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Special days

Maria Corby reveals she is gifted and talented in more ways than one

"Would you like to be head of drama in the upper school?" asks Lou-in-the-office.

"Yeah, go on then," I reply. It's nearing the end of the holidays and we're sorting the post. As usual, I'm getting all the stuff that doesn't fit anyone else's job description. Lou hands me the drama letter which, after a brief glance, goes in the bin.

The amount of post we get amazes me. Most of it is junk: badly targeted catalogues, invitations to collect a million ring pulls for a free briefcase, or advance notice that a miracle worker - who will solve all our behaviour problems - will be speaking on the Isle of Mull.

If you multiply our post by all the schools in Britain, that must mean forests of trees dying just to give us the pleasure of flinging things in the bin. I won't even start on what paperwork comes to us unbidden from the Government, but the dream of the paperless office seems to be over; my office is closing in on me with files, documents, books and reports lining every wall and now creeping along the floor. "Who's head of geography?"

continues Lou.

"Oh, put that in Mary's pigeonhole."

"And careers?"

"That's Mary, too."



As in most small schools, our teachers are leaders in more than one subject and have to co-ordinate these throughout the school. Whereas in a large comprehensive, you may have a head and deputy of English for key stage 3, the English co-ordinator in our small special school has to monitor all elements of the English curriculum from under-fives to post-16s, from P level 1 (pre-national curriculum, for pupils with special needs) to national curriculum level 3, and manage the library, the signing system and the parents' loan scheme. (I should have given him the drama letter.) "There's one here for head of therapies."

"Uhm, give it to Ali-Physio," I say. You can see how people got their surnames in the old days.

"Who's discipline?" asks Lou.

"That's me. You should see me in my leather thong, thigh- length boots, and riding crop." I look up to see Chris the caretaker walking past. Whenever we meet now he gives me a knowing look and mentions some misdemeanour he's committed.

"Last one," says Lou. "What's a 'gifted and talented co-ordinator'?" "Well, I'm one," I say, "but, then, aren't we all?"

Maria Corby is deputy head of a special school for pupils with severe and multiple learning difficulties. She writes under a pseudonym

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