The head's view - Flaming laminators! Mine's a Chardonnay

Colin Dowland

I examine the two CD covers on my desk. Shall I go for Soothing Waves of the Pacific or Pan-Pipe Moods from the Andes?

I opt for the pan pipes - maybe the lapping waves will prompt an inappropriate comfort break midway through. I light my stick of incense and put the colour-changing orb on my coffee table. Two glasses of Chardonnay guard a banana-leaf dish of organic cranberries. I check the Feng Shui and move a cushion two centimetres to the left. I am ready for my first performance management review meeting of the year.

I have brought in another desk for the paperwork. The Rewards and Incentives Group guidance nestles between a job description and last year's statement of objectives. The professional standards booklet is open at the post-threshold section, and the updated performance management policy is there for reference.

There is a knock at my door. I open it and welcome my colleague with a smile. Then I pitch the first question.

"What do you feel are the main things you have achieved over the course of the year?"

There is a pause.

"I can use the laminator now without it jamming and catching fire," she replies earnestly.

I nod, but recall the three fire engines arriving that day and the emergency evacuation in the rain.

I attempt to drill down a little deeper and we consider her performance against last year's objectives.

"Let's look at your target children in maths and their half-termly assessments."

She examines the list of names on the review sheet and shakes her head.

"Daniel left when his father was posted overseas," she says. "Sanjit's family went back home to India. Emile's parents got divorced. He now lives in Bournemouth. And Bradley was moved to the parallel class after the incident with Kirsten and the scissors."

We move swiftly on to the whole-school objective of raising standards in science.

She takes a gulp of Chardonnay and shakes her head again.

"I don't teach the science any more. You changed my planning, preparation and assessment time to Tuesdays when Sandra left. It was the only slot I could fit in a double lesson."

I make a note and try her personal development objective - use of PowerPoint to enhance learning.

She simply raises her eyebrows.

"The course I was booked on was cancelled. Then my interactive whiteboard fused after the leak in the roof. What with that and the amoeba virus on the school network . ".

I finish my glass of wine in one gulp.

"So now that I've had two performance-management reviews," she says, helping herself to a large handful of cranberries, "does that mean I move up a point on the threshold payscale?"

I scoop up the reams of paperwork and drop the whole lot into my recycling bin. The sound of those pan pipes engulfs me.

"If we examine all the evidence," I reply, "it seems like you've had a good year. I'll propose it to the pay committee."

Colin Dowland, Headteacher of a junior school in north London.

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Colin Dowland

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