Thank God it's Friday

15th September 2006 at 01:00
Sunday. It's the second week of the new school year and I've been called for jury service. An odd time to be away, as I am setting work for classes I don't yet know. I spend the day writing notes for my supply but realise I can't write my usual warnings as I don't know the students well enough.

Instead I write down as many of my routines as I can bring to mind.


I pop into school to deliver two weeks of cover notes. It has the usual morning buzz; I drive to court and am still too early. We finally make a gentle start, watching a video about the legal process and touring a court. Half of us are on our first week; the experienced second-weekers are nesting in the jurors' room, knitting, doing puzzles, reading. We novices are unprepared for all the waiting, but luckily there is cricket on the telly. We jump every time someone robed comes into the room, but they are only checking the score.


More sitting around. Today I am armed with embroidery to fend off boredom and guilt about my department managing without me. Some jurors are teaching others to crochet; when we eventually get on to a case, we file into the jury box like a row of textile teachers, with overflowing bags of craft materials. We are stood down at lunchtime, as a case has "cracked" - a guilty plea means no jury required. Back to school briefly; everyone fine, of course.


The judges are sentencing first thing so I'm not needed until mid-morning. Finally get the call after lunch and troop up to the court; there are no legal delays and we begin. We are given an outline of the case (underage sex) and sent home.


We listen to the police, neighbours, relatives, the accused, the victim and a friend. I try to make notes, but find it tricky to write down the different strands of a story told without much grasp of a timeline. I realise that in complicated "he saidshe said" situations, I normally have an expert with me to interpret the evidence: the barristers are not a patch on our pastoral team. At lunchtime, the victim holds the door open for me, and I almost do my teacher bit of thanking her by name.


Today it's final arguments from the defence and prosecution. The judge sums up and two hours later, a unanimous decision. Am stood down and return to school on Monday, having done my civic duty and improved my crocheting skills.

Maureen Fenn is head of maths at Notre Dame high school, Norwich

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