We need to talk about George

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We need to talk about George

Albion Cathedral School, 16 March 2016


Dear Parent,


We regret that George’s behaviour has been a cause for concern this term. This sixth former started out with great promise when he was appointed Cricket Club Treasurer. He assured us that he would reduce the overdraft by means of judicious economies, and that he would pay down the mortgage on the pavilion. Yet every time he reports to the Committee, his plans become less plausible. Last November he found £27 billion in a flower pot; now he has to borrow £56 billion more than expected. Frankly, the Governors suspect that he is using sharp accounting practices to massage his figures. We fear that he may have fallen into the company of some unwholesome accountants who attend Cricket Club dinners.

Further to the unfortunate outburst last year when he announced his intention to slash in-play benefits for full-time staff (accompanied by a huge increase in the Living Wage for catering staff, gardeners et al), which as you will recall was vetoed by the Dean and Chapter, he seems to be desperate to use his position as a springboard to his ultimate goal – to become Head Boy. (The current Head Boy, a perfectly agreeable young man but whose homework is generally late and poorly scribbled, seems quite distracted at present with other matters.)

We feel that young George seems to regard himself as some kind of conjurer whose task is to pull as many rabbits out of hats as possible for the amusement of the junior boys. Life-long tuck-shop accounts with free chocolate? I ask you.

Today, he has excelled himself with a quite shocking display of budgetary pyrotechnics in front of the Committee. He promises a future which, while uplifting – the new Northern Stadium, a new sub-committee for East Anglian bowlers, and so on – has actually very little to do with the glorious game of cricket. The proposed high speed travellator between the pavilion and the Northern Stadium is an expensive irrelevance, which will no doubt be challenged by the Health and Safety Committee. Meanwhile, the Caledonian Society, which has little interest in the noble game, becomes more unruly and unmannerly. Their “Chair” is a shrill female sixth-former who wants to found a new school.

And yet young George gives away Cricket Club membership fees to almost anyone who seems inclined to support him. Fiscal autonomy for the Caledonian Society, the Northern Stadium and other sub-committees will just encourage them to spend without any real focus on who actually pays the dues.

The levy on fizzy drinks sold in the tuck shop will be resented by some of the boarders, though Governor Oliver, who supervises school dinners, is most approving. (There have been complaints about Governor Oliver’s somewhat unappetising menus recently – but that is by the by.) The idea that such a levy might be used to fund extra-mural activities for the athletics club is quite at variance with the traditions of our School. In fact, so-called hypothecated taxes are normally associated with less developed schools where corruption is often rife. Just look at the Anatolian Academy.

We are most reluctant to accuse an Albionian of lying, but I must tell you that much of the Sixth Form and staff found his projections for the future financial health of the Cricket Club bordering on dis-information, as I believe it is called these days. Simply put, he has consistently refused any opportunity to cut excessive spending. He has guaranteed increases in pensions for retired ground staff while requiring young interns to work for free.

I am a mere classicist and theologian who is a complete tyro in the field of bookkeeping, but it seems to me that he has failed to address the real crux of the weakness in our School’s finances. This is the fact that, thanks to a profusion of scholarships awarded by overly generous previous Head Boys, we are paying more pupils to attend this School than there are pupils who pay to attend. That is why we have to be so very gracious towards the Chinese contingent (whom young George has sought to flatter so assiduously).

Even our most senior geography teacher (who really should have retired years ago), Mr Corbyn, scored a point in the Committee room when he said that young George had issued more press releases on the proposed Ebbsfleet Garden in front of the pavilion than flowers have been planted. For once, I find myself in agreement.

We are concerned that conduct of this kind, though not in direct contravention of School rules, could bring the reputation of our beloved School into disrepute, especially with foreigners, on whose interest-free loans we are quite dependent these days. In fact, without them, this hallowed School would have to close its doors altogether. It is well known across all factions in the staff room that, if lenders were to charge higher rates for these loans, School finances would be rendered untenable. The so-called inspectors have been prowling our corridors of late and we may be in real danger of a down-grade in the league tables.

As his Moral Tutor, it is young George’s moral fitness that worries me most. Although he used to be a valued member of the choir, we rarely see him in the Cathedral on Sundays; his Latin grammar is feeble and his Greek is worse; and his grasp of theology is even more pitiful than the Head Boy’s. If it were up to me, I would put him on a regime of cross-country runs, cold baths and a diet of Mr Oliver’s sugar-free, low-fat gruel. But, alas, the European Union of Schools, which he and the Head Boy advocate so energetically, would probably brand such wholesome discipline as child cruelty.

May I suggest that he be given a stiff talking to during the Easter holiday about the evils of the debt of sin and the sin of debt?


Very sincerely yours,


Canon Hill, Moral Tutor, Dominus Investorum House

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