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A secretary's day

Jane Smith, of Carlinghow Princess Royal School in West Yorkshire, talks to Susannah Kirkman

I get in at 8.15am, switch on the computers and start opening the post so I can distribute the mail. It's the lull before the storm, as the phone soon starts ringing-usually, it's parents phoning to let us know that their child is ill.

The busiest time is between 8.55am, when I ring the bell for the start of the school day, and 9.40am. Lots of parents drop into the office to pay for school trips or school photos, or because they want to see the head. They might be moving and want advice on a new school, or their child might have worries about school work.

I have to check the dinner numbers. With 14 classes and 408 pupils, this can take some time, but they must be sent down to the kitchen by 9.40am.Then the dinner money has to be counted, and money for school trips or for sponsored activities has to be sorted.

Mid-morning is a good time to get on with administrative jobs like updating parents' contact details. I also input pupils' attendance figures and produce graphs for the parents. Classes with the highest attendance get a reward. I monitor the registers regularly to check for unauthorised absences and I chase them up by ringing parents.

Throughout the day I am answering the phone, checking and distributing e-mails, ringing the bell and letting people through the main door, which is always locked. I am also a dab hand at unjamming the photocopier.

By dinner time, there may be at least one poorly pupil to look after. This often involves cleaning up sick and comforting the child. I have to decide whether they need to go home and then contact the parents. At the end of the dinner break, there are sometimes playground casualties, too.

I have 20 minutes to eat my sandwiches in the staff room, while the phone is manned by Year 6 prefects.

In the afternoon, I often organise the extra resources we need for the 25 pupils we have with physical disabilities. I may have to contact a physio or arrange buses, wheelchair services or escorts.

I also pay invoices, produce monthly financial returns for the local education authority and check bank statements against invoices and cheques. I have to check that transfer forms for Year 6 pupils going on to secondary school have been returned.

3.15pm is another busy time. Parents call in to see teachers or bring in photo money. I will also be selling tickets for the school disco and there will be children waiting for parents who've been delayed by traffic.

I leave around 4pm. My day is usually hectic, but you can't be regimented when you work with children. You have to fit your job around them - they must come first.

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