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‘Sir’ is a state school English teacher in a big city in the UK. Prior to this he worked with children with a variety of Special Educational Needs, particularly those with behavioural and social problems. His teaching has been rated as ´Outstanding´ by Ofsted which means he once did a great job for 50 minutes. Save for a light dusting of fiction in order to protect the innocent (and indeed the guilty) anything recounted here is absolutely true. Otherwise, there will be some exciting political debate where everything Sir thinks is also absolutely true. Twitter: @seekingsir

18 August 2010


Whilst undertaking my PGCE, I was doing a few bits of part-time work for Social Services and for a ‘PRU’. A PRU, for anyone mistakenly thinking that I was part teacher, part insurance salesman, is a Pupil Referral Unit.

That is, it is a specialist school for pupils whose behavioural and social difficulties (often compounded by academic difficulties) are such that their needs cannot be met in mainstream schooling. Indeed, many children attending PRUs have been‘permexed'. Which is something else I should explain… honestly, teachers are as bad as surfers and techies when it comes to esoteric jargon.

Disappointingly to those of use with active imaginations, a child who has been ‘permexed’ has not been forcibly made to wear hair curlers whilst being marked with an ‘X’ to signify imminent assassination at the hands of a secretive teacher-funded militia. It does mean, however, that they have been permanently excluded from mainstream schools, often two or more.

As you can imagine then, there are some fairly challenging children attending PRUs.

Although PRUs do not have to follow the normal curriculum, they do need to provide certain elements of it, including provision for English. And so it was that I found myself teaching a 12-year-old lad by the name of Jack about the brotherly rivalry between Prospero and Antonio in Shakespeare’s The Tempest.

Seeking, as always, to enable him to make connections between the story and his own life experiences, I ask Jack if he has a brother. He does, a few years older than himself. I ask if he ever argues with him. Of course he does. We talk about why and discuss sibling rivalry. Linking back to the play - specifically to Antonio’s usurping of Prospero’s dukedom - I ask him what he thinks he would do if he was a duke and his brother had managed to take his power.

He stands and puts his hands on his hips and wrinkles his brow. He is giving all the signs that he is about to offer forth a reasoned, considered response. I am optimistic that he might even show some real 'character empathy'.

I am reminded just why he has found himself in a PRU however, when he finally responds by throwing his arms outwards in a pose of triumph, fixing me with a determined stare and shouting:


Which is, at very best, a somewhat unconventional strategy for a deposed monarch to reinstate his power over his dastardly sibling. But it becomes downright impractical if, like Jack, who is grinning excitedly at me, you are missing your two front teeth. When I point out this evident flaw in his plan he is unperturbed:

‘I could still get through ‘em though, just take a bit longer’ he says, with a shrug of his shoulders.

Just as the somewhat unlikely (and certainly unwholesome) image of Jack determinedly attempting to gum his way through his Machiavellian brother's nipples was forming in my mind, he ran from the room and, for various reasons, I did not see him again until a week or two later.

I never asked what had happened to his teeth.

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