This is not a mad Tory hating rant blog. Though a Labour supporter all my voting life (the opposite of my family) I do not see the point right now in ranting and blaming. If anything, now is the time to put politics aside and take positive action. To make our activism focused upon what we do, on the ground, and that is education. It is rarely education policy. What we do, this teaching thing, should not be political in many of the ways it has been used. I wonder if an apolitical stance can even exist in education though? That was what I thought @headsroundtable were about and they are probably testament to how hard it is to take politics out of education. Maybe I am today’s most naive blogger?
No, this is not a political stance blog… It is a reflection on what the politics of education have done to the teaching profession. It is a stark reminder of what we must not forget in the gathering chaos and may have already kicked and bruised beyond redemption. It is about the welfare of our teachers.
Never, in all my time in teaching, have I been more concerned about teacher welfare – physically and mentally. I see it in the hardworking committed staff in all the schools I go in to. I even see it in the eyes of future teachers on their first interviews. The evidence is clear to me. Eight years ago I got, on average, over 40 applications per job. On one occasion I got 127. These were the years of plenty. Last week I had 3 full time posts available and I had 10 applications. I have said goodbye to twice as many young, good and professional teachers in the last 3 years than in all my previous 7 years of headship before this. My current teachers often work well over 50 hours a week. There is relentless pressure to improve, change, reflect, adapt and IMPROVE… I am not a monster. Something has to give.
It took a teacher who said “No thank you…” to my school last week to make me see this clearly. She was brilliant. I knew within moments of watching her teach that she was a top quality professional. Her interview was brilliant – honest, real and dedicated… So when I said the immortal words:
“If I was to offer you the post would you say yes?”
I was hit with a… “Thank you. Really, I really like your school but I have another interview tomorrow and I want to make sure I make the right decision.”
I was ok with this. My school is a great place. I hoped it was enough. It was not. I waited by the phone until gone 6 that night waiting for her call. I even called her and left my mobile number because the office phones had gone down. We eventually spoke and she told me this.
“I don’t know if I made the right decision… but I have said yes to the school today.”
Gutted, “Could I ask why?”
“It might sound silly… but it was the staff room. Your staff room was empty at lunchtime. Whereas, the school today the staff room was bright, warm and buzzing…”
That was what I had been feeling since I started in September. Put so clearly to me by someone who had spent a few moments in my school. She was right. That’s not to say that everyone is unhappy. There are strong pockets of great support, fun and partnership across my school. It is a large place with over 130 staff but, centrally we are not together. One Staff! One School… One Britain… it ain’t.
After I put the phone down I decided to do something about it – to take action. I am already planning to move the staff room. To take out the PPA tables and photocopiers and work related stuff. We will have one staff room for relaxation – smaller and more comfortable. Right now it looks like a doctor’s waiting room. I want a place where anyone who walks in feels welcome. So, for a moment targets, marking, finance and worries are not plastered wherever you look. I will then have one place for PPA. My school is wonderful! Honest! But, if I can bring the staff together then it will be the most amazing place to be and the added bonus is – the kids will be taught and supported by a happy, galvanised and less stressed group of people. My School Development Plan will be taking teacher well-being as a priority action – current and future.
So, without being political – A plea to our new party of power…
PLEASE APPLY THE STAFF ROOM RULE TO YOUR COMING POLICY.
A happy and challenged professional is an effective professional. Let’s stop learning lessons the hard way.