Dear Ted

3rd October 2003 at 01:00
Ted Wragg, emeritus professor of education at Exeter University, answers your professional problems, big or small, every week. Ask him for independent advice - or offer some of your own

Why am I paid the same as other teachers when I teach as many as four lessons more a week and take after-school sports clubs? Is it because I am young and fit? I feel exploited

Ted says

There are several questions here, the first of which is whether you really are being exploited. Other staff may carry out duties of which you are unaware.

Full-time teachers in Britain are not paid by the hour, unlike in some countries. Sports teachers in the United States, for instance, can earn huge salaries by comparison with their UK counterparts. Our teachers fall into the "professional" category, which assumes they will do whatever is necessary to fulfil their responsibilities.

Performance-related pay was meant to recognise such differences in workload but, in practice, almost everyone went through the threshold and, ironically, keen newcomers like you were not even eligible for the upper pay scales.

You have several options. One is to ask the head if there is any way within the school's financial structure and policies for your extra work to be recognised in salary terms, or alleviated through bought-in help. Another is to point out that you are still relatively new, but are teaching an over-full timetable, so perhaps you should be given a reduced programme for a while to make up for your extra efforts. A third is to refuse to take sports every day, but then you risk alienating the pupils who benefit, and their parents.

If you want to obtain promotion one day, you will need to be seen as keen and giving by those who will write a reference for you. If you obtain promotion then try to ensure that you in turn do not turn into an old lag who exploits the young and enthusiastic.

You say

Make the most of it - or quit

You evidently feel hard done by, but bear in mind that equal timetabling can be a thorny issue. And that comparing someone else's workload with your own is like opening Pandora's box.

The playing field can never be entirely level. Some subjects, such as English, carry heavier marking loads; others, like PE, require extra time be put in outside the classroom. Pastoral staff may find breaks and lunchtimes eaten into.

Teachers with extra responsibilities need more timetabled non-contact time.

And occasionally - when there has been illness or huge personal stress - a school may lighten a teacher's workload to enable the person to function effectively.

Many teachers are expected to organise an extracurricular activity in lunchtimes or after school; it falls to PE teachers to take sports teams.

If you can cope with the extra load, you are extending your professional development, and your sports coaching will look great on your CV. Talk to your mentor or head of department.

If you still feel that other members of the team are not pulling their weight, there is not a lot you can do without sounding like a whinger. Put it down to experience and start looking for another job.

Angela Pollard, Rugby, Warwickshire

The only way is up

I am afraid it's the age old story of chiefs and indians. The chiefs are on special management points to organise the battle. They also need time to do this, which is why they are timetabled for fewer hours than you. Your best bet is to be a really good indian - you might get promoted to a chief. We all had to start somewhere. Good luck.

Marlene Griffin, Hitchin girls' school, Hertfordshire

You're just doing your best

Who said life was fair? I bet many of your older colleagues would love to be young and fit again. When they were in your position they too received equal pay, though the comparative amount was a lot less!

Don't confuse exploitation with "taking your turn". Despite the superior training young teachers get now, there is still no substitute for experience. Try to be positive about the benefits, such as improved pupilteacher relations, and the fun you can have. We've all had colleagues who do less, contribute less and probably get less out of the job. Do you really aspire to be one of these? It sounds like you're doing your best for the school, so feel good about it.

Bob Jennings, Bristol

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