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Big ideas flushed down the pan

Bob Fletcher finds operational matters leave little time for strategic concerns

You're too operational. You've got to be more strategic," said my local inspector as he left from his last visit. I understood what he said, so why was my jaw clenched so tightly as he drove off?

I turned to resume my duties. Year 1 was on its way to the television room. One poor child towards the back of the line suddenly retched in front of me, the contents of his stomach splattered on to the floor and over my shoes and trousers. The caretaker was on his break. I was left mopping the floor.

Not long after, I had the mop in my hand again. It was Friday evening. The school was two cleaners down through sickness. The remaining two were muttering about resigning with the overload. I felt duty-bound to help. Of course it was the toilets that needed doing. The chair of governors arrived for his regular meeting. He watched me until I'd finished. He opened with:

"You're not keeping the governors sufficiently informed. Think about the role of the sub-committees." My jaw was now so tight it needed to be opened surgically.

Recently two children were fighting in class. I'd sent for their parents and had given up my lunch to discuss the problem. We talked for some minutes. I was a little late checking the hall. The supervisor in the kitchen ticked me off for the state of the litter-covered floor.

While sorting out a problem with our most challenging pupil on the playground, I noticed out of the corner of my eye that the gate to the environmental area was broken, the bolts were loose on the basketball hoop and one of the downpipes from the guttering was hanging free. I reminded myself to put them in the maintenance folder.

Removing a dead rat from a school path, disposing of a decomposing fox on the field, covering for absent colleagues when there are no supply teachers in sight, coping with frost damaged pipes - these provide some of the operational activities I find my day taken up with.

Add attendance tables, league tables, Pandas, Ofsted, ICT training, performance management, Curriculum 2000, literacy, numeracy, citizenship, boys' achievement, ethnic minority achievement, school inclusion, S3, S4, school improvement plan, staff morale, recruitment and retention, oh, and teaching and learning! Some of these must be strategic, surely?

Bob Fletcher is head of Hobbayne primary, London borough of Ealing

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