19th May 2000 at 01:00
The first half of the summer term is going to be very short. The second half is too long. The summer holidays are just right.

I find the organisation of the year very confusing. The new year in January is possibly the most understandable. Everyone makes resolutions about exercising every day, remembering to drink eight pints of water and not being flippant at governors' meetings. Plenty of opportunity to make serious improvements after partaking of vast quantities of alcohol. The new year is generally a welcome feature of the teaching calendar.

The financial year is more of a puzzle. Why does it start in April? There is still a term to go and the administrator is hopping about on one foot admonishing anyone who dares to flourish a requisition sheet.

I began to worry about the end of the financial year in February because I didn't want an underspend of more than 5 per cent, but no one was allowed to spend any money so the underspend could have grown. Could I sneak an order for skipping ropes past the eagle-eyed administrator? And who used the photocopying paper for writing on? No more orders until the new financial year. So I drew up a grid called "know your budget" which set out the year in terms of when you could and when you could not write ou an order. It made sense to me.

The academic year starts in September. I suppose that it must have coincided with the harvest - why would you choose to complicate matters further? Without the aid of alcohol, teachers and children make new resolutions about learning their spellings and making each clean page their very best. The classrooms are tidy, everyone has a sharp pencil, the teachers are refreshed and the future looks rosy. Until the first Friday of the first week when everyone is shattered, six children have lost their pencils and you realise that the performance-related pay policy was not written with this class in mind.

Development planning is another source of bemusement. I started my job in April last year. I wrote my school development plan in August, Ofsted came in October, and I wrote the Ofsted action plan in December. The local authority published its education development plan in the meantime - and then the financial year began. I decided to get the SDP in line with the budget, which meant rewriting all the plans before Easter. When I grow up, I would like to be strategic.

And if the Government brings in a five-term year, I may have to have a lie down.

Val Woollven is head of St Andrew's C of E primary, Plymouth

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