Publish and be damned by inertia

16th June 1995 at 01:00
I finally finished typing the governors' annual report to parents at 11. 30pm on a Saturday in early May. The only time I can be sure of getting the computer to myself is when Match of the Day is on. Now the football season is over, I have to book my place on the rota along with the rest of the family.

My husband bought this expensive, efficient machine under false pretences. He assured me that having a computer compatible with the one in his office would enable him to leave school on time every day and work at home. He was lying. He still seldom gets back before six, and having the machine on site means he can, and does, work evenings, weekends and school holidays.

The children, too, are addicted to the thing, and claim priority usage for GCSE coursework and homework in general. I occasionally try to pull rank by pointing out that I am the only one of the family who actually earns money by writing, but their deadlines are usually more pressing than mine.

The staff at the school where I am a governor take my claims to be a writer more seriously, but seem to think "writer" is synonymous with "typist". It's like asking Picasso to come round and emulsion the ceiling.

All right, so I am no Picasso. Unfortunately I am also no typist. I work slowly and inaccurately with two fingers. My spelling is unreliable. Only the technology is on my side. The finished product, beautifully set out with bold headings, bullet points and pictures then whizzed out on our bubble-jet printer, is a lot more pleasing to the eye than anything they can produce at school. Which is why they keep asking me.

The same weekend that saw me finishing off the annual report - written by a team of governors but typed and produced by the chair - I was also working on the final draft of the health and safety policy, writing a new complaints procedure, programming in the annual changes to the prospectus, typing up the information to be sent to applicants for a teaching post and producing a year plan for the religious education curriculum throughout the school. This last was particularly tedious, as I rely heavily on the spell-checker to correct my typing errors. It has no knowledge of the proper names of multi-cultural religious figures and offered me "devalue" for Diwali and "fishmeal" for Ishmael.

So by late Saturday night I was cross-eyed, bad-tempered and resentful. I would much rather have spent the weekend gardening. or even watching football. And the really annoying part was knowing that the annual report to parents was about to drop into a black hole of parental indifference. Attendance at our meetings has never reached double figures, and no one has ever been known to ask a question. All that effort wasted.

In a fit of pique, I wrote a spoof invitation letter to parents, complaining that the annual meeting had become a standing joke. I complained about how we poor, overworked and unpaid governors were ignored and slighted by parents, and berated them for their complacency in not showing concern over current education issues: national tests and league tables (we do not publish our figures), cuts in funding, increasing class sizes. I challenged them to come to the meeting. I even offered coffee afterwards.

I circulated the letter with the annual report to my fellow governors for approval. "Send it," they said.

We sent it. Will they come? Watch this space for the next exciting instalment.

Joan Dalton is a governor in the Midlands.

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