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Do they know it's Christmas time at all?

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Well yes, school staff are fully aware that it’s Christmas time, because they’ve had one eye on the date since the second week of September.

Even if they hadn’t, there’s no escaping the countdown to the Christmas holidays. It begins in June, for a start, and by this point in the year one can barely move for festive paraphernalia. I stepped out of The Key’s London office last week and bumped into an actual reindeer.

[caption id="attachment_11369" align="aligncenter" width="640"] This is Tinsel, one of Santa's lesser-known reindeer since she swapped North Pole servitude for city glamour[/caption]

In schools, the signs of the season are even more obvious. Here are some classics that you may recognise.

Your classroom and everything in it is smothered in glitter.

The stuff is everywhere. Nobody is safe – school leaders in every phase will find themselves hoovering glitter out of carpets and their own hair well in to January.

The early years and primary phases take the greatest glitter hit. Secondary school leaders, spare a thought for your primary counterparts, whose once-civilised teaching environments look like a herd of unicorns rampaged through an end-of-season sale at Hobbycraft. Non-teaching time is spent hauling smaller pupils out of 8ft glitter drifts that accumulate in the corners of school. Cover supervision is arranged and cancelled, as it emerges that the nice Christmas tree in the entrance hall is in fact the teacher who has been ‘absent’ for three days after becoming trapped in a web of tinsel, glitter glue and fairy lights.

The purpose of all this ridiculousness? The expressions on parents’ faces when their child presents their lovingly crafted Christmas card/calendar/paper snowflake, and they realise that their home is about to suffer glittery ruin too.

You and your pupils are functioning solely on sugar.

Everyone’s energy ran out at the end of November and you’re now relying on sugar – be it in the form of chocolate coins, mince pies or salted caramel egg spiced gingerbread nog-latte – to carry you through.

Maintaining the right levels of treats is an exact science: too much and you have sugar-fuelled carnage on your hands, but too little can be equally as troublesome.

I used to assume that the array of unlikely creatures that appear in school nativity plays are there to ensure that every pupil has the opportunity to take part. I now know that the casting of an albatross at the birth of baby Jesus is little more than the decision of an over-tired, mildly hallucinating mind (although David Attenborough may also be held partly responsible).

You muster your last dregs of energy to drag yourself to the staff Christmas party ...

... and are pleasantly surprised to find that it is good with outstanding features.

You receive gifts you never knew you didn’t want.

Some of the more fabulous real-life examples I’ve heard of include:

  • A named envelope containing a tiny picture of a snake. Or it might have been a worm
  • A large tissue-paper collage of a badger
  • A card declaring “You’re my third favourite teacher”
  • One homemade biscuit in the shape of a stag
  • A single teabag from Russia

And this, which you’d be forgiven for taking as a death threat in a different context.

You’re ill.

Or worse, you’re the last person in the school and maybe the world who isn’t ill, and you’re waiting for the end of term bell to ring because you know in that very minute the lurgy you’ve avoided for weeks will find you and you’ll begin your holiday with an attack of aggressive sneezing that will probably last until the day before you return to school.

To add insult to injury, you’ll probably be sneezing glitter.

Whether or not you escape the yuletide lurgy, do have yourself a restful holiday full of well-deserved fun and relaxation, and we'll see you in the new year!

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