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Having responsibility for a group of children, whether as a childminder or in a playgroup, nursery or school, is truly horrible. From the first day you can guarantee whatever can go wrong will go wrong even if it has never gone wrong before. And the world will gleefully devise new things to happen which have never happened before and those will happen to go wrong too.

Try to take a two minute break during the day and the ceiling will collapse, the toilet will flood, a herd of wildebeest will gallop through the area followed by a hungry lion or crocodile, five children will graze their knees, four will wee themselves, three will get sand in their eyes, two will become hysterical for no discernible reason and one will have been attacked by a tree and come off worse. Also world war 3 will break out, aliens will have landed and a rogue comet will be about to obliterate the earth (not that any of that will concern you when you have far more important things to deal with like blood, sand and wet knickers).

I was once left in charge of a school. I can't recall why but I know they must have been desperate. Within a few minutes the police, fire brigade and ambulance had arrived.

A child had somehow managed to get her foot stuck under a door which led out to a sloping path. We couldn't move her, get her shoe off or move the door. The fire brigade finally managed to lift the door with a crowbar. The ambulance took her, with her mum, to hospital to x-ray her foot and the police had come out of sheer curiosity. (I actually thought they had come to arrest me for total incompetence).

The Head Teacher arrived back at the school, having been out very briefly, to the sight of flashing lights, police, paramedics and fire fighters dashing around with lots of hoses (which they seem to get out whether they need them or not). The rest of the school was in total uproar because everyone wanted to see what was going on.

Taking responsibility for a group of children of whatever size (the children and/or the group) is simply asking for trouble. If we were meant to have groups of children then we would give birth like frogs or fish who have enough sense to get as far away as possible immediately after laying their eggs because they know what will happen if they stick around.

Don't be taken in by those who make looking after groups of children appear easy. They are the kind of people who, when wildebeest are hurtling through, get out pencils and crayons, mix up pots of paint, cut paper to different sizes, cover the table with newspaper and lay out enough aprons so that children can do observational pictures of the lion or crocodile. They will then stay up all night labelling, backing and displaying the wonderful pictures the children have done.

The rest of us, hopefully live in the real world. Even if it does contain wars, comets and maybe even aliens.

Exclusively for the Foundation Stage Forum - copyright Dee Hayday © December 2004. All rights reserved

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