The only time end of term is a pain in the neck

16th July 2010 at 01:00

The end of the summer term always brings with it a particular problem in the library - concealing from pupils the new class lists for September.

The school grabs the chance at the end of Year 8 to have a clean sweep of any problem combinations by moving everyone around into different classes for Year 9.

Trouble is, it's my job to keep every pupil's library record up to date, and I have to make a start on this new class information before the pupils have been told. That means any existing Year 8 pupil who comes to borrow a book can see the name of their new form and tutor on my computer - unless I angle the screen to such an unergonomic extent that I can't move my neck for the rest the week.

"Oh please, Miss, please, just tell me which form I'm in," they whine, craning their necks at an angle similar to mine.

Many a cunning trick is deployed to sneak a look at my screen, although the information never seems to have been worth knowing: "Oh for God's sake, I'm not in a class with him. He's such a nerd, I can't stand it. And look! How come I've ended up with her again? That'll be the third year, it's a bit much."

Pupils even come in pretending to be someone else, just so they can see whose class "someone else" is in. Or they try to borrow a book on behalf of a friend who is apparently too incapacitated to get here, in spite of being in a cricket match later on.

We've even had tears as inseparable friends are indeed separated. And who gets the blame for this tragedy? Yes, that's right.

Not only do pupils take it out on me, but form tutors come marching in to find out how the pupils know this treasured secret before the due time.

This state of affairs usually lasts for about a fortnight, at the end of which I have a thorough knowledge of most Year 8 friendships, but can't move my neck or right shoulder.

It is tricky though. They're in their teens by this stage - an age when it is generally acknowledged that they need their friends more than they need anyone else.

Being split up from your friend and put into a different form can seem like the end of the world at the time, and can cast a shadow of gloom over the whole summer holiday.

Of course, the reason for the swap is to do with class dynamics and creating the best learning environment for everyone. And sitting next to your buddy doesn't come top of the advice list for getting good grades.

Actually, it often turns out very well - new friends are discovered, the circle is widened, and within a term they all know sufficient numbers of people well enough to throw their first "proper" party.

This is when relationships really blossom, in the sweaty world of pubescence that is the teenage social scene.

As their social life grows, so their school day becomes just one part of their lives, and the urgency of who they sit next to during maths fades.

Perhaps someone could explain that to the unhappy 12-year-old standing here now, before she empties my tissue box.

Claudia Court works in the library of a London secondary school.

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