Even though you’ve got an interview next week, you’d take the job here?”
Wondering what she was getting at, I nodded. Surely, though, they couldn’t just give me a job like that could they? What about an interview and references?
“That’s sorted then,” said Mrs Cane, getting up. “You can start in three weeks. We’ll just need to see your background checks are up to date, and then you’ll be on a temporary contract until the summer. How does that sound?”
My mind was spinning. I simply nodded like a galoot.
On the train on the way home, I read some of the information I’d been given. My annual salary was going to be £10500. It didn’t seem much. Despite this, I was still over the moon. I was finally going to be a proper teacher. And it had been so easy.

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Comments by other Members

flock1 at 17:36 on 11 August 2006  Report this post
Here's chapter 9. It sets the scene for the next segment of my book. That's why perhaps nothing of note really happens. See what you think...

crazylady at 21:45 on 21 August 2006  Report this post
Hi Jason,
I've rocketed through the rest of the chapters, enjoying the story, but this one seems a bit less engaging. Possibly because there seems to be very little challenge here.
Is it true that jobs are offered like that? I thought there was all sorts of red tape,paperwork and advertising to be gone through first. Still I suppose that if you've written it like that, then that's how it was.
I look forward to reading more, as overall I think it's an excellent informative, good humoured read.

Richard Brown at 09:33 on 23 August 2006  Report this post

I found this to be readable despite your cautious comment and CL's reservations but maybe it could be pared down and incorporated into the next chapter.

I suppose an alternative might be to 'big up' the scene as you peered at poor Miss Taylor. I'm sure you won't be able to recall detail but you could (honourably I think) use your long experience to flesh out a picture of chaos. Maybe you could also increase the dramatic tension by describing doubts (which you presumably had?!) about coping with such mayhem. The hook into the next chapter could be just this...ie what had you let yourself in for...would you cope..?


flock1 at 18:44 on 23 August 2006  Report this post
Crazy Lady,

The way I described getting the job is exactly as it happened. I doubt it would happen like that nowadays though. They seem to have tightened up a few rules.

Richard, I like the idea of fleshing out the mayhem inside Miss Taylor's classroom. I think some hair-pulling and fists banging on a window should do the trick! And I'll change my hook like you suggested.

Chapter 10 very soon.



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