Thank God it's Friday

14th November 1997 at 00:00
Monday: I load the bike on to the car and head off to Derwent Reservoir with Kate, my cycling partner. We're in training for a 300-mile charity bike ride along the River Nile. As a former non-cyclist, this is proving something of a challenge, although I'm now able to get on and off without fearing serious injury. We're each pledged to raise Pounds 1,850 for Mencap, and are finding this as much of a challenge as the cycling.

A year ago, I could not have imagined myself doing this. But the joys of OFSTED - with the fun of putting into place systems to meet the Special Needs Code of Practice in a large secondary school - convinced me that life was too short to be a special educational needs co-ordinator (SENCO) and I went part-time.

Our cycling is interrupted by a flock of sheep being manoeuvred by four collies and one very enthusiastic pup. We admire the way the farmer and dogs work together. I wonder if we could enlist their support for our pupils' annual sponsored walk.

Tuesday: A work day. Spend the day attempting to raise the self-esteem of pupils trying desperately to improve their literacy skills, yet realising the system is stacked against them. Why does spelling matter so much in this technological age?

In the evening, the student rag committee agrees that we can fund-raise alongside them. Am impressed by the way in which the chair (who looks about 16) races speedily yet effectively through the agenda before sending everyone off to the pub. Our senior management team has a lot to learn from his technique.

Wednesday: A lunchtime meeting to discuss a Year 8 pupil reminds me why I am so pleased to have given up the SENCO role. James, a troubled boy with no family support, is struggling, as are his teachers.

No additional support is available, and teachers are under increasing pressure to cope with bigger classes and inadequate resources. With SENCOs increasingly engaged in papering over the cracks in this crumbling system, who is able to effect real change for pupils like James?

Thursday: Sigh with relief when the phone doesn't ring - no supply work today. Time for a quick five-mile circuit.

I always see people I know just when I've stopped for a rest. I haven't worn the official T-shirt yet in case people laugh.

Friday: A morning's supply in an inner-city school. Wish I could call on the support of those collies to keep the children on task (or even in the classroom).

Spend the afternoon collecting at the local supermarket. We stand holding our poster (drawn by a friendly art teacher) which shows Kate and me cycling behind a snail past pyramids and crocodiles. We try to predict which people will make donations and are overcome when one of our "non-starters" gives us Pounds 5.

Sue Walker is a special needs teacher in Sheffield

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