February half term usually arrives after six weeks of scraping ice from frozen windscreens, slithering to school along slushy highways and shivering on the playground with only a safety cup of lukewarm coffee to keep the chill out. The dark days of winter are normally spent dreaming of sun-drenched beaches and warm blue seas, which make it a perfect time for summer holiday planning.
This year I could easily neglect this task but I refuse to be fooled by a freak midwinter heat wave. After extensive research (and delicate negotiating with Mrs Eddison), this August will see us off to the idyllic Cycladean island of Santorini. Before you can say global warming, flights, car hire and accommodation are booked and I can return to school with a spring in my step, a song in my heart and a blue-domed church perched above the Aegean set as my home screen.
Hacking a path towards unrealistic targets through a wilderness of disadvantage makes the academic year a long one, but at least now I have something to look forward to. But if August promises to be kind to me, it can be the cruellest month for some. While I bask in the warm glow of knowing another kind of warm glow is around the corner, the same can’t be said for Roxanne.
Getting away from it all at the end of the school year is not something she can look forward to. In fact, the only thing Roxanne will get away from is the guarantee of school meals, the security of this building and the support of her teachers. It’s highly unlikely anyone spent their half term planning a summer holiday for her.
Summer holiday blues
Or maybe they did? During the February break, a group of senior leaders hatched a plan. Meetings took place behind closed doors. Phone calls were made, emails sent, financial calculations computed and detailed spreadsheets produced. By the end of the week, the only question remaining was whether enough teachers would sign up to make it feasible.
It is the night before school starts. I’m busy swiping through Seventy Stunning Sights of Santorini when my phone begins to vibrate. An email from Ms Boudicca (our head) arriving in the dead of night is unlikely to herald good news. I wonder if I should look at it now or continue my Greek Odyssey and leave it til the morning. Curiosity finally gets the better of me and I click on it.
A moment later I’m viewing some entirely different images. These are in my head and include Roxanne climbing and abseiling; Roxanne adventure walking in the Peak Park; Roxanne creeping through a limestone cave, eating burnt sausages at a barbecue, singing songs around the campfire and creeping nervously to bed in the haunted bunkhouse after hearing my famous ghost stories.
A summer holiday for children who would otherwise not have one is a great idea, but which knackered teachers are going to give up their summer break to staff it? In the minute it takes me to check the dates don’t coincide with Santorini, my phone has pinged so often I’m worried I might not get a place.
Steve Eddison is a teacher at Arbourthorne Community Primary School in Sheffield