Last week, before the snow, I received a distinctly snotty letter from one of my youngest son's school mistresses, rebuking me for my failure to attend a parents' evening at his comprehensive.Ah, yes – parents and children are there for the benefit (and employment) of the teachers, and not the other way around.
But it was the last sentence that really irritated me: 'If you have not already notified the school in writing of the reason why you were unable to attend, please return the reply slip below so that it can be recorded in the student file.'And if you don’t? Detention, young man!
I can understand how teachers get into the habit of addressing everyone like children. But at the age of 55, I rather resent being treated like a delinquent teenager for my failure to attend a meeting arranged for the school's convenience, not mine.Whatever gave you the mad idea that the school was their for the convenience of the customers, Tom…?
Fizzing with indignation, therefore, I seized the reply slip - headed in bold type 'Non Attendance at Year 11 Parents Meeting' and beginning 'I/we were not able to attend the Year 11 Parents Meeting because. . .'.Bravo! But he then thought better of it, and sadly never sent the letter.
I wrote: 'In these desperate times for job security in the private sector, I simply cannot afford to take time off in the middle of my working day to accommodate your desire to get home early and your unwillingness to hold parents' evenings at the weekend. I am disappointed that you seem unable to appreciate what is happening in the world beyond the school gates.'
I reckoned that if she could be snotty, then so could I.
Then came The Great Snow Of 2009:
But that was last week, before Sunday night's snowfall. On Monday morning, when my son arrived at school, he found it closed for the day - and it was shut on Tuesday, too. (His elder brother's school, further out of town, was also shut on Wednesday.)Elfin Safety, Tom. Of course. What else could it be?
For heaven's sake, why? Almost all the pupils at my youngest's school live within walking distance of its gates - and I suspect most of the teachers do, too.
It's the same in the police force, where absenteeism is endemic, and in almost every other area of the public sector. I notice, for example, that my newsagent managed to deliver my papers yesterday, whereas the postman hasn't called all week. They have the same hill and the same ice to contend with. The difference is that one works in the private sector, while the other works in the public, where there's much less need to bother.Snap! We’ve had no post all week too, yet every single morning, I’ve been able to get a newspaper.
Only this week, we learned that a quarter of our council taxes now go to financing gold-plated, final-salary town hall pensions which are now all but unavailable in the private sector.Me too, Tom. Me too…
Meanwhile, state-sector workers are paid on average £62 a week more than their private-sector counterparts.
As the recession bites harder, I see trouble ahead - particularly since the public sector goes on expanding, while jobs in private industry are disappearing at a terrifying rate.