Thank God It's Friday

28th April 1995 at 01:00
Monday: Working under the shadow of impending redundancy is no picnic. Though we lack a crystal ball or any sense of the plans for us, members of my soon-to-be-defunct team meet. Our job is, or rather has been, to support 75 newly-qualified teachers for their first year of teaching until July. That's what they were promised when they started in September.

Over lunch I ring the head of personnel to check that she has received my letter agreeing to accept redundancy and to ask about a likely leaving date. Will it be the end of this term or next? She is in a meeting, and continues to be in meetings for the next three calls.

Tuesday: Off to a school in a neighbouring local education authority to give a story-telling day. They have OFSTED in and the staff are power-dressed and stressed. An inspector comes to my first session, sitting cross-legged on the floor and beaming. I wonder if I am being inspected too, but surely there isn't a requirement to visit story-tellers in the OFSTED framework?

In spite of the difficulties of using another school's phone, I harass the kindly secretary and make a further four calls to the head of personnel. She continues to be in meetings - or is it still the same one as yesterday?

Wednesday: I spend the day wondering about my future. People ask sympathetically if I've heard yet about my potential redundancy. I give a hollow laugh. At home time I join the union picket of a grant-maintained school where the head has developed delusions of grandeur, sacking a teacher without following the rulebook.

A colleague arrives at 4.30pm. "I've got a letter for you," he says, handing me an envelope from the chief inspector.

I read that my last day of service will be this Friday - the end of the financial year, not even the end of term. I am being given 48 hours notice. Furious that the LEA has not even bothered to splash out on a stamp to seal my fate, I entertain the picket with dramatised extracts from the letter. This makes me feel better.

Thursday: I start the day by drafting a farewell letter to the teachers I support. I ring the chief inspector to request an "exit interview", in order to make a few pithy remarks. His personal assistant will get back to me.

I make myself a badge saying "Death with dignity" to wear while the team meets to agree contingency plans. Only one person is being kept on, and the co-ordinator has agreed to work out her notice. Maybe they can buy me back for a day so I can say goodbye to the teachers we work with.

Later the teachers' centre is invaded by the annual schools music festival and children, parents and VIPs swarm in through the doors. I have volunteered to be a concert usher and greet everyone with a subtle blend of dignity and exuberance. I put a feather in my hair.

The INSET manager rushes past and says: "You've got a feather in your hair." Top marks for observation. "I'm on the warpath," I say and leave it at that. I make a point of greeting the chief inspector personally. His eyes glaze over, and he fails to meet my gaze.

Then I return to the office and write cards to the rest of the induction team. I send out my farewell letters then clear my desk. On the stairs I meet the schoolkeeper, who is deaf, and in the mixture of signing, mime and over-acting with which we communicate, tell him this is my last appearance. He signs to me that we will always be friends. Shaken but not stirred, I go home.

Friday: At 5.15pm my call about the exit interview is finally returned. I am, of course, entitled to request one. However, it cannot possibly be with the chief inspector but should rather be with my line manager (who has also been made redundant). If she feels there are any important issues she can refer them to her line manager, who will bring anything she feels is relevant to her line manager, who is the chief inspector.

Defeated by this implacable hierarchy, I give up all hope of having the last word. Then I think of Thank God It's FridayIand reach for the phone.

Fiona Collins was made redundant on March 31 this year by the London borough of Lambeth

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