Updated: May 15
Gerry Grayling, the local drug enforcer, was in the playground. A crowd of our pupils had gathered. The Head of PE had called me out of lunch to deal with them. It was time for the staff to test their new skills in defusing trouble. The previous Head had permanently excluded him in Year 9 for selling dope.
Gerry had been to the front gate on a previous occasion, when the Head of History had been on duty. Gerry had ‘biked’ him, driving his scooter directly at him. The Head of PE told me she would deal with the crowd, exactly as the Guided Discipline DVD had suggested. The two of us walked slowly but directly towards Gerry. I kept repeating my instruction for Gerry to leave the playground. He ignored me until I was quite close. When I warned him that I would phone the police, Gerry turned his head and spat at me.
He then swore and started to ride off on his motorbike. Several teachers had by now emerged from the lunch hall. John Sugar joined Barbara in directing the crowd of pupils to disperse. As Gerry circled round, I held up my cell phone. Holding my mobile in my hand, I said in a loud voice, “I have already keyed in 999. If you do not leave the premises, I will contact the police. A squad car will be here within four minutes.”
As Gerry rode at me, I turned my gaze elsewhere and spoke into my phone. Sensing how implacable I was, Gerry turned off at the last moment and accelerated out of the playground. After Barbara, John and the rest of the staff told the children who had gathered that we had called the police, they scattered. A couple of Year 8s wanted to express their appreciation of what I had done, though.
One of them told me, “You did not need to do that.”
“He could have stabbed you!” said the other.
I ignored them. I was straining to hear the police siren. As part of its responsibility for supporting “Turbulent Schools”, the Home Office had promised the local constabulary would provide an immediate response to serious incidents at Eydon Vale. In the event, the squad car was detained at a fatal traffic accident. It took three-quarters of an hour for the police to arrive. However, I made a complaint about this delay and the next time the emergency services were called out, they took just four minutes to appear.
The knowledge that I would lead from the front and that there would be a rapid police reaction gave duty staff greater confidence with intruders. Having consulted the Chair of Trustees, I confirmed that I would be prepared to go to court to testify against Gerry. The school's public stand against someone with as high a profile had a ripple effect through the community. Ex-pupils had been wandering onto the school grounds during and after school hours, intimidating staff and pupils, selling drugs, stealing and engaging in vandalism. With police assistance, an apparently interminable problem now tailed off.
Gerry Grayling pleaded guilty just before his case came to court and he was given a short Youth Custody sentence. The bill for glazing broken windows had been £19,000 the term before I arrived at Eydon Vale. That summer term, it fell below £2000.