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Thank God it's Friday

Monday I leave at 7.15am, but 45 minutes later I'm stuck on the M1 and have to phone the inner-city school on a mobile to explain what's happened. At 8.30 I'm phoning from the stationary traffic on the outer ring road and repeating myself. At a quarter to nine, I have to queue with the mums at reception. "Please let me through," I simper, "I'm on supply." Eventually I am led to a mobile classroom where the headteacher is just finishing the register. Thirty-two expectant Year 56 faces turn my way as he beats a grateful retreat. I do not have time to tell them my little rules.

Tuesday Another school, another mobile classroom. This one is freezing. The class teacher has left copious notes and lots of worksheets. But one detail is missing: how to turn on the heating. We start numeracy hour in our coats while I send for assistance.

Wednesday Yet another mobile classroom. This one is fairly new, with double-glazing and lots of obvious heater controls. I have time to write my little rules on the board before the children arrive. I like to start the day this way and always try to finish with a brief run-through. Before break and lunch too, the class and I remind ourselves of my little rules. We don't get a lot done sometimes, but at least we know where we stand as far as trying it on with the supply teacher is concerned.

Thursday A day off - because I try to avoid going to work every day. Supply teachers can lead this sort of flamboyant, devil-may-care life. There is just the small matter of paying the bills. As part of my in-service for "credibility in the modern classroom", I watch Big Breakfast and a superb black and white film on Channel 5.

Friday My fourth school of the week and I find myself, strangely, in a mobile classroom. It's a Year 34 class and, as befits a good junior school, there's a nice assembly to award colourful certificates "for being a thoroughly nice person this week" to proud recipients. County Arts has arranged another of those visiting keyboard and guitar demonstrations afterwards. At the end there is the usual mad rush to try out the instruments and get the autographs of the demonstrators. I quite enjoy supply; I've got lots of autographs and I can nearly play a minor scale.

Phil Harley is a primary supply teacher

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