Chalk and talk

Phil Revell claims the best part of starting at a new school is the morning briefing

One of the delights awaiting anyone joining a school for the first time is the ritual of the morning briefing. This is where the business of school management is conducted, where DfES initiatives are given an airing, where the theory of education runs into the quicksand of practice.

Briefing is led by someone from the senior management team, who kicks off with the latest piece of mindless bureaucracy. "Just a reminder that predicted grades for 2004 GCSE entries will need to be with the assessment co-ordinator by the end of the week." You have been teaching your GCSE group for precisely three lessons.

Then it's into timetable changes: two classrooms are closed because there are workmen in school - again.

There's more stuff about sports fixtures, drama rehearsals and mice in the soft technology rooms, until the shoulders are squared and the SMT guy delivers the week's must-do. "A reminder about the school's queuing policy. We agreed last year that children would line up outside classes, with bags at their feet - and that staff ensure the pupils are quiet before being let into a classroom. But some staff haven't been following the policy and yesterday there was an incident involving the chair of governors and a tennis racquet."

SMT man's eyes scan the room at this point to nip any insubordinate hilarity in the bud. "The head has asked me to remind you all that this policy was developed by a staff working party and that Ofsted and others agree that a school can be measured by the effectiveness of its policies in areas like this. Let's see to it."

Briefing over, you collect your stuff and amble over to Z12. Next door are the makings of a minor riot as a Year 8 group compete for the available space with three workmen, half a mile of cable and some stepladders. "What are you lot doing in here?" you thunder.

"It's Mr Smith, Sir," they chorus. "He's always late so he tells us to go in."

"Ah," you say, turning to see the head appear.

"Sorting my group out for me?" he asks affably, before noticing the workmen. "Good grief," he shouts. "Why wasn't I told there were workmen in school?"

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