The Data Never Lies

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The morning briefings seemed to be getting longer and longer, the Nescafé was colder than usual when it crept to a halt, Mr Bolt was not the only one running out of steam. There were three other old lags who had been there ‘in the old days’, their steamier days were also long since past. Looking around the staff room Bernie Bolt realised that not only was he one of the oldest in the room but that all the newbies, enthusiastic, grinning inanely, had all been given positions of responsibility, all of which meant they had something to say in every briefing. Briefing was no longer brief.

Longing for a return to the days when the coffee was proper and at a good temperature Bernie got through the briefing by wondering what he will get up to after his redundancy, though no-one had yet mentioned it to him, it was his only hope. Retirement was now so late in the day that the last two retirees from the school had managed to die first, this was not an option that appealed to Bernie, though he was sure the lump sum would please his wife.

What had turned into the longest briefing ever involved these twenty somethings reporting back about how the data had revealed that some such pupil had fallen behind in some GCSE or other and how staff had to ensure that the pupil attended, what was rather poetically called, the Internment Room and that the unfortunate child had to bring their teacher with them. The teacher, it seems, was answerable for the performance of the child and was expected to say why they had taught the child badly in whatever piece of second rate knowledge the pupil had failed to grasp. The child was never lazy or thick or a complete pain in the arse, only the teacher could answer to these epithets. It seemed that every child mentioned was either in Mr Bolt’s class or in his form. No matter, as form tutor he was also expected to turn up to internment.

So as not to be unfair to the teacher each member of staff was expected to fill in an (interminable) internment report for each pupil, explaining what measures had already been put in place to ensure that said pupil was surpassing their target and if the pupil wasn’t what measures had the teacher ‘actioned’ to put the child back on to the hallowed path of righteousness. When ‘Bolty’, as the kids, rather unimaginatively, called him, had written ‘clip round the ear’, somewhat facetiously, he was put on gardening leave for six weeks whilst the Academy Chain carried out investigations. He was allowed back, somewhat under duress on both sides, and warned that having a sense of humour might count against his hopes for promotion. As he hoped he wouldn’t be promoted this made him laugh, and the meeting was curtailed with the HR manager asking him to consider his flippant attitude.

Now, here he was having to write internment reports on thirty-five children; each report had to be a detailed and descriptive document on a page of A4 and he was expected to hand these in by midday. Bugger this, he thought, as he cut and pasted his way from previous internment reports and then matched the child according to their gender to each report.

Then he filled out an extra internment report for Terry Tagliatelle a rather dim child of Italian extraction who seemed to have a somewhat anarchic attitude towards authority and saw no point in GCSEs. Bernie wrote that Tagliatelle laughed in the face of our qualifications saying they had no relevance to his future in a job that had yet to be invented. When he had challenged Tagliatelle, he got threatened: “Bolty, you will get the head of a horse on your pathetic Teacher’s Desk…” He went on to report that this worried him so much that he was too scared to have mentioned it before now and something makes him wish he hadn’t, he was now so scared he would like to go home to recover – in fact he had need of a safe space.

Before he handed in his interminable internment reports, Bernie logged on to the online staff reporting and tracking system and added Tagliatelle to various classes, mainly the classes of the grinning fools from briefing. Tagliatelle, it seemed, was doing extremely badly in everyone’s class.

The next day he felt well enough to go back to school. When he arrived Bernie was pleased to note that the morning briefing was in uproar and the grinning ones were no longer smiling. None of them could remember Terry, the naughty child of Italian extraction, they were scared because his uncle had rung up the school that morning demanding to know why his nephew was in internment and saying he wanted to meet each teacher alone and turn them into bolognese. A wry smile crept across Bernie’s face, he could have some real fun with Terry, a child who only existed on the online tracking system was going to be the most troublesome child the school had ever come across.

4 thoughts on “The Data Never Lies

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