The dark side of the whiteboard - I'll claw against academy status

23rd July 2010 at 01:00

It's a good job Gary the cleaner gets the local newspaper. Last night, just as he was getting on with his routine tasks of wiping down the tables and sweeping up the crisp packets under my desk, he mentioned that he had read an article about our school becoming an academy. Apparently we have "registered our interest".

I am not overly concerned. Since it takes management four weeks to agree on the wording of a PTA letter and another three to reach consensus on its punctuation, I would be surprised if they could complete the legal documentation, set up a new financial system and award themselves a massive pay rise before the end of the summer holidays, especially since the principal will be kayaking in the Lakes. And to be honest, I hope we don't go down the academy route because I rather like my school the way it is.

For a start, we are one big happy family. Literally. I think I am the only teacher in the school who doesn't share my DNA with the head of geography, or my surname with a deputy head. It only takes a quick survey of our staffroom to recognise that the majority of us spring from a smaller gene pool than a typical Norfolk village. And those few teachers who are not directly related by blood are regularly linked through seminal fluid. While these intimate relationships may add to the cosy, familial nature of my school, they also result in nepotism and an unfair distribution of resources.

The fact that I have spent the past 12 months struggling with a laptop that won't recognise Windows Media Player, crashes when it opens PDFs, and has a wine gum holding its shift key in place, shows my lack of any useful connections.

But perhaps the thing I love most about my school is our hedonistic approach to the end of term. We free fall through the last zero gravity days, tumbling between theme parks, quizzes and sports days.

The party is temporarily interrupted by the arrival of our new autumn timetable. We rip open the email, wide eyed and expectant like kids at Christmas, greeting our new classes with whoops and groans.

We count the free periods - are they evenly spread? Analyse our classes - are they upper or lower ability? Then we cross reference with our colleagues. Who's scored top band Year 7? Who's copped bottom band Year 9? Finally, we download our new class lists and start trading pupils. Like a scene from Wall Street, we battle it out, stockpiling pupil futures and bartering our least favourite pupils. It takes experience and a steady hand to get rid of the worst pupils; it pays to wait for that fractional lift in pupil value - "the dead cat bounce" - before firmly dumping them on whoever naively remarks, "Well, they were lovely for me in Year 7."

After we sort our classes, all that remains is to wash the whiteboards and bin the unmarked books. Nearly there. I am going to miss this place. After my husband left me a few months ago, my job was the one thing that kept me going. You can see why school is so important for kids whose parents are separating: when your life collapses like a pile of Jenga bricks, school may be the only solid structure you have left.

I hope we resist the urge to become an academy in September because, as far as I'm concerned, the only thing that's broken and needs fixing is my laptop's loose shift key.

Anne Thrope (Ms) is a secondary teacher in the North of England.

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