We have over 400 year 12s and every one of them has agonised over their outfit so they’re a good-looking bunch. Why so many? Well, London results stayed high so lots of children met the entry requirements and we try to offer them places. Enrolment took all day and – first come, first served – caused some upset. We’ll think about another way of doing it but it's hard to see what’s fairest.
They can at least eat quickly. Year 7 do take their time with lunch: what with the choice, the explaining, the thumbprints and account top-ups. That’s OK today, but from tomorrow there’ll be 540 others in the same space for lunch desperate for food and familiar with the system. We’ll start year 7 early for a while so that they get fed while being gradually speeded up. One young chap in the queue today spotted a fire alarm point’s protective cover saying ‘LIFT HERE’. Being an orderly soul, he did and was promptly swooped upon in a neat pincher by two chaps offering advice. He may not do it again. A life lesson learned: not all instructions are for you.
As I write, footballs and skipping ropes are being offered in a non-gendered manner and a request for a couple of big chess sets made. How big? Bring-your-own-horse big? Everyone’s telling me that year 7 look older and bigger than usual but I hadn’t spotted it. I start from a pretty low level in any case. Height-wise. It’s not that I have low standards about how tall eleven-year olds should be.
Oh, all right then, the new PM. Well – she’s worked up through local democracy, she was on Greenwich council, she lives locally and she went to a comprehensive school in Leeds. All these are positive. She’s not a public schoolboy and that certainly is. She went to Oxford from Roundhay School and yet said that it had low expectations? Hmm. I once had a conversation with a Deputy Head Girl in another school. She’d got top grades and one of the university hot tickets, but gave the school satisfactory grades for how they’d supported her. Frankly, they’d bent over backwards but I wasn’t worried: young people are naturally solipsistic. You just hope that hindsight develops a clearer picture over the years. Perhaps the new PM can’t unsay things. Is that a good thing?
Today’s speech did, however, stick a couple of things in my itchy old ears. Boris Johnson, she said, was admired from Kyiv to Carlisle. Rapturous applause was slightly delayed, perhaps because it had to be relayed from Kyiv at a time when they’ve other things to think about. Then she asserted that the Conservative Party is the greatest political party on earth, which they applauded more sharply. Really? Were they breathlessly awaiting the 1922 committee verdict across the continents and oceans of the planet? And even if it were, pulling back on climate crisis measures should dent that claim a little? Or is there greatness yet to unleash, unseen in my lifetime so far? Excellent news if so.
Ms Truss is my 13th PM, but that’s not her fault. Democracy is rooted in optimism so we always hope for the best. That’s what I’ll tell the young when I’m let loose on assemblies next week: we do the best of things in the worst of times and hope in the face of adversity. That’ll be after I’ve told the staff to keep their fears about heating and food bills to themselves. Tallis will be warm enough, and the children fed every day. The safe boundary around school will be maintained and we will proceed calmly and reliably as the year goes by and the outside world buffets itself to bits.
Year 12 will be set loose upon the world in 2024, old enough to vote. The eleven-year olds in year 7 have only lived under one kind of government. The Financial Times predicts a change for the better coming soon. I hope they’re right.