‘The afternoon was seconds away from a full-scale riot’

A large proportion of the smart new academy schools that have sprung up in the past few years have adopted names designed to confer an image of thrusting entrepreneurialism and diligent scholarship. Hence academies named Invictus, Endeavour, Aspire, Ignite, Lighthouse and so forth.  An anonymous supply teacher writes in Tes.

It’s a fact little known to the public at large but discussed openly among battle-hardened supply teachers that the more the name of a school appears to suggest order and harmony the more of a zoo it will be.

And so it’s with some trepidation that I accepted a day’s general supply at the Halcyon Academy (not it’s real name but you get the idea) in North London.

It was a distinctly modern building, the classrooms built around an oval hub, creating a vast open space with galleried walkways on each level rising up six floors. At 8.45am with the students still in registration, the space was bathed in light and the promise of learning. The whole thing was doubtless designed with something like the Library of Alexandria in mind. It was clearly not designed by anyone who has ever spent much time in a school. Any architecture that creates unfettered access for throwing textbooks/Coke cans/Year 7 kids into an inviting void, at increasingly higher altitudes, would surely never have left the drawing board had there been a teacher on the design team.

What followed was the kind of day where, as a supply teacher, you feel as though you’ve really earned your money. It would be fair to say the day was probably unproductive for the majority of students, at least in the strictest of educational terms. On the plus side, I’m sure some of them had a lot of fun.

The second lesson involved a Year 10 class who had only the very loosest understanding of the conventional geographic boundaries of a classroom, wandering in and out of the lesson with a blithe indifference to my presence that frankly, I had to admire. Lest you think I did nothing to prevent this insurrectionist free-for-all, after the usual tricks had failed, stern vocal reprimands, assertive body language, pleas to reason and good sense, I decided I had no choice but to hit the emergency button. One click would send a member of the senior team rushing to my assistance. I clicked. I waited. Ten minutes later I grabbed another teacher passing in the corridor and told them I’d activated the on-call system, but no-one had arrived. “Yeah, that thing never works,” she replied, “I’ll see if there’s anyone in the office when I’m next down there if you like?” I never heard from her again.

Read more from the supply teachers day ‘The afternoon was seconds away from a full-scale riot’

Have you experienced days like this? Please tell us your thoughts in comments or via Twitter ~ Tamsin

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