I usually whizz through the post, tearing up circulars with the speed of an electric shredder, especially if it's the latest glossy nonsense from the DfES. Good thing, then, that Secretary Sandra has been opening the mail, as it seems we've won a government award for "achieving high key stage 2 results compared with schools in similar areas". Accompanying the award is a letter thanking us for working particularly hard last year.
At first I feel as though my lottery numbers have come up. Our parents, of course, know how hard our teachers work for their children, but it's pleasing to be officially acknowledged. And pound;8,000... we could do a lot with that. We could add machines to the computer suite, increase our stock of musical instruments, improve the stage lighting, put new features into the playground, or buy new science equipment.
I mention these ideas to Kelvin, our school accountant, when he comes in for the monthly book-balancing. He shakes his head wryly. "Knowing you," he says, "you probably haven't read the instructions on the packet." And no, I haven't read the small print. "It's a bonus for the staff," he explains.
"You have to use it on salaries, not for anything else."
This seems disappointing. Not because the staff don't deserve extra, but the notion that we'd worked harder than usual to achieve our results is annoying. We always work hard. And our good results are the result of a good cohort, so it would have been nice to have bought something all the children could have enjoyed.
"It gets worse," says Kelvin. "The governors have to decide how you're going to allocate it."
"Don't tell me. They have to set up a twilight steering committee that'll meet half a dozen times before thrashing out a plan that's supposedly fair to all?"
"It's been known. In some schools, they divide it according to seniority.
The head and deputy have more than the teaching staff, the teachers have more than the classroom assistants. Other schools just give it to the teachers. And then there's the question of payments in retrospect... " "Oh God," I mutter, beginning to realise this isn't like winning the lottery at all.
"The thing is, the award is for last year, and you've got new teachers who weren't here then. The governors decide whether they should be eligible.
And what about those teachers who left during the year? Should they receive the bonus? If they were part-timers the governors might consider pro-rata payments... and don't forget this is for key stage 2 achievement. Some staff might think key stage 1 shouldn't be eligible."
I need a weekend away to consider the enormity of disbursing this award.
But Kelvin hasn't finished. "You'll need to keep back about 22 per cent.
The school will have to pay any extra charges from your payroll provider for handling the additional work on the salaries. The staff will be taxed on the money, so that'll whittle it down further."
After our next staff meeting, we have a recommendation for the governors.
They should divide the money equally between everybody who worked in the school last year: teachers, helpers, secretary, premises officer. It seems eminently fair.
The money hasn't actually arrived yet. If the DfES is up to speed, I reckon it could be any time in the next three years.
Mike Kent is head of Comber Grove primary, London borough of Southwark.