Something's up if the biscuit tin is full

30th September 2005 at 01:00
In my house, it's the kids who go to work and I'm the one who's been to school. So when they ask me: "What did you do at school today, Mum?" I usually give them the traditional answer: "Oh, not much." The truth is too difficult to explain: the supply teacher off sick, the moving and handling trainer with a slipped disc, the mother who wants to take her child out of school because it's sunny, the child who escapes and is found eating biscuits in a neighbour's house... I remember one day, though, when nothing happened. I get to work at 8am as usual and bend down to pick up the post - but there is none. I think I must have beaten the postman but, no, nothing comes. Well, I suppose if all those catalogue companies, school visits brochures and government directives were posted today instead of yesterday, they'd all arrive tomorrow.

I let myself into the office and wait for the phone to ring, but there is silence. I hover over the absence book. If there are no absences, what am I to do with the first hour of the day? I check my emails. None. Not even an advert for penis extensions. My in-tray is empty. I check my diary. Hooray! I've got a pan-professional procedural policy meeting. Great, I think, I'll find a venue and sort out some cups. I check the office diary just in case... the meeting, which was to have taken all morning, has been cancelled. Oh well, it means I have time for people when they come to me with their early morning moans. But everyone seems happy; no complaints, no requests for miracles and no one seems to have any personal problems they want to share.

The head comes in. Maybe she wants to discuss national strategies, borough-wide long-term planning or the school harvest festival. But no, she has to write a bid for some money. This means I'm deputising for her and will have to make all sorts of life and death decisions - and do assembly.

I look through her file for today's work. It is empty. This time last week we had a threatened escape, three bites and a slip on a piece of bread and butter pudding. I tour the school and walk past classes of children achieving their potential and teachers developing professionally (and gathering supporting evidence).

I check the staffroom. Not a notice out of date or a coffee mug ring on the school improvement plan. The biscuit tin is full. This should tell me that I am a step away from reality. The next thing I remember is my daughter asking me again, "What did you do at school today, Mum?" No, she is shaking me and saying, "What are you doing? It's school today, Mum!"

"I've just had a horrible dream," I tell her. "I wouldn't ever want a day at school to be like that."

Maria Corby is deputy head of a special school for pupils with severe and multiple learning difficulties. She writes under a pseudonym

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