Whatever our ideologies, whether we accept we have them or not (and we do), and whatever our reasons for both training and continuing to teach, and whatever our particular interests in our particular schools, we all like success, in whatever form that might take. We’ll all have claimed at one time or another that young Gavin Longpepper got his C because of that conversation, those hours spent at lunchtime in Q3 and the endless phonecalls home to the testy Mr Longpepper. Though we all know that the failure of Lucy and David Pumpkin to achieve their (nailed-on) A* was really a result of too much maths revision, and that Mischa Pavlova arrived too late to really get to grips with English before attempting her geography exam, well, they’re not our fault, are they? But Gavin! We’ll take that one.


Go on, notch him up. Take a photo of ‘Pepps with his exam certificate, beaming away, hiding his clutch of Es under his shoes. Get it up on the big screen and show Y11 in September, and then again every week, along with that little boy President’s pep talks. Call them Pepp Talks, and invite him in. See how hard your teachers are working for you? Gavin didn’t stand a chance – he was an idiot! And yet. What are you up to now Gavin? College? BTEC Sport Level 1? Fantastic. Look, Gavin’s at college, and you remember when he slapped Miss Cardigan, don’t you. Level 1 (that’s at the top, right?)! What’s next, football manager? Sprinter? Prime Minister? You could be anything you want to with an attitude like that, Gavin. Astronaut. Yeah.

Oh, what’s that? Mischa Pavlova and the Pumpkins? Well, they’ll be OK. David and Lucy will get Bs without too much effort. I mean, they try anyway. And Mischa’s language is coming on. Slowly, but it’s coming. Someone should get her reading more. Don’t know why I haven’t suggested it myself, to be honest. She’ll be fine. She’s alright. Hard worker. Often are, though, these Europeans. Different attitude. Not my thing, anyway, to teach reading and language. I’m not an English teacher am I!

But come on – Gavin! Gavin Longpepper! Sing it to the stars! Bish, bash, bosh and he got his C. Let’s talk about Gav, bay-by! He’s alright. We’re alright. I’m alright. The hours I put in with that boy. Well, I couldn’t do that with everyone – I’d be bloody dead, wouldn’t I? Dead as! Honestly, I don’t know how some schools do it, what with all the focus on Pupil Premium and children at risk and British Values and the boys’ gap. I guess you pick your battles, and I picked Gavin. And he was a battle.

It’s funny really, because each year I pick one child – out of all the 50-odd Y11s I teach! I know, it’s hard, but it has to be done (I couldn’t live with myself otherwise) – and really have a good go. The others’ll be alright, they normally are. The thing is, I really try to find someone I relate to, someone whose level I can speak to, you know what I mean? Someone who just needs a good kick up the backside. And I think, really if there were more teachers like me – and I know I worked in SEND for a bit, so perhaps I have an empathetic advantage here – the school wouldn’t be in the mess it is.

These kids need saving, really. From themselves, often, and though I wouldn’t call myself a hero the STARZ group have just nominated me for Teacher of the Year (with a little help from Mrs Blodger, I think!) so that’s nice. It’s nice to be rewarded. I’ve been here 25 years now and it doesn’t get any easier, but it is nice to have some recognition, you know? And the head, well, he’s all about everyone doing well, and that’s lovely, but it’s not really for me. I mean, I need a focus. I couldn’t get out of bed if I didn’t have a focus!

Gavin Longpepper. His photo’s on the wall. David, Lucy: if you work a bit harder, like Gavin did – you remember Gavin, yeah? Always had chewing gum in his eyelashes – you’ll end up doing OK too.

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