Comrades in-service

8th October 2004 at 01:00
There are about 400 secondary schools in Scotland and around 25,000 secondary teachers registered with the General Teaching Council for Scotland.

If we assume that each teacher earns no more than the daily supply rate of pound;120 (and many earn considerably more), then it will cost about pound;3 million to pay them for a single day - or about pound;15 million for the five in-service training days which form part of Scottish teachers'

contractual conditions of service. It is money wasted as far as I'm concerned.

A recent in-service day consisted of perorations by a headteacher and senior managers which resembled a meeting of the Communist Party praesidium under Brezhnev, but with a distinct absence of "prolonged stormy applause" and without the humour - except at the end when a long-in-the-tooth principal teacher vented his spleen at the outrageous treatment afforded a staff who had been forced to sit there for nearly three hours.

A more recent effort involved a day at a conference centre. God, or the headteacher, only knows how much it cost. However, as one cynic alleged, at least it meant very little work for the management team.

At another event, a youthful "learning consultant" made the mistake of asking the audience how he was doing. When one of the assembled pedagogues suggested that lecturing teachers about visualisation techniques and the structure of the brain might be somewhat akin to telling native Americans about the sylvan toilet habits of grizzly bears, he was swiftly invited to leave.

After a buffet lunch, the like of which is seldom seen this side of a retirement do, the afternoon fair flew by in a flurry of flip chart sheets and Post-it notes. "What kind of school would we like to walk into in a year's time?" was the question set by the senior management team member who promptly disappeared to take part in other activities next door.

Bereft of senior management, the responses took on a note of authenticity.

"One where you don't need two fans and a portable air-conditioning unit to keep cool." "A school where we can teach rather than set targets and write reports on a computer program that dis'nae work." "One with a different management team."

These and other responses were duly stuck up on a wall ready for a plenary session which, mercifully, did not happen. Clearly senior management were having too much fun next door. The posters may be there yet for all the note which, on past experience, will be taken of them. So ended yet another riveting in-service day.

Still, the general feeling was that the day was at least better than being sat in the assembly hall while the heidie reads from an OHP or struggles with a powerpoint presentation. And that's what I'll put on my evaluation form - when I get one.

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