Is there a Nigel in your classroom?

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Ms Mumps is yet again trawling the Bleedin’ Obvious at a lectern – today’s topic is “intelligence without ambition is a bird without wings”. A bird ascends on a PowerPoint screen. It aspires. Nigel gets it – but, right now, feels rather bereft of wings.

It is 7am. He is 12. He is Nigel.

“Get up! I’m not telling you again!” she tells him again.

He is still without motion. Has he passed on? His mother could care less and exits in much dudgeon for harsh toil for little money.

“Wallop!” thunders the door. 

Nigel rises in instalments. He cleans teeth, flannels face and assembles the school uniform. The trousers collect in many folds around his shoes. He polishes them on the back of these folds. He has a Lemsip for breakfast, forgets to feed the cat, staggers sneezing down a stairwell and waits with hooligans for the 52 in the cold, sick dawn. 

The bus finally occurs and he sits upstairs by the dripping, steamy windows. Then the 10th girls start squawking and pushing and the driver throws them all off. This makes Nigel late for school. 

He is booked by Ms Horrid, who puts it “on his file”, telling him that this could well make him fail in later life. Yeah. Yeah. This makes him late for an Assembly, where Ms Mumps is yet again trawling the Bleedin’ Obvious at a lectern – today’s topic is “intelligence without ambition is a bird without wings”. A bird ascends on a PowerPoint screen. It aspires. Nigel gets it – but, right now, feels rather bereft of wings.

The school day has five lessons. A blur. They might have gone thus... 

Science with Mr Bunsen – photosynthesis and carbohydrates and copious note-taking.

Art with the divine Ms Titian, the highlight of day – a brilliant painting in purple and black. “Well done Nigel!”

Drama with Ms Marlowe – hot-seating and freeze-framing, big heads showing off and the usual clots climbing up the curtains. 

Then lunch. Nigel, on free meals, joins the stampede for the canteen and buries many chips in puddles of ketchup. Lovely. 

Then it’s English with Mr Wigwam – a lot of bad jokes, group work and creative writing. Wigwam is a bit woolly and waffly these days and should, perhaps, be put out to grass. 

Finally, Food Technology with Ms Donut – sponge cakes and jam. Beyond dull. Nigel watches a grim Kosovan caretaker hoover up burnished leaves. He then cancels chess club, because of the late detention with Ms Horrid and walks back home in the urban murk.

There are many Nigels. He is intelligent. It’s the curriculum that’s dull. It is difficult to see a role for him in Mr Cameron’s thrilling, aspirational global marketplace. Higher learning? With that file, his mother’s minimum wage – and his general absence of wings?

 


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