Thank God it's Friday

23rd March 2001 at 00:00
Monday The foot and mouth crisis could not have come at a worse time for me. The sixth-formers studying geography and biology are required to investigate a range of habitats and physical landscapes. Not possible during the current crisis, say the men from the ministry. Not so, says the examinations board. Use your imagination, says the head.

Tuesday I spend my lunch hour casting around the school neighbourhood for accessible habitats and landscapes. The local Chef and Brewer offers the use of its duck pond and playground. Unfortunately, the plastic giraffes and the jungle gym fail to meet the exam board's criteria of microhabitats.

Wednesday A chance remark by the lollipop lady at my son's primary school sends me scurrying to the local refuse tip. Not the most exhilarating of habitats, but a habitat none the less. Yes, the tip manager says, we can bring a party of sixth-formers to carry out slope profiles, species counts and line transects. But his enthusiasm wanes when he realises I teach at an all-bos' school with not a gymslip in sight.

Thursday I break the news to the biology and geography sixth-formers. As expected they are not overly enthused, but we bat on regardless and begin planning our visits. I feel my credibility as field trip organiser falling in direct relation to the ever-increasing numbers of reported foot and mouth cases. I leave the teaching session with a student's words ringing in my ears: "Well I'm not going to tell my mum she is going to have to wash my clothes in disinfectant."

Friday Any feelings of satisfaction from the head's glowing praise for sorting out the field trip are cancelled by glares from my students. However, news from the school caretaker that the tip manager has a new female assistant with legs to die for fires new interest amongst my male students. Strange that. Perhaps my lessons about the diversity of species have not fallen on stony ground after all.

Rachel French is head of sixth-form studies at an all-boys' school in the south of England

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