Thank God it's Friday

28th February 1997 at 00:00
Monday: I arrive early to try to find out why the computer has swallowed Pounds 31.23. When we get it right, the office computer will save a great deal of time, but until then I have to get in at 8am and devote myself to the problems it throws up. The head has been on all the courses, but he hasn't got a clue.

Our caretaker is in his room drinking coffee. He has just reported an illness which prevents him from raising his hands above his shoulders. Not that it will make any difference; we've never seen him raise his hands above his knees.

Tuesday: I still can't find the money. Today my desk is piled high with second-hand school uniforms for sale. This is the job of the PTA, but as usual I get lumbered. Still, the school needs the money, so I'll wash and sell the trousers, T-shirts and ties.

The head receives a delegation from the cleaners, who complain that the caretaker chivvies them into finishing early so that he can lock up. I foresee a long correspondence with the local authority about the disciplinary procedure.

Wednesday: I give up and phone the local authority helpline to locate my missing money. It's a software fault. All that worry, and it wasn't even my own incompetence. Irritation is mixed with satisfaction that the budget balances.

The governors are now involved with the caretaker's disciplinary procedure.

Why is it that teachers cannot balance the dinner money or fill in registers correctly? Despite my gentle hints and even direct instructions they make the same errors week after week. It was bad enough before authorised and unauthorised absences, but now it's a nightmare.

Thursday: The computer system has crashed. Thank goodness we have our disaster recovery insurance. A very young man has been doing wonderful things with tapes and disks all day, and we should be up and running by next week.

The head is in a fury, and everyone is giving him a wide berth. He spent all morning with the caretaker and his union rep.

Friday: The caretaker has resigned amid dark rumours that he's been carrying on an illegal postal business using the school address. All the dinner money and registers are correct for the first time this year, and a very capable mum, newly arrived, has taken over the second-hand uniforms. My computer has developed a fault and has to go away to be made better. I hope it is a terminal illness.

Best of all, the men have arrived to re-surface the playground - a tangible result from months of letters to the local authority. The number of kids with bloody knees will be halved at a stroke. From the ridiculous to the sublime in only five days.

Belinda Lake is a fictional school secretary invented by a headteacher in a Kent primary school

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