Memoirs of a staff-hunting head

2nd February 2001 at 00:00
* A magazine is paying author and playwright Alan Bennett a large sum of money to publish his diary for the year 2000. Here are my highlights of January on the lookout for a generous publisher.

Monday 8: Return to school to discover that a teacher has been summoned for jury duty. A week of uncertainty will follow. My occasional court appearances - purely for business reasons, of course - have shown me a cocooned world. Who else packs up for an hour or more in the middle of the day? Certainly not schools.

Tuesday 9: The joy of January is introducing P6 pupils - and often their parents - to astronomy. Our message of "Be an astronomer by using your eyes" never fails to generate excitement especially when we prepare our simplified star maps to lead us to the great winter constellations and the planets of Venus, Jupiter, Saturn and Mars. As a bonus, we have a spectacular eclipse of the moon just at the right time for family viewing. Each morning brings news of the previous evening's observing and if some of the reports are less than accurate, the fact that the children are joining in the excitement of stargazing is good enough.

Friday 12: Newspapers carry stories about hospital and social work cases that have gone wrong and we are promised inquiries to ensure the same events do not recur. Much distress has resulted but the same events will happen again because it was not negligence which was their cause but inexperience or overwork or illness. The effectiveness of each of our schools changes from week to week depending on the health and other circumstances of ourselves and our colleagues.

Monday 15: The return to school, for a short time, of a P5 boy who suffered a cerebral hemorrhage three months ago. His stumbling steps to the classroom represent a triumph for him and his family and wrap those of us watching in a sense of awe. This recovery was not expected and has been driven by the boy's singleminded determination to return to school and be with his friends. The courage of someone so young is breathtaking and diminishes our own daily moans.

Wednesday 17: We are enrolling children for P1 next year. We are known to be full, so there is some anxiety about whether places will be available. I use the reassuring voice and say that it looks as if the departing P7 classes will provide us with sufficient spaces. I hope I've got it right. There are always late enrolments to confuse my calculations, and someone turns up each year on the day before school starts, surprised that their child has become five.

Friday 19: A helpful colleague shows me the "key management functions" described in the Scottish Qualification for Headship. The functions are broken down into core activities which, on first viewing, seem a helpful guide to measuring my effectiveness. On second viewing they depress me. It seems that much of my time is taken up in coping with the unexpected events of each day while management functions are marginalised.

Monday 22: A teacher has broken her ankle and we are on the search for a supply teacher who can cover for six or eight weeks. Most supplies do not wish to be committed for that length of time and if we do find one, we will wonder if she can cope. If she can, she will be worth every penny of the hole in the school's budget.

Do we find a supply teacher? Do we discover an unknown star? Answers on receipt of a large cheque.

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