Our time off

1st August 1997 at 01:00
Highfield Primary has 260 pupils from a socially mixed catchment in Long Eaton, near Derby.

Philip Sharpe, 33, has just completed his first year there as a teacher after working in the printing industry.

"I am going to sleep for a good length of time. The thought of having time on my hands is a lovely, lovely feeling. We had a baby about eight months ago, and his body clock has him waking up at 5am. Geraldine, my wife, is a community midwife and we take it in turns to get up with him. It breaks Geraldine's heart to leave him every day with a childminder, so it will be good to spend this holiday with the boy.

"With this job, time is so valuable. I've never worked so hard, mentally or physically. The other job was stressful until you walked out of the door at 5 o'clock and then you left it behind. Now I get home about six and there's Sean to bath and preparation and marking to do, and by the time you're flopped down it's past 10 o'clock and time for bed. So I'll be able to wash the car, do the garden and take Sean for walks without feeling guilty that I should be working.

"Geraldine's from Ireland, so we'll spend two weeks visiting 'rellies' in the North. Last year we went in the middle of the marching season, and with my cropped hair and looking like a lieutenant it was all a bit hair-raising. This year we're also going to the coast to stay with a relative in Donegal, so we'll be on the beach. When you're an adult, apart from 'lollygagging' (sunbathing) you're never quite sure what to do, but now I've got Sean I'll be able to go full circle, reliving my childhood, digging and paddling. I'm really looking forward to it. My Dad worked in the foundries in Derby and we used to have works outings, holidays in Skegness and places. I'd like that same kind of thing for Sean.

"I shall also be in school on and off. Being a newly qualified teacher, I had to do everything from scratch this year. I had no lessons behind me, no curriculum plans, and it will be the same next year as we do everything in two-year cycles. So I'll be doing some planning. To me that's the key to it all. I can see that in my colleagues. If you're not on top you can see the stress coming out. I'm quite happy doing that for one or two weeks because that means at night during term I can spend time with Geraldine and Sean."

Rhiannon Wells, 11, is saying goodbye to Highfield as she is moving to secondary school in September. Her father is a primary teacher, her mother works in a special school. They spend a month every summer on their 40-feet-long, green, yellow and red narrow boat called Topsy.

"It's going to be hard for me this year to leave my friends behind because we're going to different schools and I'm sure I shall cry.

"It's nice and relaxing to sit on top of the boat and get away from everything. We've been doing it for seven years now, but before we go we have a mad packing session and shopping - I hate shopping - and that's horrible. Mum has this checking system, but if something's forgotten Dad goes berserk on the boat. It's manic.

"My sister Kate is 13 and we kind of get on, but it's a bit cramped and at night she's reading and I'm trying to get to sleep. She's also a bit competitive, wanting to open more locks than me. We also do some fishing off the boat, but she only wants to catch fish because I once caught an enormous one. I was only using sweetcorn on the end of a line - I can't touch maggots or anything like that. Dad doesn't do it. He says it's like watching paint dry. He just likes to relax. I like to see the sun go down and listen to birds singing. Mum and Dad make a lot of friends. We say hello to everybody on the canals; it's very friendly. This year we're meeting some people in London that we met in Stratford last year.

"I don't like leaving my Nan. She looks after me when Mum and Dad are working. We have two cats and two dogs and she has to look after them, but I feel sorry for her leaving her behind. I write a diary for her. I put down what's been happening during the day and how much I've been missing her. I collect things for her. When we go to museums I collect leaflets for her so she can see where we've been.

"Soon I think we'll go abroad, as I've never been before. Dad wants to go to Ireland, but I want to soak up the sun on a beach. I think I'm getting to the point now where I would like to relax in a hotel where everybody waits on me, somewhere sunny."

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