Just what has your son or daughter hiding in their schoolbag? Artist and supply teacher Guy Tarrant reveals the seamier side of education in an exhibition of confiscated nasties. JENNY PARKIN talked to him
THE whisky bottle filled with urine is something of a centrepiece.
But the death star, catapults and flick knives are equally striking.
These are some of the real-life finds from more than 100 schools that Guy Tarrant has taught in.
Now they're on show in an exhibition, God Save The Pupils, at Dean Clough's Crossley Gallery in Halifax.
The artist and supply teacher lives in Lewisham but studied sculpture in Sheffield in the early 1990s when his wife Joanna taught at Fartown and Deighton high schools.
Since then she's become deputy head at a London school for pupils with emotional and behavioural problems.
And it's from the capital rather than Kirklees that the exhibits came.
Guy's first idea for the show was sparked by one of Joanna's experiences in London.
He explains: "She specialises in naughty boys, I suppose.
"And one day she came home with a huge axe that a 15-year-old had been chasing the other kids round the playground with.
"It was an amazing thing, made from a big piece of slate wedged into a length of wood."
The axe was a starting point for Guy's gruesome and worrying collection.
He says: "I asked head teachers and deputy heads at all the schools I taught in.
"Most were happy to hand things over as long as I didn't identify the school.
"So I've spent a lot of time looking in school safes."
Guy continues: "One of the funniest things I was shown was a confiscated dildo. Another was a Walkman with a tape of the sounds of someone's mum and dad having sex."
Of the whisky bottle filled with urine, Guy says: "It was given to a teacher friend of mine as a leaving present.
"She was really touched that they'd thought of her. But later, when she opened the bottle and smelled what was inside, she was devastated."
In London, says Guy, more and more parents are sending their children to private school.
Comprehensives have become more like old secondary modern schools in this "two tier" situation.
Guy says: "My daughter's only six but I'm dreading her going to secondary school. We're probably going to have to go private."
He blames the crumbling fabric of the buildings, first and foremost.
"I spent 40 minutes in a dinner queue the other day," he explains. "And when I got to the food, the selection was horrible.
"Windows are falling apart, doors are hanging off their hinges and portable, temporary classrooms are a nightmare.
"It's all bound to have an effect on children's behaviour," says Guy.
He thinks the Government should cough up to make improvements, rather than bringing in controversial private finance.
"Children react differently to a smarter space.
"At one school, they carpeted throughout. It cost a fortune but the place was much quieter and the pupils' attitude changed."
He also believes schools are much too big and that those with 2,000 pupils are a nonsense. He says: "The teachers don't know the children and vice versa. The smaller the better - and class sizes of over 30 are ridiculous."
High exclusion rates lead to more teenagers turning to drugs and crime and more pressure on prisons.
"It costs so much to keep criminals incarcerated. But in the long run, it must be cheaper to put more money into schools and try to create a more civilised society."
Supply staff like Guy, a member of the National Union Of Teachers, often suffer most at the hands of uncontrollable pupils.
He says: "I've had three fractured ribs, I've had a fire extinguisher thrown at me.
"My friend, who is a dentist, keeps all the teeth he takes out. And he has a separate jar for teachers' teeth, knocked out in fights with pupils. He let me exhibit it."
Up to the late 70s, all teachers usually had to confiscate were conkers, acorns and sticks.
But today's mass market in toys and games was sparked in earnest in 1977 with the first Star Wars film and all its attendant merchandising.
Guy says: "Since then kids have collected all sorts of toys and badges and cards. They used to play marbles, now they use their McDonalds toys as missiles.
"My collection really says something about the state of our schools."
* God Save The Pupils is on at the Crossley Gallery, Dean Clugh, Halifax, until March 28. The gallery is open 10am to 5pm daily.