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LEGAL HURDLES AT MUCH KNOWING SCHOOL SPORTS DAY

We are pleased to publish the summer report from our special correspondent at Much Knowing Primary School, a specialist law academy.

The annual Sports day at Much Knowing School began, as it always did, with a welcome speech by the Head, recently returned to his post following a long convalescence after the trauma of last year’s nativity play. For the time being he was in radiant health.

He announced that for this year’s sports day certain restrictions would be placed on the parents’ teams in the annual parent/pupil competitions, such as only bowling underarm in the cricket match. He felt that this would be fairer to the pupil teams. When he sat down, Head Girl Beatrice gave the official thanks, but expressed her regret that he appeared to have breached the Equality Act’s age-related discrimination legislation, which outlaws treating someone less well than another person in a similar position because of their age. 

Beatrice pottered off amidst enthusiastic applause from fellow pupils, leaving the Head clutching the sides of his seat and explaining robustly to his Chair of the Board that there could be no possible basis to the claim. He was sure he had read somewhere that students are not protected from age discrimination at school. However, he suggested nervously that it might be worth the trustees spending a bob or two for a barrister’s clarification of the point. Inwardly he was thinking, ‘It is going to be one of those days.’ Indeed it was.

There was already a controversy in the Year 6 hurdle race, which Imogen had won easily, avoiding actually jumping the hurdles by simply running round them. She was immediately disqualified by Head of Girls P.E., Ms. Strapping, who then had to face the wrath of Imogen’s mother (a local solicitor), who pointed out that there had been no instruction to the competitors as to how they should approach the hurdles and therefore runners were free to run the race how they liked. It was clearly much safer to run round the hurdles than leap over them, she opined. The Head of P.E. protested that everyone knew how you had to run a ‘hurdle race’, and in any case her decision was final. Imogen senior marched off to the tea tent to seek out the Head, vowing that the school had not heard the last of this.

Further shenanigans were also taking place at the shot-put. Miss Hardy, a newly qualified History teacher and therefore full of enthusiasm and zest, but with little experience of sports days, was put in charge of the boys under 11 competition. In her enthusiasm to create a lively and memorable event she ordered Simeon, Zachariah and Jim of Rossini House to stand at the landing end in order to roll back the shots after they had been thrown from the putting circle by the boys of Offenbach House. Samson, the school champion, and a bit of a bully, was first to go. He saw his chance for a bit of fun, flexed his muscles and let fly – straight at his rival for Imogen’s affections, Simeon. Inevitably the shot circumscribed a perfect parabola and landed squarely on Simeon’s big toe.

The latter’s ear-splitting yelp caused Year 5 Emily to miss her footing in the High Jump and crash into the bar, damaging her left femur and denying her the chance to emulate her older sister’s feat of clearing 1 metre before her tenth birthday. She was distraught; mother was livid; father set off to join the queue seeking a word with the Head.

He was just behind Simeon’s dad, who being a criminal law barrister, knew nothing about civil law but was pretty sure a shot put on the big toe was ‘prima facie potential negligence.’ He informed the Head firmly that ‘it was nothing short of criminal to put an untrained, inexperienced teacher in charge of such a deadly pursuit.’ The Head countered by protesting that it was ‘a pure accident’. He remembered from the court case following last Christmas’s nativity play affair, that judges had time and time again followed the dictum of Lord Justice Scrutton as long ago as 1932 that ‘no schoolmaster in the world can prevent a naughty boy doing naughty things on some occasions’. Barrister dad was not appeased. The Head had to go and lie down.

Meanwhile the inter-house soccer final was hotting up. Wagner House was holding on to a narrow lead from Verdi House when Duane retaliated violently to a cynical trip by Erasmus Knott as he burst through the centre. Referee Mr. Given (Mikey) quickly stepped in and separated the boys by grabbing hold of their shoulders and thrusting them apart. When they continued to aim blows at each other he shook their shoulders and warned, ‘If I catch you doing that again I will ban you from future matches.’

‘Ha, ha,’ cried Erasmus, whose wiliness stretched further than mere tripping, ‘You have just punished us by shaking our shoulders, and corporal punishment was banished by the Education Act 1986. Wait till I tell my dad, Judge Knott’

When informed of this threat, the Head added an ice-pack to his aching forehead.

At least, thought the senior staff, nothing can go wrong with the annual inter-house cross country race. The start was in the hands of old hand, and former Territorial Army officer, Charles Burton-Latimer. Each year he used the same routine. There was no starting pistol so he clapped two pieces of wood together with a loud bang. It was all quite simple.

But this year rebellious Boadicea Warliker and her tribe of pals were bent on revenge for some unspecified hurt by ‘Clobber’ Burton-Latimer. Clobber stood in front of the mass of 150 runners and yelled, as he had always done, ‘You will only start when I clap my clappers like this.’ And he demonstrated by bringing the two bits of wood together in a sharp ‘crack’.

At this the whole 150 set off as one, led by Boadicea, bearing down on Clobber and quickly swarming all over him. He was left behind trampled and squirming in the grass, clapping his clappers furiously together and crying, ‘I haven’t clapped my clappers yet.’

Bright little Sharon from Year 6 wandered across to him, looked down at the forlorn Clobber and consoled him by pointing out that he could always invoke the anti-harassment law. She told him that harassment occurs when someone makes you feel humiliated, offended or degraded. ‘You look pretty degraded to me,’ she added, ‘I would sue the school as the employer if I were you.’ She then wandered off to watch the cricket.

The Head, who had been feeling very much better after a nice cup of tea, suffered a serious lapse when informed of the latest development. He retired to lie down again, ignoring the growing snake of angry parents outside his office, in which he had installed a panic room for just such an occurrence.

This left the Chair of Governors, Brigadier Arbuckle-Smyth to award all the medals and close the event before joining the queue himself. The only question remained whether he would reach the Head before the inevitable resignation letter was penned…