A comforting smile is all I can offer

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Go! Re-read the teachers handbook. Double check. Am I familiar with all the requirements and the script? Resources ready, cubes, hundred squares, rulers, mirrors and any other items the children use regularly.

8.55 Registration

9.00 Collective worship


We are investing extra funding in supply cover to enable us to withdraw the children in groups of 10 for testing, to alleviate the stress of "exam conditions". We don't want them all in the hall at once sitting at separate tables like the old 11-plus. We are fortunate in having sufficient accommodation to do this.

Settle the children, clear instructions to all, speaking quietly and gently, reassuring those anxious eyes. Children seated on their own, away from their friends. Test presented in an interesting way as possible. Point out how similar the test is to our normal class activities. Go through the practice questions, slowly, clearly, looking for signs of stress, praise for their sensible grown-up behaviour.

Are we all ready? Let's begin. I can read the question to the child but I must stick to the script, I can't alter the instructions in any way, I can't explain or clarify, simplify or support. Do as it says, stick to the script. My teacher doesn't usually behave this way, I can see them thinking, questioning my change of manner. Enough to unnerve the most confident of pupils.

Alert at all times to each child's needs, a comforting smile or gentle hand is all I can offer. Amazingly they cope, it's a novelty. What a treat! If you get stuck you can move on to the next one without even asking.

10.45 Break-time - a chance to breathe. No playground duties for this term, the rest of the staff demonstrating their support.

11.00 An hour until lunchtime. Not enough time for another maths test. I'll carry on with reading tests. Spend time relaxing the child, special reading today. Yes, my whole undiverted attention, no interruptions, no distractions, puzzled faces at the amount of papers, booklets, instructions I have surrounding me. Each reading test takes 35 minutes. This year the evidence of attainment entails even more recording. Endless paperwork. However, the children love their special long reading sessions, all that extra attention. I must reach my target number of reading tests today. Three children have completed the level 2 reading test by 12.15. Books and file paper packed away, tables ready for the afternoon session. A quick lunch, stretch my legs, 1.15 arrives too soon.

1.20 Begin again. Collect the next group of pupils, settle down quickly, an opportunity to do your best. STICK TO THE SCRIPT!

3.00 Second maths group today finish now. An enthralling story to round off their day.

Two hours of marking and grading ahead. The frustration of those errors through misunderstanding the question, and not through gaps in the children's knowledge, understanding and skills.

Disappointments, yes, but surprises too.

The writer teachers six- and seven-year-olds at The Hills Lower School, Bedford.