It is a school rule that all pupils wear "sensible" shoes. Parents interpret this as "anything goes as long as it's black". Perhaps I really am getting old, but in my day "sensible" meant flat lace-ups or buckled shoes. Now children as young as five are teetering around on high heels, wedges and sling-backs. (Melanie has managed to combine all three in one pair.) The new play equipment gives me a chance to remind children and parents that, for safety reasons, only children with sensible shoes will be allowed on it.
Tuesday Jenny, who is six, is wearing heels that are twice as high as mine.
When her teacher says she cannot play on the new equipment, she tells her that these are the only shoes she possesses but she will ask Mum to buy sensible ones next time. Jenny is not the only child in this situation, so she has plenty of others to play with. She understands the reasons and seems quite happy.
Wednesday Jenny's mum comes into school, all guns blazing. How dare we tell her what shoes to buy for her daughter! She likes the shoes she has bought and can't see anything wrong with them. I point out that the poor child can barely stand upright and certainly can't run and play like a child. She looks at me as if I'm mad. Perhaps I am. I didn't realise that fashion was more important than health.
Thursday I remind Melanie that her shoes are unsuitable for school. She smiles sweetly and I remember the outfit and make-up she wore at the school disco. This eight-year-old managed to look at least 15 with her high heels, bare midriff and body glitter. As she went in her mum turned to me with tears in her eyes and said, "My baby's all grown up." I felt like shaking her and screaming, "No she's not! She's only eight, you stupid woman!" but managed to hold it in and behave professionally.
I go home and look up my entitlement on the pensions website. It might be time to get out before I really lose it with a parent.
Friday Melanie is still wearing her high-heeled, wedged sling-backs. As she comes down the stairs she slips and falls. The poor child is rushed to hospital and her broken leg is put in plaster. Despite the chaos I still have time to write the newsletter to parents, trying hard to be sympathetic about Melanie as I tell parents of the unfortunate accident and remind them of our "sensible shoes" rule. But I find it hard not to smile. I might just put my retirement off for another year.
Margaret Regan is headteacher of a primary school in Cheshire