Thank God It's Friday;Talkback

23rd May 1997 at 01:00
Monday: It's SATs week. Within minutes of arriving, I'm setting out tables in the hall. And chairs. And number labels. Our school, like most, has mixed-age classes so this week we've got to reorganise and separate the herd: Year 6 line up while all the Year 5s are squashed into one room. Pity that their teacher is off sick. It's only May, but already I'm twitchy about the supply budget so those 41 Year 5 children are all mine.

Half an hour into this session of pedagogic sardines and two students arrive to interview me on video about the effect of budget cuts. One pan around the class should answer their queries. They smile on departure, commenting on the realism of the exercise.

Nipping through the entrance hall, I discourage a five-year-old from poking the tadpoles. The indoor garden is like a magnet, but the tadpoles' life expectancy is shortening by the hour.

Tuesday: Out come the tables again, heavy, unwieldy and full of splinters. Just what will our 11-year-olds learn from all this? I can guarantee their teachers will be 90 per cent accurate in predicting the scores, so why sit SATs ? And why mess the Year 5 children around all week? No PE or music in the hall, so that's another loss caused by government dogma. To dampen my spirits further the dinner ladies let me know exactly how they feel about the use of their tables in their dining hall. Only the bike ride home through the Cotswolds rescues my sanity.

Wednesday: One Year 6 teacher phones in with a bad back. The doctor has ordered immediate bed rest and diagnosed excess lifting. No guesses as to its cause. I splash out on supply cover in the morning, but the afternoon will be my responsibility.

Fifteen children head off to Weston-super-Mare before school, courtesy of the Rotary Club. They'll have a great day, but a senior teacher gives me a four-square earful about the disruption caused by the trip; 8.55am and already the valium is in demand. Lunchtime guitar club followed by teaching Year 5, followed by the Christian club, leaves me reeling. Five o'clock and I'm ready to cycle home. But where's my bike?

Our caretaker is cursed with a sense of humour which reckons it's fun to hide the boss's bike. When I find it, the machine is festooned in red sugar-paper ribbons. With gritted teeth I unravel my machine and hang her jacket well up the cherry tree. I pedal home, smirking. Just tonight's governors' meeting to go.

Thursday: The caretaker is planning her revenge when another infant catches me in the hall and asks what happens when the tadpoles turn into frogs. I look at the caretaker. Her turn to smirk, followed by a meaningful glance at the vacuum cleaner. I'm left in no doubt as to the frogs' fate. Couldn't be any worse than a French food mixer.

Friday: The end is in sight. Only one lad has dissolved in tears, while the 89 others in Years 5 and 6 have simply wasted large chunks of their week. I'm sure their behaviour has gone off this week; they don't like being bored or having their routine disrupted. Never mind, it's the Spring Fayre after school.

At five o'clock, it's getting chilly and rain's on the horizon. As it's my last term (and I'm a masochist), I've agreed to stick my neck out - through the stocks for the wet-sponge throwing. I'm grinning bravely, watching the children's faces as they take aim. Just you wait until Monday, Wayne Scarsbrook!

By 7.30 everything's being packed up. That's when the pony gets its hind legs caught in the ramp of the horse box; what nice people those firemen are. Legless but curiously satisfied, I lock up at 8.40. It is then that I notice a fishing gnome beside the tadpoles; the caretaker will have to go.

Bob Forster is head of the Batt Church of England School, Witney, Oxfordshire

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