Thank God it's Friday

6th November 1998 at 00:00
MONDAY My wife, Ruth, has left me, taking our 10-month-old daughter with her. She wants a life of her own - for tonight. She's facing an OFSTED inspection at the Leeds comprehensive where she teaches French and Spanish. I know she's coming back tomorrow, but I curse the disruption of OFSTED as I come home to a bleak house.

A job-share means Ruth teaches on Wednesday afternoons, Thursdays and Fridays, and she's taking advantage of the free time to work in peace at her parents' house in Nottingham. She is able to leave our baby, Clare, with her mother and lock herself in her father's study, and use his computer.

TUESDAY I arrive home late after a conference. Ruth wanted me to be on hand when she arrived to help unpack the car, feed Clare, cook our dinner and put the baby to bed. I manage the last.

Later we turn our attention to the special needs matrix. It has letters to indicate special needs and numbers to show the stage the pupil has reached in the "statementing" process. My task is to help Ruth work out the meaning of the guidance to teachers on this system, but I fail. It reads like the rules for bureaucratic battleships, badly translated from the original Bulgarian.

WEDNESDAY After an inspector-free afternoon, Ruth is sure her assessment will be tomorrow. At midnight she still has two Year 11 Spanish worksheets to prepare, so I volunteer to type them up. Accents? No problem. She has a list with the keyboard shortcut (alt + 0233 and so on) for accents.

All the French ones that is. I type two lines before I need to find the upside-down question mark; two more before I need the letter $. Wish we had my father-in-law's computer with all its fancy drop-down menus. Trial and error is our only option. We go to bed at 1am, but neither of us sleeps well.

THURSDAY Our kitchen is alive with a half-forgotten sound. The head of Spanish and Ruth are drinking tea and laughing. They obviously believe they're over the worst. Clare is making light work of an apricot-flavoured Munch Bunch yoghurt.

Ruth's assessment went well despite the presence in one classroom of the school tumble-dryer, rotating at full pelt because the people in another department needed the contents for the next lesson. The inspector commented that conditions were less than ideal for a listening comprehension.

A chain of wine shops called, appropriately, Martinez, has just opened a branch near home, and the inaugural wine-tasting is tonight. We go for half an hour.

FRIDAY You can hear our piano from the street. Ruth is playing through some of the numbers from Guys and Dolls, the production her school is putting on this Christmas. She's practising for a rehearsal that will take up all of Saturday morning. Teachers just can't get enough.

She's happy because informal feedback suggests the inspectors went away happy. More than anything, she's glad OFSTED week is over. So she starts to sing "Sit down, you're rocking' the boat". In spite of the title, Clare and I get to our feet and dance round the room and thank God it's Friday together.

Stephen Tierney is a journalist in Leeds

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