Thank God it's Friday

9th January 1998 at 00:00
MONDAY A new term...and a bright, new, shiny fire alarm. (The old one had all the efficiency of a pushbike bell, so I was delighted to get a new one when we were re-wired.) I listen in awe as the electrician proudly explains the high-tech console which controls little red glass-panelled boxes everywhere. Shame that quite so much children's work had to be ripped off the walls to fit the boxes, but that's high tech for you. Only one thing worries me: the boxes are within reach of the children, and one is perilously close to the playground exit.

TUESDAY Playtime, and suddenly the fire alarm goes off. It's the most piercing sound - worse than Year 3 practising descant recorders. I emerge from my room to find teachers already in the corridor, their bodies vibrating with the noise. As suddenly as it started, the noise stops. I hurry to the control console, where good old Dave, premises officer par excellence, has switched it off. Meanwhile, two teachers have discovered Mary, (Year 4, special needs), standing sheepishly next to a little red box with its glass broken. Her brother George is beside her. George is into high tech. He looks at me carefully. "Me sister dunnit," he says.

WEDNESDAY I'm running the lunchtime film club in a room packed full of infants when the fire alarm goes off. Teachers emerge from the staffroom, puzzled. Is it a drill? Should they go outside? Aaron is discovered, his mates having grassed him up. Aaron didn't mean to do it. He was just waving his arms around when he hit the funny little box. I invite his mum to come and discuss the seriousness of the incident. "I can't understand it," she says. "He spends hours watching London's Burning."

THURSDAY Assembly, and I've prepared my theme carefully. I explain the new alarm system, and the importance of treating it with respect. I read "The Boy Who Cried Wolf", and they listen quietly and seriously. They file out of assembly chatting. The message has struck home. At 3.30, the fire alarm goes off. By now, the staff are almost expecting it.

The bell rings interminably. Dammit, Dave's at a meeting! I stare at the flashing console, but it might as well be the flightdeck of the Starship Enterprise. What did Dave say? Turn the key twice, push a button I After five permutations, it works. Meanwhile, a parent governor has cornered Andrew in the playground. Andrew left us last year. He swears he leant against the button accidentally, with the innocent expression he'll eventually use to tell the judge he only borrowed the motor do do his granny's shopping.

FRIDAY Desperation measures. I call the electrician. Could he remove this particular box? There is a sharp intake of breath. Impossible, apparently, with this new high-tech system. Could it, then, be put out of reach of the children? Another intake of breath. What if a child discovers a fire? You can't just leave everything to the adults.

At 2.30, the fire alarm goes off. I rush downstairs, to find a quivering delivery man. He was unloading netball equipment and smashed the glass accidentally.

Home at last. My wife tells me our neighbour has been burgled again and we really should get an alarm ourselves. Homebase has got one on special offer, and it's late night opening tonight... Mike Kent is head of Comber Grove Primary, Southwark, south London

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