Thank God it's Friday

12th December 2003 at 00:00
Monday I escape from school 10 minutes after the buses leave. By just after 4pm, the head of business studies and I are on the first tee, desperately trying to fit in one more round before the nights close in, and consoling ourselves that important business meetings are meant to take place on the golf course.

I laugh aside some survey I read at the weekend suggesting heads work an average of 60.8 hours a week, implying I'm far too sensible these days to put up with that sort of thing. I certainly relish the fact that the governors' curriculum meeting at 6pm is being attended by one of the deputies rather than me.

Tuesday It's internal meetings night and this week the cycle has reached subject departments. My plan to spend a bit of time in my own specialism's meeting, then go on to science, which I line-manage, is flung into disarray by the distress of a mum who cannot find the Year 7 child and sixth-form neighbour she drives home every day. Something like panic ensues and everyone combs the buildings and playing fields.

An hour later, as we're on the verge of calling the police, the pair arrive home - they had decided to walk. By this time a family crisis is exploding for another student, and a social services case conference is hastily convened for as soon after 6pm as can be arranged.

At 8.15pm I'm still in school, well into the 13th consecutive hour.

Wednesday This is headteacher's performance management review evening, so the external assessor is waiting as I finish my lower school class. We get on well, and an hour rushes by as we discuss the school's past year.

But what a waste of time and money this process is. As if performance management isn't nonsensical enough, the notion that some external figure is necessary to referee between head and governors defies belief. The cost of getting an assessor to do pre- and post-meeting paperwork, drive to Haverfordwest and back, and conduct three hours of talking in between, must represent the equivalent of a full leadership group point.

Thursday Leadership group (my announcement of the change of name from senior management team was greeted with a chorus of "spin, spin" in staff briefing) is timetabled from the beginning of afternoon school and carries on beyond 5.30pm, despite our determination to call a halt at 5.15pm at the latest - even if we haven't discussed the new uniform, again. The trouble with meetings is that they generate things to do, and I have to put in a serious evening's effort on the paperwork.

Friday There's a mad rush to get everything together for the weekend's work. Forty minutes after the end of school, a dozen of us hurry to the sports hall for the five-a-side soccer that represents a fantastic way to dispel the frustrations of the week.

This regular fixture is almost sacrosanct and I hurtle back at times from meetings on the other side of the county to take my place. The head of PE even got an urgent call through to me - where none was supposed to be allowed - on the Friday of Leadership Programme for Serving Heads to remind me not to miss the vital "meeting" in two hours' time.

"A quick one" follows in the pub, where I tot up the length of my working week over the past seven daysI 64 hours!

John Claydon is head of Wyedean school in Chepstow, Gwent, Monmouthshire

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