WHEN it came to choosing a junior school for me, my father was insistent that what had been good enough for him would suffice for his seven-year-old son.
I was therefore sent to Barrowford County Primary, in the Lancashire village where he grew up, even though it was a two-mile bus ride from our home in Nelson and there were several nearer options.
From the outset I settled in comfortably. Several of my teachers were hugely encouraging, particularly in English lessons, telling me that one day I would be a writer. At the same time there was strict discipline, with badly behaved pupils well aware that infractions would lead to a leathering from the teacher or, in severe cases, an appointment with the headmaster Mr Aucock and his trusty slipper.
I wonder what he would think about the current state of his beloved school? From the exterior it would appear that little has changed in Rushton Street, Barrowford. Inside, however, is a horror story.
This is the domain of Rachel Tomlinson, whose online profile shows her with hair partially dyed shocking pink. She declares: ‘My job in school is headteacher – a role that is an honour and a privilege.
‘I love working at Barrowford School because the community is incredible and teaches me so much every day.
‘My family & friends would use the following three words to describe me: radical, individual and loving.’
To which I would add another adjective – bonkers.
Red Rachel first achieved prominence back in 2015 when she instructed her staff never to raise their voices at children and banned all forms of punishment.
Pupils must not be considered naughty, she decreed, and should be left to resolve their own disputes between themselves, using phrases such as ‘you have emptied my resilience bucket’.
Parents found their own buckets low on resilience and demanded Ms Tomlinson’s resignation, blaming her for the school’s ‘good’ Ofsted rating in 2012 sinking to ‘inadequate’ three years later.
One said: ‘You can’t experiment with children’s futures, fail spectacularly and then keep your job. She should go.’
Another, with two boys at the school, said: ‘I teach my both my sons right from wrong when they are at home and I feel my hard work is being undone by the school.
‘If a pupil misbehaves, they are sent to a chill-out room where they play on iPads and Xboxes. That is just encouraging them to be naughty.’
Ms Tomlinson saw no reason to quit and remains in charge to this day. And has she rowed back on her behaviour? Has she heck!
Some time ago she decided that school meals would no longer contain meat, ‘to help the planet’, although the news was not passed on to parents for several months.
One mother, Zoe Douglas, told the Sun that she had only just found out why her daughter returned home talking about the ‘disgusting’ new sausages.
‘Amelia ordered sausage and mash and when she bit into her sausage she said, “Eww”.
‘Teachers said, “Oh, it’s a vegetarian sausage” but they hadn’t told her before she ordered. She ended up just having mash for her dinner. I’m fuming. She’s been on packed lunches since.’
The message which announced the meat ban also ‘encouraged’ parents to make packed lunches vegetarian to highlight the ‘carbon footprint’ of the meat and dairy industries. This went down like a case of foot-and-mouth disease among the many farmers whose children attend the school.
Livestock buyer Alex Nutter said: ‘We have absolutely no hope of teaching the younger generation about our food production when primary schools are teaching them to be “meat free”.’
Ms Tomlinson told the Sun: ‘Our children learn about the principles of sustainable development as part of the national curriculum, and are really interested in how they can contribute to better looking after our environment.
‘We made our school lunches meat-free to demonstrate how each of us making a small change to our daily habits can have a much wider positive impact, and that reducing meat consumption is just one way to do this.’
She said the school’s approach has been ‘balanced’, teaching that ‘it is fine to eat meat’ but that ‘reducing our consumption can help our planet’.
According to the head, she received no complaints, but parents bitterly complained on social media, threatening to remove their youngsters.
Once again Ms Tomlinson weathered the storm, and one can only imagine what loopy idea she will come up with next. Taking the knee before PE? Pupils glueing themselves to the railings? Gay Pride marches up Pendle Hill?
I could understand if all this were happening in Hackney or Brixton, but how did this weird woke warrior come to power in sensible, traditional, conservative Lancashire?
And how would old Mr Aucock, whose first name I never knew, deal with his flamboyant successor? I doubt if he would send her off to play on an Xbox.
Where would television be without the A-word? ‘Absolutely’ crops up in virtually every sentence, particularly in the staged interviews between news programme hosts and political reporters.
I have given up trying to count the number of times Sky football pundit Gary Neville comes out with it during commentary, matched almost by Jamie Carragher’s use of ‘reely’ – ‘I reely think that was a foul, I reely do.’ May I suggest that £1,000 is deducted from their substantial fees for every mention of the A- or R-word? That might make them think twice before they shoot so boringly from the lip.
Old jokes’ home
Have you ever tried eating a clock? It’s time-consuming, especially if you go for seconds.
My friend has just been sacked from his job on the dodgems. He’s claiming funfair dismissal.
A PS from PG
‘Work, the what’s-its-name of the thingummy and the thing-um-a-bob of the what d’you-call-it.’
P G Wodehouse: Psmith, Journalist