Back to school: the pay cap, funding cuts and Ofsted are all distant memories
Where did that go? One moment you’re skipping out of school in the direction of the nearest public house with endless summer days in front of you; the next moment you’re back. Back at the school gates, with the prospect of the Longest Term upon you and a whole new set of pupils to subjugate to your will.
A cynic might expect that, at this time of year, TES Towers would have a letters bag overflowing with grief for the holiday just gone and social media awash with irritation about the start of the school year. But that cynic would be wrong. Most of the communication we get from our readers at the beginning of September is astonishingly upbeat.
It’s almost as if the pay-rise cap, the funding cuts, the addiction to exams, the shadow of Ofsted and the hell of league tables have been magicked away. After a few weeks of R&R, school staff appear in large part to be champing at the bit.
Thousands of primary teachers will have spent the past few days getting their classrooms ready to welcome the new cohort of smiling potential. Similarly, many of their secondary colleagues will have spent their summers reading not the latest John Grisham novel but the latest research on their subject.
Of course, this won’t be a universal experience. There will be those for whom the start of term is not hugely gratifying for a variety of reasons, not least getting up at six in the morning and marking late into the night. They will soon dust themselves down and get going.
Then there are the teachers and heads who are in the wrong school or, worse, in the wrong job. But they are few and far between.
As for the others, their enthusiasm can’t be guaranteed to last. The Inset Day From Hell might be the first thing to begin to erode their gusto, swiftly followed by yet more tweaking to accountability measures and another restructure of the exams system.
Enthusiasm is a terribly difficult thing to maintain. Especially in the middle of the Longest Term, when the thermometer is in a death spiral, the long balmy evenings are becoming short and, erm, unbalmy, and the old lags in the staffroom are telling anyone who will listen “not to smile until Christmas”.
But the worst threat to morale comes from the centre: the Department for Education and its ever-extending tentacles of power. Sadly, these days one ministerial memo has the power to play havoc with workload, bureaucracy, the careers of teachers and leaders alike and, most terrifyingly, the entire future of a school.
So this is the time to make a new (school) year’s resolution. Comrades, now is the time to resist. Now is the time to make a promise to keep a wastepaper basket at hand, real or virtual, ready to receive every unnecessary missive that lands on your desk or arrives in your inbox.
Failing that, try to remember the motto first coined during the Second World War by a great but unattributed officer of British military intelligence: illegitimi non carborundum. (Translation: don’t let the bastards grind you down.)