Collection failed, delivery suspended...

1st June 2007 at 01:00
is head of Comber Grove primary in Camberwell, south London

Teachers will spend anything up to a fortnight this summer looking after children on school journeys, and I am always amazed how few parents say thank you. But it is even worse when they don't collect their children at al* I After one school trip, I waited with the parents as the coach arrived and suitcases were unloaded. Within 15 minutes, everyone had gone. Except Daniel, who stood beside his large, tatty case, looking thoroughly miserable. His mother was picking him up, he said. Possibly. Or his sister, if she could get time off work.

I reassured him, saying his mother had probably been delayed.

Another half-hour passed and my deputy, who waited with us, tried to telephone his mother. The line had been cut off. Nothing for it but to wait with Daniel a bit longer.

After another hour, we decided to see if a neighbour would look after him.

We tied a belt around his battered suitcase and hurried through the pouring rain.

The lift of his block was full of graffiti and there was a puddle on the floor that smelt of urine. The three of us huddled into the least rubbish-strewn corner.

"It's always like this, Miss", Daniel said resignedly, "and it often breaks down." Which it did 30 seconds later, between floors.

"Don't worry - I'll get it going again," Daniel said. He removed his shoe and whacked the control panel. The lift juddered but didn't budge.

"It sometimes works if you jump up and down," Daniel said. Feeling foolish, we bounced around for a minute or two. Still no movement.

"I'll try the alarm button," I said.

"It's broken," Daniel answered. "Someone mucked about with the wires."

Confined spaces are not really my thing and I began to feel uneasy. As there seemed nothing for it but to summon assistance, my deputy and I shouted "Help!" as loudly as we could. Daniel found this very amusing and joined in with enthusiasm.

Moments later, a voice called: "Are you stuck in the lift?" We certainly were, I said, and we would be everlastingly grateful if someone could help us to become unstuck.

A muttering from above and then a child's voice said: "Mum, it sounds like Mr Kent!" Moments later, an older voice called: "This is Jodie's Mum.

That's not you down there Mr Kent, is it?"

"I'm afraid so," I called, "and Mrs Matthews is stuck here with me." "And me," shouted Daniel, enjoying this very much.

Other doors opened and there were fascinated murmurs as it became known that the leadership team of the local primary school was stuck halfway up a lift shaft.

"Don't worry, Sir," Jodie shouted. "My brother's got a spanner."

"That won't work," said her mother. "I'll ring the fire brigade, Mr Kent.

Just hold on."

Funny how, at times such as this, you always find yourself dying to go to the toilet.

"We might be here for hours," said Daniel. "Shall I show you a magic trick?"

After what seemed an eternity, Jodie's mother called again. "My neighbour's home. He's got an idea."

A male voice said he'd been caught in this bleedin' lift more times than he'd had hot dinners and that if we distributed our weight around and pushed the button hard, it would probably start. The relief when it did was overwhelming. It clattered to the top floor, the doors opened and there stood a man holding the biggest screwdriver we'd ever seen. "Sometimes the doors don't open," he said. "My wife keeps this handy."

As we hurried back to school, we heard the fire engine in the distance. We did not wait around to explain. Daniel would do that.

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