The perfect place to catch up on the paperwork

10th February 2012 at 00:00
How far must a primary teacher wander to find a quiet place for non- contact time?

At a recent EIS conference to discuss the McCormac proposals, I asked for an investigation into the working spaces and resources available for teachers during their non class-contact time - for not only are primary staff expected to be experts in many subjects, they also need a sound working knowledge of Heisenberg's Uncertainty Principle. A key feature of quantum physics and now, it seems, of the primary curriculum, this manifests itself in an inability to predict where to go and carry out one's duties in a safe, practical environment.

Question: where to do NCCT? Answer: own classroom. Why? Well, everything is there - essential tools of the trade (which I bought at Poundland) and a computer.

If lucky, I may get my wish if the covering teacher takes my class to the gym. More probably, heshe is in my class teaching, so I must go elsewhere. Proceeding logically to the staffroom - and in PFI schools there may be no such location in time and space - what do I find, resource-wise? Well, there are shelves and shelves of shiny Curriculum for Excellence folders, so that's useful; a fossil-fuel computer (30 minutes to start up); some germ-ridden Blu-Tack and half a packet of Jammie Dodgers. Fab! Let's get working!

If unlucky, which is the norm, picture the same scene but factor in some brass instrument tuition, or a pupil council meeting, or junior road safety group, or playground buddies seminar. I swear they're all in there at the same time!

There must be somewhere. Round I go, looking. PT base? No, there are nine pupils doing maths in that cupboard. I wander the corridors observing "learning outwith the classroom" at every turn. Computer suite? Sign on the door said it was free, but no, P7 parents are meeting about the outdoor centre trip. Dining room? Selfishly, the dinner ladies are arranging furniture so pupils can eat lunch. Activity room? Nope, the Junior Heartstart CPR skills team is training. Medical room? Curses! Student teaching some older girls how to hit each other with painted rules for Diwali assembly, and two early Nativity sheep bleating outside, waiting to jump the queue. The Bad Weans' Seat outside the heidie's office? Yes! It's empty! But canny see a thing. The lightbulb hasn't been replaced since August. Hey-ho. on we go.

Aha! School shed - dead cert. Insanity to go there. It leaks. It smells. Rats and pigeons look askance at it before moving on. But wait - surely not - there are two teachers there already, debating whether it's time for the cycling proficiency or the litter pick.

What now? Tell you what. I can see my car from here. And, lucky me, my NCCT is scheduled for the end of the day. Small wonder primary teachers swoon when we see it timetabled thus.

Carolyn Ritchie is a Glasgow primary teacher.

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