At around 1.15pm today, the engine of learning ground to an unexpected halt because of unforeseen circumstances.
Although it is true to say that our learning journey has suffered delays in the past – such as when the wrong type of rain caused the roof to leak and turned valuable resources to papier mache, and when firemen evacuated the school for the day to investigate the mysterious kitchen blaze that never happened – none has been as serious as this one.
Our school might seem calm and efficient. The structures of our learning mission are not easily disturbed. Teaching, planning and marking policies are in plentiful supply, staff directives are running at or above sustainable levels, training schedules, display guidelines, lesson observations, data deadlines and book scrutiny timetables have formed a long tailback along education’s orbital motorway, each patiently waiting their turn.
But a school’s greatest assets are its human resources – and our most vital human resource has unexpectedly found herself disabled. I am not referring to our executive headteacher, who is currently visiting remote parts of her empire, nor to our head of school, who is locked in a crisis meeting about head lice. We have more than enough deputy heads, assistant heads and designated leaders to keep us running in several different directions for years to come.
Get an Easi-Grip
I am talking about our school business manager – aka Mrs Pinchpenny – without whose say-so neither the smallest Easi-Grip pencil holder nor the biggest 74-seat luxury coach to Yorkshire Wildlife Park can be acquired. Every whiteboard pen, every laminator pouch, every pack of multi-coloured counters must be sanctioned by her. She is the arterial system through which the lifeblood of school supplies runs and without whom our academic heart will cease to beat. Her ruthless determination to balance wanton demand and frugal supply was legendary – until this afternoon.
Mrs Pinchpenny’s problems arose shortly after I left her office, having filled in the paperwork for taking a group of children off-site to run a drama workshop. Was it a coincidence that our school should immediately be plunged into organisational darkness? Could I be responsible for clear-sighted fiscal management turning to blind confusion? It seems impossible – and yet…
My drama group are about to warm up with the penguin song. Everyone is standing to penguin-like attention, ready to begin. All except Bella, who needs to ask me one more question before we start. “Mr Eddison, why have you got two pairs of glasses?”
I feel my chest area. Sure enough, hooked over the neck of my sweatshirt by an arm each are two pairs of spectacles.
This is unusual, but not unheard of – I explain that because I occasionally misplace reading glasses, I sometimes carry two pairs with me. Bella sighs the long weary sigh of someone with a history of tracking down my misplaced specs. “I know that,” she says, “but yours are mostly brown and those pink ones look like Mrs Pinchpenny’s.”
Steve Eddison teaches at Arbourthorne Community Primary School in Sheffield