Cash points

7th February 2003 at 00:00
Teachers should reap the same rewards as people in business, writes Sean Coughlan.

There must be an unwritten law of economics that states the more you have, the more you get free. The fat cats not only have the biggest salaries, they also expect to collect the most freebies, whether it's padding for the pension, a company car or eating out on expenses.

Of all the professions, teaching must be the most parsimonious when it comes to supplementing salaries. In fact, many teachers have a reverse expenses system, where they use their own money to buy materials for school.

The Teacher Support Network says this lack of a budget for something as simple as a working lunch means teachers are not being treated like professionals.

Where extra funds are available, pupils tend to receive the benefit, says the TSN, while teachers all too often continue to work in poor conditions without any regular budget to make the workplace more comfortable.

Andy Mash, headteacher of South Wootton first school in King's Lynn, Norfolk, is taking part in a "wellbeing" project in which schools are trying to improve the environment for staff. Even a measure as mundane as providing sandwiches for a meeting makes a difference to how people feel about their work, he says.

There is another budget for off-site training days, in venues that show staff are valued. He makes sure the staffroom is comfortable and well decorated so it looks like a separate area. This wouldn't be unusual in business or any other profession, so why should teachers put up with less? Mr Mash says the payback comes in reduced staff turnover and a more positive working environment.

The project aims to improve communication within a school, so teachers feel more involved. According to Mr Mash, teachers' professionalism deserves more than lip service, and schools should not be afraid to spend money to show that staff are not being taken for granted.

"If we can't look after the people who look after the children, who is going to look after the children?" he says.

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