Divided loyalties and late nights

18th March 2005 at 00:00
She sits through two carol concerts, two parents' evenings and two sports'

days every year. But Buddug Bates, headteacher of neighbouring rural primary schools, rejects the title of superwoman.

She took on the role of joint head of Ysgol Pennant and nearby 27-pupil Ysgol Efyrnwy Llanwddyn in Powys two years ago, as part of a money-saving initiative.

Ysgol Pennant, in Penybontfawr, north-west of Welshpool, escaped closure last October, but the jury is still out on whether the Welsh-medium school should survive. It has 61 pupils.

Lack of cash sometimes means parents have to foot the bill for transport costs and other extra-curricular interests at the schools. If less grant money is available direct from the Assembly (see story below left), it will mean even fewer out-of-class activities, fears Mrs Bates.

"Someone needs to work out an action plan to keep rural schools open before it's too late. They are so important in the community," she says.

"I know of schools which will really struggle if direct grant money is not forwarded to them. It just means something has to give if the money is not there."

She sometimes feels pulled in two directions as she tries to cope with the demands of staff and pupils in two village schools with their own special traditions and six miles apart.

Late nights at the office, sometimes beyond 10pm, are the norm. And an unexpected problem at one school means a 12-mile round trip from the other.

Then there are the organisational difficulties of Christmas carol services and divided loyalties on the sports field.

With two secretaries and two offices, she says: "I can never plan my day too rigidly. I could be at one school five minutes and then get a call which means I have to dash to my other school.

"If I had a young family, or my husband wasn't working away so much, it would be impossible - but I'm no superwoman. Sometimes you can feel torn, but mostly I'm too busy to even think about it."

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