Walking into a staffroom for the first time can be daunting.
I remember it being totally off bounds when I was a pupil, the heavy door making it seem like Narnia.
I spent years wondering what the teachers did in there; imagining them having wild parties or, more likely, sitting around, moaning about us kids.
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When I was an NQT, the school staffroom had a huge impact on my development as a teacher.
It was often full, with staff laughing and joking together, talking about what they’d watched on TV the night before or their weekend plans. It was a brilliant place to be.
But perhaps one of the best things about the staffroom was the opportunity to talk to older teachers who had seen it all: national curriculums, exam changes and numerous governments.
At my first school, there was a core gang in the staffroom, who, it turned out, had actually taught my dad years before. I jokingly likened them to the Aged P from Great Expectations, sat nodding in the corner happily at what was going on around them.
But that was to do them a huge disservice; I can’t count the amount of times I turned to them for advice or encouragement when I was struggling with behaviour management or a difficult parent.
But now the staffroom is almost always empty. Teachers are too busy to stop for lunch or opt stay in their curriculum areas. Some new-build schools have bypassed the staffroom altogether.
It’s a microcosm of the current teaching landscape. Schools are now full of early-career teachers, who are fantastically enthusiastic and full of brilliant ideas but don’t have the arsenal of weapons earned after years in the classroom.
It feels like experienced teachers are being forced out.
In fact, while job hunting last year, I noticed that some schools are specifically recruiting for less experienced staff, stating that only NQTs need apply or that a job is main scale only.
This is, of course, down to shrinking school budgets, but it sets a worrying precedent. By pushing experienced teachers out of our schools and staffrooms, we are doing a disservice not only to students but to early-career teachers who would benefit from their advice, expertise and suggestions.
Experienced staff have views that should be heard; they have seen many “new” educational ideas before.
They are the lifeblood of our profession and our schools are the poorer without them.
We need to act now to keep hold of them and ensure that many more years of young teachers benefit from their wisdom.
Haili Hughes is an English teacher at Saddleworth School in Oldham, Greater Manchester. She tweets @HughesHaili