Thank God it's Friday

21st March 1997 at 00:00
Monday: We must be near the end of term. A teacher announces that she's left her whistle in the washing machine. Then she sits down with an envelope in her hand and realises she has posted a bag of salt and vinegar crisps on her way to school.

I'm wading through a thick file about nursery vouchers. It falls on the floor, the clips burst open and paper spills everywhere. I put it all together again and decide to name it Humpty. The extra workload is enough for all the king's horses and all the king's men, and my secretary says it will test her staying power. Does she mean until the end of the week?

Tuesday: Other secretaries are obviously under pressure too. A reference is required for a "part-time supply tea"; a course handout asserts that display develops "anaesthetic" sense; and a letter about security advises us that the criminal element "prays on school buildings".

We were told that the vouchers would be a cross between a bus ticket and something you get at the deli counter in the supermarket, and we notice that the part we keep is the smallest and easiest to lose. It's our responsibility to collect them or the budget is docked, and we foresee ingenious excuses from parents. Paper-eating dogs will become fashionable.

Wednesday: I'm feeling slightly under the weather. I ring a parent to postpone an appointment until next term. "I'll put you down," he says. There's a pause. I'm not that ill. "In my diary," he says.

The governors meet in the evening, and one of them turns his hearing aid off because it's affected by the neon lights. They consider holding meetings by candlelight or in darkness so he can play a full part. How many governors are in the dark anyway?

Thursday: The children meet Pop-Eye, a "hearing dog" for the deaf. Pop-Ear would be better, but they'll still go home saying they've seen a deaf dog today. For some strange reason, but not to the connoisseur of staffroom conversations, this prompts a discussion about things children shove up their noses - coins, beads, buttons and, in the latest known case, cat litter.

At lunchtime Lee shows he needs a guide dog: he's tried to rearrange a drainpipe with his head. The dinner ladies are busy rescuing a child with her head stuck in the gate. John watches his sister, more with curiosity than alarm. He has his hands in his pockets. He says they're tired.

Friday: A five-year-old is fascinated as he watches the general assistant doing some ironing. He wonders about the wrinkles and asks if they've been sucked up inside the iron.

Perhaps vouchers were sent to test our ability at adding up. The children have all gone home, but we're still tearing our hair out in the office. In the corridor the caretaker is innocently singing, "The king was in his counting-house counting out his money".

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

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