Thank God It's Friday

26th January 1996 at 00:00
Monday: The week begins with an unusual excuse. "Sorry I'm late," says Laura. "The milkman didn't come so I couldn't start my cornflakes." Everyone please note - the school day doesn't begin until the milkman has arrived. Then Ben's mum rings to say he's been away for the weekend. He has jet-lag. Can't imagine where he went.

It's only 9.15 and my secretary reminds me the Nelson rep. is due today. I tell her I'll keep an eye out for him, whereupon she groans loudly and suggests I take a very early lunch.

Tuesday: Ben is still absent. He's constipated. His mother says: "Sorry he hasn't been yet, but when he's been he'll come." Later on, 10-year-old Tony claims he's lost his PE kit, but it's amazing how quickly he finds it when Miss says he'll have to wear his vest and pants instead.

Meanwhile, a Year 6 teacher considers the forthcoming SATs. Last year her class had to give two reasons why the process of canning food kills microbes. One child correctly answered "the absence of air stops their growth and kills them". Then added: "it would also take them too long to get out".

Wednesday: It's my birthday and my secretary hands me a card with a still-life picture on it. Is she suggesting something? However, she soon partners me in a game of telephone tennis when I try contacting another head, but he's out so I leave a message. Then I'm out when he returns my call and so on.

As rallies go it's a good one, with the opposite side constantly out of position and scrambling back. Meanwhile Ben has returned, and a note from his mum concludes "Sorry about me speling I've hert my rist".

Thursday: A harassed parent brings six-year-old Neil straight to the office. "He wasn't well yesterday," she explains. "He was definitely under the weather because he was quiet most of the day, but now his mouth is working overtime again." She's right. Neil soon makes his mark when his class visit the local fire station.

They're shown the searchlight on the engine, but he's not at all impressed by such high-tech equipment. "You could eat carrots instead," he says. Later he watches the classroom assistant mixing paints and inquires if she's going to be an artist when she grows up.

Friday: The vicar takes assembly and asks if anyone can name the first book of the Bible. "The Beginner's Bible?" suggests an infant. Then a pushy rep. rings and insists on giving me her phone number so I can call her back with my decision. It's already made, but I pretend to write the number down, while silently praying for inspiration when I realise she might ask me to repeat it.

There's a violent thunderstorm at lunchtime. The reception class teacher has lost her voice and gone home, all 30 children are as high as kites and I've no option but to look after them myself. "Ah well, over the top," I reflect, as I make my way to their classroom. I've always thought reception classs teachers are a bit special, but in my case some are called, some are chosen and some have their arms twisted. The words special educational needs suddenly takes on a whole new meaning for me.

Luke Darlington is headteacher of St Mary's C of E Primary School, Yate, Bristol

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