Christmas is coming.
The head is getting fat.
Please put a penny in the old Bursar’s hat.
(Unless it’s pupil premium money in which case put it in this one to one tuition sack here or PE funding in which case put it in the ‘Olympic Legacy’ pot which currently has been used to buy some more hoops for playtime and free swimming goggles for the under-fives)
Ah Christmas…the most wonderful time of the year unless you happen work in schools. Please allow me to present theprimaryhead top ten reasons why I hate Christmas.
1. T2 OTT
I imagine that when Jesus was born primary schools up and down the UK gave this event nothing more than an acknowledgement. There may have been an assembly or a bit in the newsletter to wish the school Christians a happy holiday. But somewhere along the line Christmas became a BIG deal. And I know who to blame: Head Teachers. They must have all started going to local heads cluster meetings and started sharing what they were doing in their schools to celebrate the Christmas season.
‘We sing carols to the parents in the evening’ (ooh that’s nice I might get my school to do that.)
‘We have a Christmas Fair on a Saturday’ (Christmas Fair? I like the sound of that.)
‘We make Christmas cards and then sell them’ (Sell Christmas cards: got it!)
Gradually every Head started taking on board everyone else’s ideas but there was one tiny problem: they didn’t stop doing all the other things as well. So now every school tries to do every conceivable Christmas activity you can possibly think of and what’s worse: they try to cram it into the last five days of term. And what does this teach us about Christmas? Head Teachers are idiots!
2. Term 2 Data Progress Meetings
Or as they’re more commonly known the ‘if ofsted arrive the first week in term 3 and ask to see the most update picture of achievement across the school then we’re literally screwed’ progress meetings. Every year I think the same: why am I doing this? Why am I having conversations about pupils that have seemingly made no progress or as teachers like to say ‘well they’ve made progress but not enough for me to feel comfortable saying they’ve made progress on paper’. It’s not the teachers’ fault, I mean I’m, the schmuck who insisted that this year’s Christmas performance was going to be the best ever resulting in rehearsals beginning late October.
3. The Staff Room
Normally a haven for professional conversation and a place where colleagues support each other through the turbulent times of a life in education: during December the school staff room resembles some kind of weird Willy Wonka Factory Outlet. The table groans with tins of sweets, mince pies, candy canes and chocolate logs. All presented with a post-it note saying ‘thought we all needed a pick-me-up.’ And like obedient chubby gazelles we graze on the festive feast of crap until we can barely waddle back to class without developing type 2 diabetes. The only thing worse than the December staff room table: is the January staff room table; where everyone brings in the food they couldn’t bear to even look at over the holidays. It normally takes until March before the last mince pie and festive twiglets have disappeared…and then the Easter pick-me-ups arrive!
4. Christmas Lunch
When Nick Clegg woke up in the middle of night at the foot of Cameron’s bed and casually suggested that all primary pupils should receive free school meals it was quite clearly he had never experienced a school’s Christmas lunch. It is the most cruelly intense lunch hour that exists in modern society. 400 pupils all demanding a sit down meal served by the teachers who despite having taken the lunch register for 14 weeks apparently have no idea who is a vegan and who needs halal meat. After 45 minutes you survey the landscape: gravy literally everywhere, a child crying because they didn’t get fed whilst Toby from Year 3 managed to eat five meals. And then you spot the strict vegetarian with a sausage sticking out of her mouth and all you can think is ‘Well at least it’s only one lunchtime’ Thanks Clegg.
5. Christmas Rehearsals
I’ve tried every tactic: give them loads of time before the performance date so they’ll know all their lines; give them next to no time so they just crack on and the performance is ‘fresh’; no performance just quality singing. No matter what there comes a point during every rehearsal where the Head has to grumpily moan to all the children (in that public way that really means they’re moaning at staff) that the singing is rubbish, they are coming on the stage too slowly, they’re leaving the stage too quickly, they’re lining up too noisily, they don’t know their lines , they don’t know in what order they need to be in: it’s a disgrace! AND FOR GOODNESS SAKE SMILE: IT’S BLOODY CHRISTMAS!
6. Christmas Performance
Given the high emotions on performance night and the heart palpitations you are suffering before curtains: you can’t help but thinking that this must be something more than a nativity. Children don’t turn up for the evening performance, all the Reception parents bugger off after scene one, you find out that the Year 6 pupils are watching ‘Saw III’ on their ipad and the parents aren’t laughing in the right places. Camera flashes are going off despite your clear safeguarding notice at the start and at the end you realise that you’ve totally forgotten to thank the one staff member who held it all together even though that meant their class making negative progress in writing. Next year we’ll do it differently.
7. The Christmas Fair
Having to spend the one Saturday you could have spent Christmas shopping wandering around your school hoping that nothing gets broken whilst children that normally respect you and follow your every command run past you spilling Ribena into the fish tank. The awkward moment when you’ve got to shut down the mulled wine stand because the caretaker and lady who runs the Y5 netball team are becoming embarrassingly familiar on the adventure playground. And finally being told that the last Head always dressed up as Santa and sang Jingle Bells over the PA to end the Fair.
8. The Staff Party
Never does your body try to convince you that you are too tired to go out more than when you are trying to get ready for the staff party. But nevertheless you muster up the strength to iron your pair of jeans and meet your team for the staff Christmas Do. You spend the night determined not to talk about school, determined not to get drunk and definitely determined not to dance. Three hours later you are chugging back Aftershock shots with the NQT, arguing about PRP with the school NUT rep, and twerking the soon to be retired Mrs Armitage to Slade’s Merry Christmas. AS you wait for a cab in the rain you catch your reflection in the Yate’s Wine Lodge window and vow: never again.
9. The Last Day
Oh this is the worst. It’s like waiting for Godot: Pacing up and down the corridors waiting for the bell to ring. Endless bored children getting sent to your office because they’ve broken some cheap toy another kid brought in for toy day. At the end of the day you watch all your teachers struggle to get all their many presents into their cars (no need to actually buy any wine this year, ho ho ho!) and all you got was a card with your name spelt wrong and box of whiskey liqueurs.
10. The holiday itself
The worst thing about Christmas is the actual holiday itself .Due to the fact that the minute you lock up the school and sigh a big sigh of relief knowing that two weeks of bliss are coming your way: your immune system decides it’s time for a holiday. Consequently your festive break is totally forgettable as you are pretty much off your festive tree the entire time on lemsip and nightnurse. It’s only when you start to feel human again and think that a mince pie and sherry might just hit the spot that you realise tomorrow is the start of Term 3.