Blissful summer is over almost as soon as it's begun

13th August 2010 at 01:00

The last day of the summer term feels like Christmas, New Year's Eve and my birthday all rolled into one. It is a day when everyone walks around with a fixed grin at the prospect of the six-week break that lies ahead.

This is the one time in the year when one can truly forget about work for a while. No more Fischer Family Trust data, no more meetings, no more chasing coursework, no more worries. All together now: "We're all going on a summer holiday! No more worries ..." The urge to break into song is almost irresistible.

No one can doubt that by the time the holidays arrive, we need them. Every year, the past couple of weeks see the fuses of many becoming increasingly shorter as the weather gets steadily hotter. Pupils are already in holiday mode and have, in some cases, been mentally on holiday since June. In many cases, teachers' patience is being stretched to the limit.

By the end of a long year, even the most conscientious of staff succumb to the need to entertain: trips to theme parks, visits to the theatre and inevitably the "film festival" - those last couple of days when staff get out their stash of tried and tested "educational" DVDs (any link with the subject taught, however tenuous, will do).

It would be no surprise at this stage in the school year to see many pupils bringing their own popcorn and 3D glasses into school as part of the cinematic experience. Anything that helps the year end on a peaceful and harmonious note.

Alongside this, some staff are busily clearing their rooms - some for the last time. This is always a bittersweet moment, as the inevitable sadness of this act is tempered by the variety of strange documents and artefacts found lurking at the back of drawers and cupboards: a Rubik's cube confiscated in 1981; a pupil report (created on Banda machine, having all 15 subject comments on one side of A4) from 1976; and an Appraisal Document (what was that?) from the mid-1990s.

Others are clearing their rooms because they are to be painted or will receive some alteration over the holidays. Even as they do this, they know there is a distinct likelihood they will return at the beginning of September to a sight resembling a war zone - or they will be greeted by the decorators, who are finally to start work on the same day.

And when the last school bus has left the premises, there is that communal sigh of relief, accompanied by a feeling of exhilaration, as the "school's out for summer" (cue further singalong).

With the pupils gone, then it is time for the leaving speeches for staff. This year's were particularly entertaining - this is not always the case - and included slide-shows and a simulation of This is Your Life.

There was a rendition of 'So Long, Farewell' from The Sound of Music performed by the PE department, who have been in serious rehearsal all week, with their highly customised version of the words performed in tribute to the retiring longest-serving member of staff. The need to sing is clearly strong at the end of term.

The leaving speeches are a perfect occasion for the prospective stand-up comics on the staff who go through their best selection of school anecdotes geared to embarrass and amuse. For some it is time to shed a few tears.

It is also a time when it is invariably stated that there are "No more characters left in the job any more" - only for a new character or two to take centre stage.

Some then party on into the evening, others make for the airports and ports while the rest choose to go home and put their feet up to recover in peace.

And so the annual six-week break begins - although of course it is never really six school-free weeks. Just a week from now we will see the signal that term will soon start again: the barrage of newspaper articles about A-level results, celebrating the joy of groups of teenagers following their examination successes.

Summer wouldn't be summer without the annual debate - by now it is a ritual - fought out between those who bemoan the trend towards grade inflation (usually led by former Ofsted chief Chris Woodhead) and those who celebrate the improved results as being indicative of better teaching and the pupils' hard work.

The local papers are particularly good value at this time of year, as they line up their nearest headteachers for their quotes - all of them pleased with their school's achievement, backed up with some choice piece of data.

Amid all the talk about schools, reality returns with a thud. Then it's time, already, to start thinking about the new term.

Geraint Davies, Head of arts, Llantarnam School, Cwmbran, Gwent.

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