At nine thirty on Monday morning, fifty four extremely excited nine, ten and eleven year olds boarded a coach. They barely acknowledged the group of parents waiting by the roadside to wave them off, chatting madly about what they were going to get up to, the games that they had brought for the journey, the sweets that they would be sharing, who would be sleeping where….Once on the coach we could see arms gesticulating and heads bobbing……
The fifty four children were off to North Wales for five days of outdoor adventure. This involves gorge scrambling, rock climbing, kayaking, bush craft, and as far as I can tell, cake testing.
The group of watching parents could be split broadly into two groups: those of whom had done this before, and those of whom had not. Those of us in the latter group were a little tearful and trying not very convincingly not to show it. We weren’t really talking to anyone else, and weren’t very interested in talking to anyone else. Arms were folded, heads and eyes were down, except to try and catch a glimpse of our child once seated. Those in the former group were talking animatedly with each other, thrilled at the prospect of five days without someone eating the entire contents of the fridge and already in eager anticipation of reaching the bottom of the washing basket. Arms were waving, heads were up, eyes bright.
The parents were passed and the children were followed only slightly less enthusiastically, by five teachers and a school governor. I say slightly less enthusiastically because last year I mentioned to the Head that she could perhaps find better ways of spending five days of her life than with fifty or so children not wanting to wash; she disagreed with me. And as she jigged up and down she confessed to “absolutely loving it.” When she bounced past me this year, it seemed that her enthusiasm was undiminished. One teacher practically skipped onto the coach at the prospect of being covered in mud for a week. Another, who is not given to public displays of emotion, looked the closest that I have ever seen to happy in the face of a holiday which may involve his safety rope being held by a child he made stay in from play. The governor has sacrificed five days of annual leave to go and spend it plastered to a rock face in the rain. This leaves me to wonder; what on earth is wrong with these people?
I have read two articles recently; one about the government needing more teachers and the other about Ofsted saying that people are leaving the profession in droves. It occurred to me, just on reading these two, short articles that perhaps it would be a good idea if the government and Ofsted talked to each other to see if they could work out what the problem is. Although they could find out what the problem is by asking any teacher, or the friend or relative of any teacher. I am both the friend and relative of several teachers, and as I have currently have the floor, I shall say what I think it is.
I believe that there are two problems with encouraging and keeping teachers in the profession; money and trust. I have a friend who is in her first year of teaching and she is doing sixty hours a week at the moment. I have a relative who is in her twelfth year of teaching and she is doing sixty hours a week at the moment. There is a pattern here and it’s not related to their pay packets, which I shall come onto shortly. So there’s not enough money to pay them more? Not that I think they do it for the massively impressive pay check, but I have just one suggestion, and this is off the top of my head. My relative was observed teaching by her boss last week. Nothing wrong with that occasionally. There was a second observer in the room, to observe the observer. Let’s get rid of that observer. The one making sure that the person observing the observer is observing the observee correctly? That would be a start. Happy to help with looking to see where other savings could be made as well if that would be useful.
The second one is trust. The lack of trust for teachers makes my blood boil. There seems to be no other profession like it. People don’t query their dentist or their solicitor. Although I bet doctors get really annoyed with patients googling their symptoms. With teachers it seems to be a free for all. It is born out the same cretinous mentality that thinks it is necessary to have an observer observing the observer. It is the idea that people teach because it’s an easy job and they get holidays ‘off’. What a load of crap. We’ve already established that the money’s rubbish. People teach because they love it. And on days that they don’t love it because of all of the bullshit that they have to deal with, they still want to.
As I type, my son is probably dangling from a rope off the side of a cliff, a rope most likely held by one of his teachers. It will not surprise you to know that my son and his two sisters are the three most precious people in the world to me.* Yet I allowed my son to go. I stood there, told him that I would be waiting for him on Friday and blew him a kiss as the coach left. I did it because I am his mother and it is my job to raise him to be strong enough to leave me one day. The only reason I could do it when he is so young is because all of the time that he is away I trust in my heart of hearts that his teachers will catch him if he falls. Given that everything else that they have tried so far isn’t working, isn’t it time that the government did the same?
If you would like to raise your concerns for the cuts to school budgets in your area go to http://www.schoolcuts.org.uk
*The reason that I can count beyond three is because I had a maths teacher who sat and told me in no uncertain terms that I wasn’t thick and I could do maths. And the only reason I am writing this now is because I had an English teacher who wrote in a report that my dedication to English never waivers – it hasn’t, it didn’t, and now I am old enough not to know that I can’t care what people think if I write.