Darren explains that he has not done his homework because they went to Center Parcs for the weekend. Smugly, I tell him that when my family went to Center Parcs, we insisted the children took their homework. I don't let on that the adults sat round like sulky children waiting for it to be finished before we could go swimming.
Ranjav explains that he has spent hours on his homework but the printer has run out of ink. While I have heard this excuse many times, in Ranjav's case it could well be true. I ask why he did not put it on disk and bring it to school to print out. "Because the school printers are always broken or out of ink ," he replies. He has a point.
Olivia has tried to do her homework. Her Mum has sent a note explaining how they asked grandpa and the neighbour and her aunt's friend, who used to work in a bookshop, but none of them could help with her research on the war poet Seaweed Bassoon. I make a note to check Olivia's homework diary more carefully this week.
Tara's printer does work. Her homework diary is immaculate and, at 12, she already has the ruthless efficiency of a senior consultant's PA. Her 12 pages of research look very attractive and she has presented it in a special plastic folder. The title page has been decorated with glitter pen.
"Wonderful!" I enthuse. "What can you tell me about the poet?" She looks a little crestfallen . "Oh, sorry Miss - was I meant to read it as well?"
I spend 15 minutes of my lunch hour going backwards and forwards to the car with all the books I need to mark over the weekend. "Is that your homework then, Miss?" asks a bystander. "Afraid so," I reply, "unless I can think of a good excuse."
Jill Kelly teaches English at Bradon Forest secondary school, Swindon, Wiltshire