It’s a non-fiction, funny as heckfire, account of his time as a school inspector in the Yorkshire dales. The book is called The Other Side of the Dale and the blurb on the cover is spot on:
The James Herriot of schools…Gervase Phinn writes warmly and with great wit.
I loved the meeting he had with the Headteacher at a remote primary school.
Gervase is new to the job and goes to Backwatersthwaite School. He meets the Headteacher (Mr Lapping) and asks if he might see the School Development Plan.
Mr Lapping says, “My what?” and then reveals that he hasn’t got one after Mr Phinn explains what it is. More than that Mr Lapping provides a wonderful reply:
You know, Mr Phinn, I’ve been a teacher in this school for near on forty years. I came here as a boy, taught all the children’s parents and went to school with most of their grandparents. This school is a part of me. I live and breathe it. Look around. Outside is one of the most magnificent views in the world. Inside is a richness and a range and quality of work which speaks for itself. Every child in this school can read and write well, every child knows his or her tables, can paint and dance and sing and they all get on as you’ll see on your next visit. I would never leave this place. When I visit the town I see all the people rushing about, with appointments to keep, no time to stop for a moment, to see the hills rising around them or the colours in the sky. You town dwellers have a lot to learn about us country folk. It’s a different way of life. It took fifty years for the Reformation to reach us up here in the Dale, Mr Phinn. I’ll do my best of course, but I reckon it’ll be a while before you get your School Development Plan.