Thank God It's Friday

10th May 1996 at 01:00
Monday: The budget's finally in and it doesn't look too bad. The bursar's smiling again and we decide to pay a supply for Wednesday morning so a deputy can be around when our VIP arrives.

Today's busy. An assembly about welcoming guests, a distraught mum wanting advice on an errant husband and a governors' report to prepare. A distraught dad, no relation, wanting advice on a lethargic mum and a headteachers' meeting.

Tuesday: We're selling programmes for the mid-term one-act play festival. All the children from Year 2 to Year 6 will take part, though I sometimes wonder why we bother. The programmes go like hot cakes which takes us all by surprise.

Rehearsals are going well, but staff are looking glazed and we have to calm the children down - I'm called in to give them a pep talk about behaviour - especially as our VIP is coming tomorrow. I'm on the verge of accepting bribes about the itinerary.

Wednesday: The great day at last and I arrive early. The school looks lovely and I have an immense feeling of pride - everyone's in a great mood. The children drift in and there's still a queue at the box office. We run out of Wednesday and Thursday evening programmes and there's still a week to go. Should we put on more shows?

I do a final check round the building, gaze out of the window and see our VIP walking along the path. He's early. I tear through the building and arrive breathlessly in reception. "Hello," he says. "Paddy Ashdown, lovely to be here."

He's a brilliant communicator and the walkabout is extended by quarter of an hour. Lots of photographs, lots of information shared and he reads a story to the nursery children. They gaze adoringly and cuddle his legs.

He sees almost everybody and then it's time to go. lt's been a boost but I take some stick from the teacher who only got a glimpse. I blame the kitchen staff who wouldn't let him go.

We relax at lunchtime and there's a knock on the staff-room door. The contractor has arrived to put up the "feminine waste units". After the Lord Mayor's show . . . Luckily the caretaker's on site for the VIP visit and ends up doing his day job in his best suit.

There's a restless knot of parents at the box-office at the end of the day. Too late to buy programmes for the performance they wanted, they're vociferous in their threats to withdraw their children.

Thursday: I approach the box-office full of confidence that we can calm the offended mums. But the mood has changed - "thanks for putting on the plays", "lovely for the children to have a chance at being real actors", "I should have got myself organised earlier", "don't worry, my friend says I can have one of her tickets". How fickle is the parent. Or could it be that the latecomers are laid-back about everything?

The bursar and I go through our budget plan. All our proposals have been included and there's still a bit in contingency. This is unbelievable. We check and recheck but there's no mistake. We can't do wonders but we don't have to cut back.

Friday: I'm quietly confident about the budget and outline the details to the staff. There's a faint air of optimism later overwhelmed by panic as final rehearsals take place. Children pop their noses into my room on the way to and from the hall wearing assorted wigs, wings and Forties gear. A six-year-old Queen Elizabeth the First meets the Enormous Crocodile and they eye each other curiously. So, we're all set for next week.

On our way home we almost collide with the caravan club arriving for their two-day let. Much as I love this school I wouldn't want to spend a wet weekend parked on the field. Each to his own.

Margaret Sandercock is headteacher of a primary school in Essex

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