Thank God it's Friday

3rd May 1996 at 01:00
Monday: I'm having difficulty concentrating on assembly. An idea about the Year 6 national tests troubles and eludes me.

My attention turns to William from my class, squirming as he stands beside the head. His mum has sent in a note describing his missing coat. Her appeal produces a few bored coughs.

A latecomer clumps in carrying a lunch box. "Sir, I found this in the boys' toilets." William gives a blush of recognition. Solemnly the head hands him the box and the note, telling him to look after both.

Back in class William's face shows his anguish. The wobbly shelf that is his short-term memory has buckled under the load.

"I've lost something else," he whispers. "I've lost the description of my coat."

I tap his head gently. "It's in there." He grins with relief. As he walks away I bite my nails. What is it I have to remember?

Tuesday: I return to my classroom after lunch and find a dinner lady waiting for me with David. I hope this won't take long. We have revision to do. David is wearing his resigned, it-always-happens-to-me, look.

"He's been messing about in the boys' toilets," she says. David sighs and shakes his head. "Messing," she insists, "with the wall."

"The wall?" "Removing bricks."

"Well David?" I ask.

"It wasn't me," he says. "It was Philip."

"I saw you," says the dinner lady.

He squeaks indignantly. "I was putting them back."

Wednesday: The children have been writing stories. David has covered two sides of A4 paper with 243 well-spaced words on how he escaped from a desert island.

"You'll have to write more in the tests," I warn him. He closes his eyes and sighs wearily.

"But, it's good," I say truthfully. "Especially here where you use litter to make a fire then explode empty aerosols to make flares. It's all very believable."

I give him a severe smile."I'd say you have a flair for fiction."

Thursday: Teba is desperate to do well in the tests. She has written another story at home. "Is it good?" she asks.

It's beautifully presented. Effort shows in the formation of each letter. But English is her second language and that shows in the structure of every sentence.

I feel guilty. In attempting to motivate the class I've worried Teba and added to her problems. I correct her story carefully. Before she leaves I explain that tests can only tell us a little about what people can do; that she is talented and special.

And level 3, I add silently.

Friday: I'm off on in-service training about the SATs tests. On my way out I meet a beaming William. His coat has been found in the PE store where he put it with the skipping ropes.

The course is exhausting. Someone mentions there are vacancies at Asda. We speak of large lottery wins. One colleague reacts more seriously. "We Year 6 teachers can't do it all," he says. "I'm impressing on the staff they must do more lower down the school."

I reply: "I'm impressing on myself that it's not my fault!" A system that cascades blame and declares so many teachers and pupils failures is a system that is failing. That's it I realise. That's what I've been trying to remember all week.

Mary Bland is a teacher at Old Moat Junior School, Withington, Manchester

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