July 2014

The know zone

  • Tall tails...
    The saga of the sinking ambulance, a spot of amateur hairdressing and the grandmother with a bird about her person... read all about it in the diary of a headteacher. More
  • The 'middle tier'
    Following the creation of regional school commissioners and Ofsted regional directors, along with the Labour Party’s Review of Education, which proposes local directors of school standards, there has been much debate about the ’middle tier’. More
  • Leaders' surgery
    Under generic employment law, staff owe their employer a duty of 'honesty and loyalty' in their service. This often comes up in calls to the hotline, both where our members are the employee and when they are acting for the employer. Here, ASCL Hotline Leader David Snashall talks about three real situations from the calls received recently through the hotline. More
  • Taught on camera
    Tony Thornley shares some tips on using video to evaluate lessons and improve pedagogy. More
  • Educating the mind
    MindEd provides free online education resources to help adults to support wellbeing and identify, understand and support children and young people with mental health issues. More
  • Assessing without levels
    With the removal of levels from September, schools and colleges will currently be at various stages along the road towards implementing their own assessment framework. More
  • Rising costs and rhetoric
    As sixth form funding continues to decline, staff need to understand the financial position but they also need to pull together to find creative solutions. Stephan Jungnitz offers some suggestions for building up esprit de corps. More
  • Withstanding G-forces?
    Sam Ellis bids farewell and leaves readers with some final thoughts about how to measure the benefits of education re-organisation. More
  • Blurred lines
    Increasing numbers of business leaders are experiencing problems because it is unclear who is responsible for what in their schools, says Richard Bird. More
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The saga of the sinking ambulance, a spot of amateur hairdressing and the grandmother with a bird about her person… read all about it in the diary of a headteacher.

Tall tails...

Every year I start a diary like half the rest of the population. Unlike most people outside teaching, I always start mine in September. My intention is to keep a record of the events of the year, write a bestselling book and then retire to the South of France.

I haven’t got a title for this classic yet, but I regularly come across people or incidents that I think merit their own chapter. So far, I have come up with the following:

Reasons for being absent

“He won’t be in; he’s chucking his ring up, love,” is a particular favourite of mine, one being descriptive and to the point.

“My fish had babies and I had to scoop each one up with a sieve before the parents ate it,” showed a hitherto unknown caring side from a Year 11 pupil.

It’s not the pupils, it’s the parents

The parent who, after I sent her daughter home for having dyed her hair, stormed in with a full board of hair samples in every colour of the rainbow and demanded that I choose one that was appropriate.

The parent who rings school to say that their children are ill and then posts photos of them enjoying the sun on a beach in Spain on their Facebook page.

The grandmother who, I kid you not, used to come to meetings with a parrot under her shirt. Like a scene from Alien, there was constant movement from under her clothes throughout any meeting accompanied by the occasional snort and appearance of a beaked head from the collar. A colleague remarked afterwards that it wasn’t the cleanest parrot she’d ever seen, “but then she wasn’t the cleanest grandmother either”.

It’s not the parents, it’s the staff

Receiving a request for 20 new cast-iron shot puts as the others were ‘worn out’. It’s basically a small cannonball; they are indestructible, surely?

Hunting for goalpost holes on the sports pitches after the groundskeepers mowed over them before marking the lines. They are very small holes and football pitches are very large spaces.

The member of the senior leadership team (SLT) whose sole contribution to the review of the school improvement plan was to point out the missing apostrophe on page 23. I appreciate the need for good grammar but would like some input on the identified priorities for the coming years. Being called out to a disturbance (should have been in the police) to find a teacher at the top of the steps having a loud disagreement with a parent in a wheelchair at the bottom of the steps. I arrived at the point when the parent bellowed, “Get down here; you won’t be so tough then.” The teacher declined.

And then there was the ambulance

Responding to an injured pupil on the football pitch, the ambulance driver decided that, rather than park 15 feet from the pupil on the car park, it would be swifter to pull on to the field alongside him. Assessment carried out, pupil loaded, ambulance started and sank. An entire Year 9 class of pupils was unable to push it free.

A science teacher, keen to show off the four-wheel drive capability of his Land Rover arrived to save the day. Having firmly tied his car to the ambulance he attempted to move but failed. Several minutes later, it was clear that towing it out wasn’t going to work so we untied the Land Rover and the teacher attempted to drive off. Due to the spinning wheels during the failed rescue, it too was stuck fast.

Luckily the Year 9s, having got their breath back, were able to push it out, so we were back to having just the ambulance stuck. It was eventually freed by the groundskeeping team who arrived and, sensibly, used a vehicle to pull it free from the car park, without driving on to the newly formed quagmire of the football pitch.

Fifty minutes after it arrived the ambulance set off for the hospital. The boy was released that afternoon completely unharmed but disappointed to have missed all the excitement he had caused as he had been strapped on a stretcher inside the ambulance.

These are some of the situations that are suitable for publication in a magazine such as this. There are many more that span the full range of emotions: sad, tragic, infuriating, disappointing, uplifting and joyous. They are what makes the job different every day and ensures that, despite the bureaucracy, target-setting and the never-ending pursuit for ‘outstanding’, no day can ever be described as boring.

I have never yet got past the October half-term with my diary. I find that I don’t have the time and, besides, no one would ever believe me. 

Maybe next year.

The writer is a headteacher in the North West.

Want the last word?

Last Word always welcomes contributions from members. If you’d like to share your humorous observations of school life, email Permjit Mann at leader@ascl.org.uk ASCL offers a modest honorarium.