My indecision is final

Reg Stewart

Do I stay or do I go? Reg Stewart shares a typical day's worth of his mood swings

This is the story of what happened one Friday before Christmas. It may echo the feelings of other teachers, aged 50-something.

8.30am: My mind's in a daze. I'm 54, and have been a headteacher for 15 years. Do I go now or wait until I'm 60?

9.00: Aggressive parent storms towards me. "Oh Mr Stewart, I just had to tell you how much I enjoyed the carol service, the best yet - you really do work wonders with the children, you do a marvellous job." Maybe I'm winning. Decide I'll stay.

9.10: A very supportive PTA member comes to my office, and I greet her by her first name, but she snarls, "I don't know why you hold the carol service in the church. Nobody apart from those bloody governors in the front pew can hear a word, and the singing was awful. It was bad last year, but this was far worse". Decide I'll leave.

9.15: My secretary says I look tired and drawn. (I do, I haven't slept properly since the DFEE produced these new proposals on early retirement. ) She suggests I go home to rest, but first she makes me sit down with a cup of coffee. What a good, caring staff I have. Decide I'll stay.

9.30: Phone call from an LEA inspector. I tell him that I'm thinking of leaving. "Good idea," he says, rather too enthusiastically. God, he thinks I can't do the job. My confidence sinks to an all-time low. Decide I'll leave.

10.00: Surreptitiously I ring a travel agent about a cross-country skiing holiday in the middle of Norway during half term. The cost is Pounds 799. I love the solitude of the frozen wastes and I wouldn't be able to go if I was on a pension. Decide I'll stay.

10.02: The travel agent casually asks if I could go the week before half term as the price is then only Pounds 399. I work out that if I take six holidays a year, out of peak times, I could save about Pounds 2,300 (or Pounds 4,800 if I take my wife). That would help the pension. Decide I'll leave.

10.09: An "awkward" parent arrives with a present. Smiling, she says, "I know I complain a bit, but I really admire the way you always make yourself available to me even when you know I am going to be moaning about something; this is for you, have a good break - you've earned it." I open the gift - it's a bottle of vintage, real vintage port. Decide I'll stay.

11.30: Open the mail - more epistles from the DFEE:bloody nursery vouchers, new regulations for the security of schools, a thick volume about something called Baseline Assessment. It's no good, I can't hack this. Decide I'll leave.

12.34pm: Do my usual bit at the Christmas lunch - put on a long blonde wig, high heels, lipstick and a dinner ladies uniform. The children love it and one says, "I bet you're the stupiest headteacher in the world." I give the remark some thought, and interpret it as a compliment. Decide I'll stay.

1.15: The school post box is opened and I receive 23 cards. When I first came, seven years ago, I received over a hundred. I am no longer loved. Decide I'll leave.

1.30: Young teacher stops me in the corridor. "Thank you for helping me with ideas for next term's topic, I really do appreciate the support you give me, I really enjoy working here". Decide I'll stay.

2.30: Phone call from an irate parent. "My daughter has got nits again - what are you going to do about it? She didn't get them when she went to her pre-prep school". Decide I'll leave.

3.15: The school nurse arrives with a box of chocolates for the staff. "This is the happiest, friendliest staff room of all the schools that I visit, and that's because of your leadership, Reg." She gives me a peck on the cheek. Decide I'll stay.

Reg Stewart is headteacher of St Giles CE Primary School, Horsted Keynes, West Sussex

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