Lesson 70 on Finding ways
Outings and trips at Owen’s school had to be carefully spaced out because there wasn’t much money around. Over 90% of pupils were on free school meals. Because everybody was hard up, it had been found impossible to single out individuals for special assistance. Instead the total cost was subsidised from a governors’ kitty raised through donations, sponsorship and fund raising. But everybody still needed to make a set contribution to cover the full cost.
So the rule was that you had to pay to go. Bearing this in mind, all trips were planned to keep expense to a minimum and plenty of notice was given, so that people could pay by small weekly instalments. The system worked well.
The major day excursion every year was to a countryside adventure and education centre. The whole school went. It was a keenly anticipated event. Preparations and planning began early on. The first challenge was to ensure enough waterproof footwear for all the infants. Collection of borrowed and outgrown wellingtons began well in advance.
I overheard Mrs Classteacher instructing her class.
“You will all have to wear waterproof boots or shoes. It will be really wet and muddy in places.”
The class looked unmoved by this information. She gave up and started again.
“Now listen! You’ll all need your wellies, because it’ll be dead clarty!”
That got the message across.
As the day approached, however, a problem became evident. Arthur, who organised things for his two younger siblings, had found raising the money for all three of them beyond his powers. Somehow he had managed to scrape together enough money from home to keep the instalments for April and Aidan up to date, but he couldn’t manage to pay his own.
Arthur was not popular with his peers. He had little in common with them. His family moved in and out of the area, depending on the state of their finances and convictions, so he had never had the chance to become a part of any friendship network. He preferred to be with grown ups. To breach the “no pay” rule, just for him, would have made him even more of an outcast, as the truth of the matter would inevitably have come out one way or another.
The day came when the whole school except Arthur had their instalments paid in full. A face-saving solution was urgently needed to enable Arthur to go.
I can’t remember exactly who came up with the answer, but it arose from the fact that Arthur was the person who brought April to school each morning.
Arthur could be recruited as a teachers’ helper, just like other volunteers from amongst the Mams and Nans who delivered their infant charges to school every day!
Problem solved! Not only would Arthur get to come, but he would also be able to enjoy the day in his helper role.
As for his fare and admission, the head paid that herself.