Much ado about car parking

28th November 2008 at 00:00

Just when you think it'll be a straightforward day, something always happens. Take last Thursday, for example. There were lots of cars to squeeze into our tiny car park, but premises officer Dave cleverly packed everybody in.

Teachers tend to have small, sensible cars, so he was able to cram them like sardines. But teaching assistants and visitors also have cars, and even teaching practice students have elderly Minis. Leave your car in the street opposite school for more than 10 minutes and it is likely to have gone to the crusher, so room must be found.

Usually, everything's manageable. But not last Thursday. Helen had to attend an urgent special educational needs meeting, and she'd allowed herself plenty of time. But after five minutes, she was back in the office.

"I can't get out of the car park," she said. "A car's blocking me."

I asked her which one.

"Oh dear," she said, "I'm not very good on cars. I think it's a Clio."

Clios are popular here. We're a bit of a Clio school. Last Thursday there were four because the visiting music teacher had one too. Nevertheless, once we had narrowed it down to the grey one, we were making progress. We just had to find out whose it was and get it moved.

Secretary Sandra always knows who drives what, so she hurried off to ask Fiona to move her car.

"That's odd," she said, returning, "I can't find Fiona anywhere. I know she's here because I spoke to her at 9am."

Suddenly I remembered - Fiona was on a course until late afternoon. And she doesn't own a mobile phone. But hang on ... whenever Fiona attends a course she leaves her keys with Dave. So we just had to ask Dave, and he could move her car.

"It's Thursday," said Sandra. "Dave's at the bank."

No matter, I thought, it's the age of technology. We'll ring Dave's mobile, he'll hurry back from the bank and move the car. But no, Dave had turned off his mobile. His wife offered to run to the bank and get the keys from him. Ten minutes later she was back. On this occasion Fiona had forgotten to leave the keys with him ...

There was nothing else for it; we would have to get her back to school. We knew she had gone to the local learning centre, and we had the centre's number, didn't we? No, apparently we didn't.

Well, directory enquiries could find it, couldn't they? No, unfortunately they couldn't. They had numbers for learning centres all over the universe, but not ours.

Then I had an idea. I'd phone our governing body clerk. She always knows things like that. A recorded message told me she had gone to lunch.

Another idea ... I'd phone some local schools. Nobody lifted the phone at the first two. A lady at the third said she was only standing in, but she knew Denise had a book listing all the offices, centres and departments in alphabetical order, and if I cared to hang on, she'd find it. By the time we'd got to C we'd used another 20 minutes ... and the number she gave me turned out to be a dry-cleaners' place.

Meanwhile, Dave had returned and was appraising the situation. If Karen nudged her car backwards a bit, Kathy moved hers sideways a few centimetres, and Sandra inched towards the wall, Helen might just be able to get out, provided she was willing to try a few hair-raising manoeuvres.

And it worked! Another problem solved. What variety my job provides, I thought. But within half an hour, Helen was back.

"Only two of us turned up," she said. "They cancelled the meeting."

Mike Kent is headteacher of Comber Grove Primary in Camberwell, south London

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