A New Start
Amita followed the Deputy Head along the corridor. It didn’t seem too bad. It was neat and clean, brighter than her old school, even in the gloom of late January. Her father hadn’t looked pleased, but nothing pleased him these days.
A classroom door opened and a boy came out. He had a self-satisfied smirk onhis face. She could hear a raised voice from inside the room.
The boy looked Amita up and down.
‘Nice,’ he said loudly. ‘Very tasty!’
Amita was glad her father had already left. She blushed and turned her face away. The teacher glared at the boy.
‘I’ll talk to you later,’ she said as she went through the door. The boy pretended to shake as if he was afraid.
Amita followed her into the room.
‘This is Mrs Soames, your form tutor.’ She looked at the teacher. ‘You’ve had all the information, haven’t you? Amita will be in top sets for English, Maths and Science.’
Amita looked round the class. A blur of faces. Some looked friendly, others just stared at her. There were several Asians, including a couple of girls wearing veils.
The Deputy Head went out, closing thedoor firmly behind her. She stopped to speak to the boy who had been sent out.
‘Go and sit with Catherine,’ said Mrs Soames. She pointed to a very blonde girl sitting in the middle of the room. ‘You’re in the same sets as her. She’ll give you a copy of your timetable and show you where to go.’
There was a snort of laughter from the back of the room.
‘I’ll show her where to go if you like, Miss!’
‘Be quiet Tony, I’m not talking to you.’
A girl leant over to Tony and whispered something. He gave another snort.
The teacher ignored them and looked down at the register.
‘Right. Settle down Year Ten. Now, there are a couple of notices. Pay attention. Tony! Sit down and face the front. Maddy, turn round please.’
Just like my old school
, thought Amita, as she tried to follow what Catherine was telling her.
A bell rang and Catherine led her off to the first lesson.
‘Everybody calls me Cath, not Catherine,’ she said. ‘Except my mum, of course. She’s fussy, but aren’t they all?’
Amita liked Cath. The teachers seemed nice too, and the work was interesting. She decided that school was going to be OK.
The morning went very quickly and soon it was lunchtime.
‘We’ve got half an hour tutor time next,’ said Cath. It’s the worst part of the day.’
‘Because of Brian and the others. They’re just so stupid.’
‘He got sent out just as you came in,’ saidCath. ‘He’s always getting sent out, but it doesn’t make any difference. There’s him, Tony, Maddy and Luke. They mess around all the time.’
Back in their tutor room Amita soon understood what Cath meant.
!’ Mrs Soames raised her voice above the hubbub.
‘This week we’re going to be working on the citizenship module.’
‘What’s that then?’ called Tony Banks.
‘I know; it’s about immigrants,’ said Brian, nodding towards a thin boy sitting by himself in one corner.
Amita looked at Brian in surprise. He noticed her glance.
‘What about you then? Where’re you from?’
‘Where’s that then? India?’
‘No! It’s in England. Up north.’
‘That’s why you talk funny then.’
‘He should talk,’ whispered Cath. But Brian was off again.
‘Why don’t you dress like them, then?’ He pointed to the two Muslim girls.
‘Because I’m a Hindu, not a Muslim.’
‘So? It’s all foreign innit? My dad says you should all go home.’
‘That’s enough!’ Mrs Soames moved to the middle of the room. ‘For your information Brian, citizenship is about responsibility as much as anything. If you listen and try and take a proper part in the lesson you might even learn something.’
She started giving out worksheets, then went back to the front and began to lecture the class. They settled down, more or less, and