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Thank God it's Friday

Monday: I've heard a dastardly rumour. At the weekend, a friend said something about early retirement and the rules being changed, shutting the door on those who've given their all and want to go early. Suppose I have to leave by March - with OFSTED coming in May. It can't be true. On with the day. A Divali assembly and two minutes' silence for Remembrance Day. Lots of moral, spiritual and cultural content here, though one Dad complains about the Divali aspect. Someone asks if I've heard any more about the rumour; must talk to my finance man tonight.

Tuesday: He has heard the rumour too, but doesn't know much yet. His rough calculation of lump sum and pension could mean I'd have to look for other work. I send off for an assessment of pension entitlement. I'm busy getting ready for the governors' meeting tomorrow and the nursery vouchers information session on Thursday, so I don't think too much about it.

Wednesday: In the pit of my stomach there is a real fear that in spite of all my plans for seeing the school through inspection, two years of action plan and retiring at 55, things are being turned upside down. I am caught in a whirlwind, numb and powerless in its eye. The chair of governors promises to find out what he can. A secretary from the DFEE has faxed me a press release that makes the Government's intention clear - to stop the flow and make the employer pay for the trickle. The governors' meeting seems longer than usual.

Thursday: One of my deputies says the staff have asked if I'm serious. She's explained that I see no alternative. My husband is ten years older than me and retired already; I can't go on till I'm 60 or we'll be in double bathchairs! My bursar talks about buying in my services to cover OFSTED, and my chairman introduces me to Mr X. He knows everything there is to know about pensions and form filling. He calmly quotes the percentages for which the employer will be liable. The worry, frustration and anger spill over and those closest to me in the team take the brunt.

Life goes on. The vouchers meeting goes well. I enjoy talking to parents. I reassure them that we'll cope.

Friday: I talk to our school development adviser about opportunities for early retired heads, and using my skills to supplement my pension. Me and 10, 000 others, I shouldn't wonder. Then I tell the chairmen of our personnel and finance committees that if the legislation reaches the statute books, it's a fait accompli, and there seems no alternative to leaving on March 31. Both are incredulous, but fully understand my personal reasons. Surely this is all a bad dream. Thank God it's Friday and The TES will be waiting at the newsagents, refuting the rumours and restoring my optimism. But no, it seems it's all true. This has been the worst week of my life.

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