It’s not in the slightest bit unusual these days for myself and other police officers to get called to incidents on school property. At night and in the school holidays, they are a massive target for the more light-fingered members of our community; those who completely fail to grasp the concept of ‘get your thieving bloody hands off you low life moronic waste of a good skin’.
During the school term though, we seem to be attending more and more incidents in the classroom. Assaults are of course the biggy; it used to be the case that schools would deal ‘internally’ with minor skirmishes and breaches of discipline – there are many good reasons for this, not least that at the end of the day, kids will be kids; they will never always see eye to eye, and the odd playground punch-up will happen. It happened when yours truly was as school, and it will happen in the Chaos kids schools – the trick here is to differentiate between playground foolery and anything more sinister.
Things have changed over the last few years though; every day we get calls saying “My lad Beckham’s been attacked, the school have done ‘nuffin’, I want him ‘dun’” when in reality the charming ‘Beckham’ has been terrorising the playground, bullying other kids for weeks and one of them has had enough, clouted him back and like any other little bully, Beckham’s gone running home to mummy.
We get a surprising number of parents fighting at the school gates as well; taking out their over the garden fence disputes in the street, all for the enjoyment of 500 young and impressionable kids who we spend much time educating on how to be model citizens. These generally revolve around something said to Tracey by Carly’s new fella Wayne who used to be Tracey’s fella but got kicked out when Tracey found he was sleeping with Sophie who is Carly’s sister who herself then got dumped by Wayne cos Sophie was sleeping with both Wayne’s brothers Nigel and David, and his best mate Richard …. and Richard’s sister Rachel … probably all at the same time !!! So Wayne is now sleeping with Sophie’s sister Carly, who lives next door to Tracey. Confused ???? I was but I will write that job up on here soon ….
The cynic in me says that all this didn’t happen a few years ago, mainly because the parents were out doing that now remotely ancient activity called ……. wait for it ….. working …… rather than being slouched around in front of the TV all day, wearing a size 24 tracksuit (what’s the point of keep fit clothes that big anyway ???) and keeping the blood alcohol count at a steady level of ‘super high’ by constantly consuming the contents of every Frosty Jacks bottle within a three mile radius, but what do I know ???
Anyway …. the thing I love most about my job is that every day is different; you never know what your next job will be and that makes it all the more interesting. This call, however, certainly was one of those ‘first for everything’ ones.
“Chaos from Control” came the call, “Can you start making Bigtown Enterprise College, reports of persons on the premises, barricading themselves in one or more of the classrooms, got this one on as a Grade One emergency, staff confirm the children are still in the building”. Right. Firstly, it’s not a college really, that’s the fancy new buzzword name for a comprehensive school (or secondary modern if you’re really old), and secondly, I should hope the kids are in the classrooms; it’s half past nine on a Wednesday morning in term time – where else should they be ?? All that cleared up, what on earth is going on ? what are people doing entering a school and barricading themselves in ??
A Grade One is our highest priority call – one of those that requires a blue light response; the sort of job where life or property is in danger and we need to get there ….. quick … quicker than that …..
It’s also the sort of job where a Grade One call on school premises when the school is open and full of kids is not only going to set our local Inspector’s bottom twitching, but also those attached to the senior officers many miles away, in their comfy leather arm chairs and coffee tables looking out over rolling fields at headquarters. I can see right now their fourth meeting about what meeting they need to organise that week being interrupted with the news and a number of people who, lets face it, have not set foot on the mean streets of anywhere for a very long time, looking at each other and wondering what they are supposed to do next. Organise a meeting to plan a meeting to discuss it I guess.
I have to admit, visions of some horrific North American school shooting disaster crossed my mind en-route but within a couple of minutes I was at the school and everything appeared very calm. Big Pete arrived seconds after me and we both entered the main building, tentatively. We were met by the Head Teacher who quickly explained a group of parents had been protesting outside the school since 8.00am but as soon as the gates opened to let the pupils in the parents had rushed past , taken up residence in two of the classrooms and were refusing to leave.
“All in order at the moment” I called up on my radio and gave a very brief resume of what we knew so far “no need for anyone else” I said. “Chaos from Inspector Babble” I heard come straight back at me “the Superintendent at HQ is taking control of this incident, I’m on my down to the scene, Wait for me before engaging the suspects”. Pete and I looked at each other. Without saying a word, we both knew this was soon to be going rapidly downhill.
It was an awful shame that our personal radio’s appeared to be in a reception blackspot at that moment, so we wandered along the corridors to find the protest and try and calmly sort the matter out before the cavalry arrived. When we did locate them, which wasn’t difficult, they weren’t the bunch of baying, screaming banshees we were expecting; they were a bunch of quiet pleasant thirty-somethings who were sat at the class desks, reading the paper or fiddling on their iPhones.
It very quickly became apparent that there reason for being there was that the local Education Authority had very recently sent out letters informing the parents that they’d changed the goalposts, and as of the new school year, none of their kids would be able to attend this school; the one a few hundred yards from most of their homes; as the kids would be outside of the new catchment area. Instead they would all have to go to St Peters in the Fields Comprehensive across town – about three miles across town to be precise – but as luck (for the council) would have it, a few hundred yards within the boundary of when the council would have to provide free buses to get the kids there and back.
Ohh, and as a final kick in the parents teeth, it would matter not if they already had a child at the school; the Council were not applying a ‘siblings are ok’ policy, meaning that some parents would have to get kids to and from two schools, three miles apart, at the same time – I’m sure that’s a clever trick if you can make it work.
I must confess on hearing this to have had more than a little sympathy for the parents cause. It seemed they’d been trying to contest this ridiculous decision for several months, and the Council had turned down repeated requests for a public meeting or any sort of review of the situation. It was clear the parents had tried diplomacy many times over and it had failed, leaving them, they thought, with no option rather than direct action.
About this time, the Inspector arrived to ‘take charge’ of the situation. I don’t think he was best pleased to find me and Big Pete sat in the classroom with the offending nasty subversives, drinking tea from one of their flasks. We appraised him if the situation, to which his many years of management prowess and training, numerous diplomacy and negotiators courses led him to the comment “Well you lot can’t stay here, time to move out or you’ll all be arrested for disorderly conduct on school premises”. Nice one boss !
At this point I may have accidentally mentioned to one of the parent protestors that the Inspector “is right at the end of the day, but if I was sat here now, I might have just called the local newspaper – I reckon they’d be well interested in a couple of pictures of concerned parents being led from the school by police officers – might embarrass the council into doing something”.
Pete and I then proceeded to very slowly take down the details of everyone there, noting their concerns and reasons and you know what, I’m sure I saw the parent I mumbled to shortly before on her mobile phone and smiling at me, mouthing the words ‘thank you’. It seemed to take Pete and I quite a while to get everyone’s particulars; all the while the Inspector updating the Superintendent amidst telling us to ‘hurry up’.
Do you know, a funny thing happened as we all walked out of the school. There was a reporter and a photographer there from the local rag ….. and that night we found ourselves on the front page of the Bigtown Gossip or whatever it’s called. The headline read ‘Police evict parent protestors trying to save school’.
The following day, our Inspector was still reeling as his face was right smack bang in the middle of the paper’s front page piccy ….. and as is the way in the police force, many, many childish officers had taken the opportunity to stick photocopies of the article on every available wallspace around the nick. Big Pete and I took the majority of his wrath for a) not getting it sorted before he got there and b) not warning him about the waiting photographer. How were we supposed to know – we were inside with him all the time
Did Pete and I deal with this incident the right way ? I think actually, we did. Sometimes you have to do things differently when it’s for the greater good.