End-of-year countdown one day at a time

25th June 2004 at 01:00
Throughout the session I really do try to be strategic in planning the work of the school but no matter how much I try to make it otherwise, at this time of the year we take just one day at a time. So many of my colleagues are in exactly the same position.

Last week, for example, on Monday, I was visiting a school in another authority. I don't know how excited they were about my visit as it was part of their HMIE inspection.

By the end of the day I was back at my school for a strings concert, which was wonderful. Pupils from our cluster of schools gathered, with their parents and friends, on a beautiful summer's evening and made music of a very high standard. Almost all of my headteacher colleagues were there too, including our secondary head, his music staff and the secondary school band. Some of these young people, our former pupils, had left school but returned to play for their primary schools.

For two days I returned to my role as an associate assessor and worked well into the evening trying to learn my inspectorate speak for the paperwork which inevitably goes with the task.

By now it was Wednesday evening and I was back at my school for a talent show the Parent-Teacher Association had put together for another full house on another beautiful summer's evening. With the help of the chair of our community education wing, we had a very professional input of music and lights and we all marvelled at the confidence of the primary pupils who were entertaining us so well.

The staff joined in the entertainment with a surprise finale, the Jackson 12. If you are old enough you'll have guessed it. It was a chorus line of "ABC", that old Jackson Five number. They wore white T-shirts, black trousers and masks of me. I might have forgiven them if they had photo-enhanced the images but it was quite scary to see 12 reflections looking at me across the hall. The children of course thought it was all great fun.

Note the large number of staff giving up their time to join this PTA event.

This is after the long spell of doing little else than writing pupil reports evening after evening. The May holidays tend to be an opportunity to get an uninterrupted run at report writing. Few actually enjoy a holiday then.

On Thursday I had to remember to get myself to school for a crucial in-service day. The European elections meant that our school was closed to pupils and we could do all of the preparations we do at this time of the year for next session.

Primary heads have a major task on their hands nowadays in planning in-service days. Often nursery staff must be catered for, then there are support staff, who can have very different needs, and of course early, middle and upper stages staff with varied curriculum demands. Preparations for that day had stretched out over many days.

When it was over, all that remained was to return home and prepare for the final day of the inspection I was doing.

Friday duly arrived and after farewells to new friends in the other authority, it was back to school to make final preparations for an inspection of our own on Monday.

I am going off on holiday soon with thoughts of lifework balance ringing in my ears. But then I think I have approached previous end-of-sessions with similar thoughts. Perhaps I'm just a slow learner.

Sheilah Jackson is headteacher of Queensferry Primary, Edinburgh

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