I could warm to wraparound care

18th August 2006 at 01:00
hey say that you can get too much of a good thing and, when it comes to seven weeks' summer holidays, a reluctant voice in my head wants to agree.

By the end of the long stretch of freedom I never, ever want to see another ScotXed return in my life. On the other hand, there is only so much pulp fiction and back series of 24 my brain can take before it begins to turn to mush. It is a little worrying to have calculated that September's salary will just about pay for the extravagances of the summer, only if I live like a nun for two months,.

When I begin to speculate about whether or not I can cite as reasonable grounds for divorce the irritating way in which my spouse ritualistically stirs his Greek yogurt, I know that I would be better at work.

Teachers know that it is best to sweet-talk the jannie into letting them have access to their classrooms during the holidays, if only to ensure that they can lay claim to their share of blank jotters and photocopy paper before the whole supply disappears. In an open-plan layout, this is also the best time to redefine boundaries to optimum advantage by imperceptible repositioning of shelving units and to tactfully discard the excess and ancient furniture much cherished by the previous incumbent.

At worst, it can appear to be an act of blatant one-upmanship: "I have written my forward plan, labelled all the tote trays, put up pretty borders round my walls and stuck all of my children's pre-printed labels on their jotters."

Are there any of us who do not give the return to school a thought until the first day back? The staffroom is always noisy, with some vying for the most enviable holiday story. I instinctively know that mention of staying at home all summer to do the garden will confirm any lingering suspicion that I am a boring old git. So I generally keep a low profile and vicariously enjoy inebriation in Ibiza, frolics in France and gallivanting in Greece.

My turn to grab attention is not greeted with the same level of enthusiasm and hilarity, comprising as it does gentle reminders about school policies and procedures, ostensibly for the benefit of new members of staff.

Increasingly, I am instructed to use this opportunity to inform everyone of the authority's zero tolerance of unacceptable behaviour, including that of staff. It may not be as upbeat a start to the session as I would like, but at least I have never hijacked the day for in-service on a riveting topic of my choice.

That may not be entirely altruistic in intent, to be honest, as I am acutely aware of the 10in high stack of unopened mail taking up most of my desk, built up again since the couple of days already spent the previous week dealing with a similar amount. I always sort it into piles - useless information, less than useless information and stuff from the authority - for tackling over the course of the next month or so.

Inevitably, I am prevented from getting much done by a stream of parents collecting uniform and willing to admit to huge relief at the prospect of respite from the unrelenting company of their offspring. Even modest entertainment for the entire summer involves some cost for parents and those with full-time jobs either have to pay for childcare or cough up a tidy sum for summer playschemes, or both.

The term "wraparound care" has been bandied about for a while, perceived as vaguely threatening by school staff, but it would have its attractions if it meant employment of probationer teachers from an earlier date and the offer of additional payment to young teachers, partnered by student teachers, to organise free activities in schools.

That would take the heat off many in the summer months.

Joan Fenton is head of Dyce primary, Aberdeen.

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