'Boris, don't do that': poet Emma Purshouse updates Joyce Grenfell with new reception class rules

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As confusion lingers over government plans for some children to return to school very soon, performance poet Emma Purshouse has reacted by producing her own pastiche of Joyce Grenfell’s beloved monologues as a harassed nursery teacher.

Grenfell’s catchphrase was "George – don't do that". Emma, who is Wolverhampton’s poet laureate, said on Twitter: “I've been spending the last couple of weeks reading the government guidelines for schools. I've been doing it as I suddenly remembered the very funny Joyce Grenfell comedy sketches from back in the day that were set in nursery schools.”

She added: “I've been revisiting the guidelines regularly to check things for my comedy sketches. And the guidelines change! Often! How a teacher keeps up with those changes I don't know. Everything in the sketches I've written have at some point been in or are still in the guidelines.”

In ‘Reception Class and the New Normal’, Emma tries to keep under control a band of strangely familiar children, including Boris – “No, Boris, we aren’t going to play Mummies and Daddies”, Dominic – “stop whispering in Boris’s ear”, and Donald – “Who drank all the bleach? No, don’t all point at Donald.” In a second episode, ‘Reception Class and the Windy Day’, Boris is asked: “Did you just call Keir a donkey?” before being told: “Boris, don’t do that.” There is also a little girl called Katie Hopkins who is determined to mutilate the class guinea pig. 

embedded image from entry 102755 Emma normally has a strong Black Country accent, but does a good impersonation of the cut-glass, home counties vowels of Joyce Grenfell, pictured right.

She added: “When I posted the first sketch one teacher, who enjoyed it, picked me up on something and said they wouldn't use bleach in school and it was watered-down disinfectant they'd be using. I went back to the original guidelines I'd downloaded and [at that stage] it did say bleach. I haven't checked today if it still does.

“I'm just a poet and writer ... all I can do is write things and poke a bit of fun, which I hope might make people realise the difficult and thankless task that teachers have got on their hands at the moment.”

She added: “I would like to point out that I'm shooting myself in the foot by saying I don't think it's safe to go back ... as much of my freelance work came from schools and if they don't go back that's a chunk of my now non-existent earnings ever further up the swannee. I also a run home-educated kids group so needed to familiarise myself with the guidelines for that. I'm struggling to see how the guidelines are workable or safe.”




◄ 'The busy waitress pauses, nods. She’s always known the boys'

Grenade Genie: Thomas McColl, Fly on the Wall Press ►


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