It is the beginning of morning break. Five girls are gathered around the entrance to one of our exceedingly squalid, baking-in-the-summer, freezing-in-the-winter, third world demountable buildings erected to relieve the pressure on a 1950s-constructed, asbestos-wrought edifice that's creaking at the seams and destined for the knacker's yard.
Three of the girls are clearly distressed, sobbing uncontrollably whilst the other two attempt to comfort them. 'Are you okay?' I enquire, a little concerned, I have to admit.
'Yes, sir,' Molly replies. 'We've just had a really emotional PSHE lesson with Mr Standing.' I'm sure I've mentioned Mr Standing before but, if I haven't, or you haven't read any of my previous blogs, he's one of our many Assistant Head teachers. He's also the author of the school's woeful behaviour policy, an unabashed excuse-maker for the myriad misdeeds of our worst pupils, pseudo-psychologist and teacher of 'non-subjects' like PSHE, where marking and evidence of progression are conveniently unnecessary.
His latest vanity project - after reading and, I suspect, misinterpreting a chapter on educational psychology - is the 'very' public exploration of pupil backgrounds in an effort to understand their emotions and improve their behavioural responses to stressful situations - in other words, to try to dissuade them from telling their teachers to fuck off. During these teacher-led discussions - ironically a teaching style he's the first to criticize during observations, but that's another story -, he singles out pupils, insists they stand up and publicly probes them about their often troubled, highly traumatic personal histories and experiences. If reluctant to comply, he, like a dog with a bone, relentlessly persists until they succumb and spill the proverbial beans for all to hear and gossip about throughout the remainder of the school day.
The result is, of course, as any halfwit with a modicum of common sense could predict, a post-lesson outpouring of grief and distress, accompanied by whispers and, on occasion, sniggers. More to the point, though, is the fact that many don't want to take part. They don't want to be interminably reminded of the troubles they face at home. School, they thought, was the one place in which they could forget, for just a few hours each day. That was until Robert Standing read a book, attended a PSHE professional development session on how to raise behavioural standards and hoodwinked himself into believing that he's some kind of enlightened child psychotherapist.
He's indeed so desperate to find excuses for poor behaviour and, in a characteristic fit of self-delusion, so convinced of the project's efficacy, that he's rolled it out to include every year group, including Year 11 pupils, who've been removed from crucial lessons to pursue what can only be described as one man's conceit.
'Would you like to discuss it?' I ask, before realizing my irony. I don't know what to say. 'No, Sir,' Molly replies. 'I think we've discussed it enough.' Really?!