Dennis Richards: School actions provide food for thought

It would be a brave person to take food off rugby league legend Jamie Peacock.
It would be a brave person to take food off rugby league legend Jamie Peacock.

Former St Aidan’s CE High School headteacher Dennis Richards OBE writes for the Harrogate Advertiser every month.

After the news earlier this year, that one primary school was encouraging its pupils to wear slippers in class, more education ideas this week. Two of them have the worthy goal of tackling obesity.

Dennis Richards.

Dennis Richards.

Kewstoke Primary School in Somerset has been purchasing “standing desks”.

Apparently standing for three hours a day, five days a week could burn 30,000 calories a week.

In which case the children may need armchairs on the playground for a rest.

Seems a bit back to front to me. But this idea was easily trumped by one of those stories, which are gift from heaven for the media.

Shirley Manor Primary Academy in Wyke, near Bradford, hit the headlines when the head teacher started inspecting the pupils’ lunch boxes. You’ve guessed it.

Tommy’s sausage was confiscated, as was Tracey’s pork pie. The crisps, chocolate and pop didn’t survive either.

There’s a bit of a theme here.

How to keep your school out of the headlines? Obviously beware of the letter “S”. Slippers, standing chairs and sausages.

I wish I’d have thought of that when, for the first and only time in my career I really hit the national headlines….by banning skirts. But thankfully, I left the sausages well alone.

On the national Radio 4 Today programme this week, our very own Jamie Peacock, recently retired Bradford and Leeds rugby league legend, was interviewed about challenging ex Manchester United star Rio Ferdinand to a charity boxing match.

Fair enough. It’s a great idea.

Both have suffered family bereavements, which have caused them huge personal trauma. Ferdinand had already announced his decision to have a go at boxing.

However, and I kid you not, as an afterthought, having just covered the Shirley Manor story, the Today presenter asked Jamie how he would have felt, if a teacher had confiscated his sausage.

To be fair, he answered brilliantly, putting the responsibility back where it belongs. With the parents.

Now you should probably know that Jamie Peacock was a rugby player with a fearsome reputation.

Very fair, but hard as nails. And big. Very big. He must have already been a big lad at school. Probably from day one.

I cannot imagine any teacher in their right mind confiscating Jamie’s sausage.

There must be better, and safer ways to tackle obesity.

Our third input came from grammarian Oliver Kamm. Kamm’s thesis is broadly that rules adapt to usage.

Some rules have remained pretty much in place for as long as English has been spoken. Others have withered on the vine.

What was pretty much clear was that our students have a wonderful asset in being fluent speakers of English.

In the greater scheme of things, there are some mistakes that they would never make.

Listening to M Barnier’s flawless English, we could be forgiven that all Europeans have mastered our language. Not so.

As the wording on a poster I saw earlier in the summer in a French village post office shows.....

02 July: Retro night party. Valse with Dan’s Music Orchestra. Playing since 20 years for your best pleasure.

09 July: Ombeline will come with her Barbarie organ’s. Singing us old French song, Java and the other.

23 July: The Belettes. Two nice young moving girl singing, playing violon and accordeon for you and with you.

29 July: Night jazz party. Jacques Doudelle, a well know saxophoniste, will come to give us his passion for Sydney Bechet.

Every night, the Cafe de la Poste will be pleased to receive you around his grill, who we hope, will enjoyed your test with his creatif spirit and exotism.