If you’re reading this in Leicestershire …Well, actually, chances are, you’re not. The county has long done things its own way, with the academic year starting in August and ending early in July. So the likelihood is that you’ve already switched off from the chaos of the end of term and are sunning yourself somewhere idyllic – even if that’s just your back garden in Melton Mowbray.
Likewise, folk north of the border have long since forgotten what it’s like to be trapped in a sweltering classroom, desperately counting down the days. Their comeuppance will arrive in mid August, although they may be glad to get back indoors and away from the midges by then.
For the rest of us, we’re just about reaching the end of the dizzying period that is the summer term. If today is your final day, then congratulations. No, I mean it. Through gritted teeth. It may be a forced smile, but I’m happy for you. Really. Don’t worry about those of us ploughing on into next week.
Despite the fact that we all work for 190 days a year, these little term-date anomalies can seem impossible to bear. It’s ironic, because we spend most of the final six weeks constantly switching between yearning for each day to pass more quickly and bemoaning the fact that we’ve so little time left. Much like the panic in the final weeks of the holidays – when we realise that we’ve still not sorted the garage – there’s a race through all the necessary activities in the final weeks of term.
More experienced heads will have planned this meticulously in advance, carefully spreading out the responsibilities and timetabling of big events. Not so for all of us – especially those of us who have pupils leaving this year. In the scant few days we have in July, we must find room for sports days, transition events, parents’ evenings, reports, swimming competitions, production performances, leavers’ parties, cycling proficiency … The list seems endless. And the time to squeeze it all in so limited.
That’s before we even begin to think about preparing for the new academic year. Teachers moving classrooms – some of whom have 30 years of detritus to pack up and relocate; decoration and premises works; displays to be taken down and boards to be rebacked; exercise books to be distributed; and the inevitable last-minute realisation that nobody has remembered to order pencils for next year.
In among all this are the moments of joy and melancholy: the class you’re going to miss; the one you can’t wait to offload; the deputy retiring after 20 years’ service.
It’s no wonder that tensions can rise The heat doesn’t help as we try to find room in the hall for both rehearsals and PE, or there’s no more room in the recycling bins, again. We’d all do well to take a breath before venting our frustrations as we battle through the final days.
And if you need any comfort and reassurance at this time, just be thankful you don’t teach in Australia. In the southern hemisphere, all this end-of-year palava coincides with that other bastion of chaos: Christmas.
Michael Tidd is headteacher at Medmerry Primary School in West Sussex