Thank God it's Friday

14th April 2006 at 01:00
Floods, darkness and lots of noise. Headteacher Mike Beale surveys his new domain

Monday I survey the building site that we must pretend is a school for the next six months. Ten years ago we couldn't get a window mended, but now we're in the middle of pound;1 million building project. There's no parking area, we've major internal flooding, black bitumen has seeped into four classrooms and one has no ventilation, heating pipes on every wall and no natural light. To my dismay I find this indicated on the plans I agreed to. We'll need some extra hours, says the caretaker.

Tuesday Local residents greet me outside school. After initial pleasant chat they tell me that they hope I've had a nice summer, because they haven't. They complain that it's been impossible to hang washing out, they've dust throughout their houses and that the noise has woken them up, kept them out of the garden and made relaxation impossible. I apologise, tell them the worst is over and suggest the project will soon be finished.

I omit to tell them the completion date is six months away. We could clean their houses if we had some extra hours, says the caretaker.

Wednesday Work on two classrooms has to stop while we wait for an environmental officer. It's decided that the new building is too near a busy road and that if the windows are opened the noise will disturb concentration. External extractor fans are to be fitted. Our three children with Asperger's syndrome visit today. They find it difficult to cope with major changes and we're showing them how different the building will be when they return to school. The put on their hard hats and look at the work. Sophie tells me she likes the layout and it will be nice not to get wet walking back and forth to the "sheds", as our temporary classrooms were called. Tim asks that, if school can't open on time, will we get an extra holiday? The caretaker tells Tim they'll be ready because he'll be working extra hours.

Thursday Staff are deciding which classrooms they want. The big debating point seems to be which age range needs the biggest room: Year 6 because they have the biggest bodies or Year 3 because they need different teaching areas. I tell them that the decision has already been made according to "architectural criteria". Some staff also want to choose colour schemes, but the last time I allowed this we got purple and lime green walls, red tiles, and wallpaper that made the classrooms look like a six-year-old's bedroom. I certainly don't want Bob the Builder in the library again. I go for magnolia everywhere.

Friday The extractor fans make so much noise that we'll never be able to use them during lessons. I haven't the heart to tell the architect as he is so pleased with his "solution focused" approach. Together we survey the site. A summer downpour has produced a river of glutinous mud and I think about hundreds of tiny feet treading it throughout the school. You'll probably need some extra cleaning hours, suggests the architect.

Mike Beale is head of Holland Moor primary in Skelmersdale, Lancashire. He wrote this diary at the end of last year

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