Into each school a little rain must fall

21st January 2000 at 00:00
SCIENTISTS at Edinburgh University are warning of radical climate change in Scotland during the 21st century. Our average temperature will rise by two or three degrees but will not bring us closer to a balmy Mediterranean lifestyle. Instead, the rapid change will result in storms and floods and an increased annual rainfall of 20 per cent.

I, for one, shall be happy not to be around. Wet and stormy weather means a large investment of time in school organisation and our arrangements can be a main item on which parents judge the success of a school, far ahead of attainment and absence targets.

Tension begins on the evening before, when rain is forecast, and is well established by 9.05 in the morning when dripping children have given us wet, slippy corridors and cloakrooms wreathed in clouds of dampness. The run-up to the interval brings out the best in management decisiveness as playground puddles are observed from a safe window to determine the intensity of rainfall. Once it is accepted that we cannot win, messengers are dispatched with the official declaration that it is indeed wet and that Plan B is in force for indoor supervision.

Ensuring that every teacher has her break without prolonging the interval means head and depute joining the auxiliary in supervision and an amazing amount of trust being placed in several hundred children to behave sensibly while adults float by. The body count of those standing in strategic parts of the corridor, isolated from classmates, is a reliable indicator of the state of general behaviour at any given time as well as the success of the adults trying to be in several places at once.

The bell recalling teachers, now fortified with caffeine, is a welcome relief to those fraught by efforts at supervision. In classrooms the procrastinators make a last-minute rush for toilets, computers are returned to their rightful purposes andthere is a half-hearted attempt to pick up new litter. Reluctantly, teachers fight through the pungent aroma of cheese 'n' onion crisps into the battle of settling and organising a class deprived of the lifelines of fresh air and space to run and shout.

Early success is guaranteed to be disrupted by the late arrival from the playground of the hardcore footballers protesting, yet again, not to have heard the instruction about the weather being officially wet. They are surprised at how their white shirts have become transparent and their shoes and socks squelch at every step. They did not think of wearing coats 20 minutes before but now must search out and change into gym kits because they cannot be expected to sit in class in wet clothes, can they?

The performance will be given a longer repeat at lunchtime, so we decide that it is best for the children to "get some fresh air" - if only for 10 minutes. By then we are past caring if they get wet and we won't have to deal with any complaints until tomorrow.

No wonder headteachers find double enjoyment on a legitimate awayday when it is raining and they can think of everyone coping with a wet playtime without them. Not that they have anything against their deputes and senior teachers, but it does appeal to their sadistic humour.

Wet weather arrangements, no matter how skilfully implemented, upset children's learning and the settled nature of a school. We do not yet regard the time lost as serious but if global warming is to turn us into a storm-tossed land complete with a dedicated rainy season, wet weather has the potential to be a serious disruption to effective learning.

I expect that I can leave such long-term worries to others and instead I shall content myself with a prayer based on the words of an old song. Into each life some rain must fall but not, dear God, around 10.30am or at lunchtime.


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