Fabulous fifties

1st June 2001 at 01:00
Teachers of a certain age should be having fun. If only, writes Harriet Thomas

I have seen the future. But the trouble is I can't have it until I retire at 60. I saw a newspaper report that said turning 50 will take you into a golden age, and that today's over-50s will redefine the meaning of the words fun and lifestyle.

There was the obligatory picture of Joanna Lumley looking fabulous at 54, and, naturally, Felicity Kendall was awarded a couple of paragraphs. I have nothing against these two, but as I sat there shattered, drained and exhausted, I evaluated (oh God, I even think in jargon) the week I had just been through in the name of education. I thought of the unbelievable amount of time I had spent away from my (supposedly) full-time reception class, and the things I had done out of the classroom which dear Mr Blunkett thinks will make me a better teacher.

Monday of this memorable week was spent on a computer-training course, wrestling with Assessment Manager - a computer program - at the pupil assessment unit. All I remember is a poor lunch from the cafeteria. When you sit glued to a computer for a day, lunch is a brief oasis you welcome. My egg mayonnaise sandwich had no mayonnaise. On a scale of five, it didn't rate one fork.

Tuesday morning was that rare half-day in my classroom. My little ones are now more familiar with the supply teacher (excellent, thank goodness), who sees more of them than I do. But after lunch it was don my deputy head hat (shared), and spend the afternoon with the education welfare officer discussing attendance, referrals, targets, liaison and planning. School dinner was hot ravioli. By the time I ate mine, it was cold because lunchtime was spent running round looking at computers. Didn't I mention I'm also ICT co-ordinator - or is it manager?

Wednesday was family literacy morning. I've been doing this for a long time now. Does it count as being in class? We were in the parents' room and walked to the local library (in the rain). The afternoon was out of class in my ICT role. Computer troubleshooting. Installing software. Innumerable phone calls to places called Topologika and Aspex.

Then my weekly phone call to the network manager to update him on progress, or lack of it. Our passwords had suddenly vanished. My abiding memory of this afternoon is simply: what the hell am I doing here? Why am I doing this? I am one of the over-50s now in her golden age of fun and hedonism. Will somebody please tell that man Blunkett.

My house-husband (retired head) had made my lunch. I fished it out. Suashed and misshapen - the sandwich, not me - I bit into a tasteless cheese slice.

Thursday. I'm out with the head and the other deputy on a DfEE schools self-evaluation course. It is obligatory. There are lots of other over-50s trapped in this endless procession of initiatives and training. There are these things called Effs we have to fill in (evidence forms). I give this day a three Ts award. Nothing but tasks, tutorials and time-consuming. It finishes at 3.30pm but the three of us stay until 6pm discussing crushing workloads. Where do we find the time to do all this stuff, how much more we can take? And officially it's fun to be over-50. But lunch, ah... a brief moment of normality in a dizzy week. Buffet. Sandwiches with the crusts cut off. Serviettes.

Friday. Am I in class? Certainly not. Somebody please tell me who and what I am. This morning it's the standards officer from the local education authority. We are target-setting, information-gathering, collating files and analysing information. I'm a teacherI what am I doing here?

God, he's made me sliced cheese sandwiches again. Why couldn't he have gone out and got me an Mamp;S prawn sandwich? Doesn't he, or Blunkett for that matter, realise that I need to feel human for just a few minutes at lunchtime?

I pass my classroom and look longingly through the open door. I should be there, but what am I doing next this afternoon? Training with the adviser working with me in my assessment co-ordinator, or is it manager, role? We're setting up templates on the assessment computer program. This means the head and secretary have been ejected from their office because it's their computer with the SIMS programme. Does Blunkett know that to network another computer with the SIMS program so the head can have her office back will cost us pound;800? This is an ICT NOF initiative. Well before 3.15pm I've had enough of NOF, or is it enof of nuffI or was there something about EffsI no, that was yesterday.

And so, here I am, sprawled out with the open newspaper looking at the Ab Fab Joanna Lumley, who is enjoying her golden age. My husband, who escaped this madness four years ago, goes round the house singing, "What's NOF got to do with it?", ... la Tina Turner, and telling me to take an actuarially reduced pension. This is the pension for which you need a Mensa IQ to work out what you'll get. Thus, he says, we can both be over 50 having fun. And I could make all my own sandwiches.

Harriet Thomas, 55, is a full-time teacher, and joint deputy head, at Brudenell primary school, Leeds

Log-in as an existing print or digital subscriber

Forgotten your subscriber ID?


To access this content and the full TES archive, subscribe now.

View subscriber offers


Get TES online and delivered to your door – for less than the price of a coffee

Save 33% off the cover price with this great subscription offer. Every copy delivered to your door by first-class post, plus full access to TES online and the TES app for just £1.90 per week.
Subscribers also enjoy a range of fantastic offers and benefits worth over £270:

  • Discounts off TES Institute courses
  • Access over 200,000 articles in the TES online archive
  • Free Tastecard membership worth £79.99
  • Discounts with Zipcar, Buyagift.com, Virgin Wines and other partners
Order your low-cost subscription today