Difficult to deliver

14th November 2014 at 00:00

Our youngest child is fixated on Postman Pat - we're currently averaging five episodes a day. Although I'm an ardent fan of the cheery Royal Mail employee and his feline sidekick, my husband and I agree that he is a rubbish postman. He is incapable of moving a small parcel from A to B without getting stuck up a tree or caught in a flood.

When it comes to providing value for money, he is an unmitigated disaster. The other day he needed a van, a snowmobile and a helicopter just to deliver one set of fairy lights. No wonder the price of stamps has rocketed. In any other job, Pat would have been given the boot long ago. His bosses, however, are clearly unconcerned by such incompetence and Pat remains blissfully free to chase pianos through fields of cows and allow opportunist magpies to make off with his special deliveries.

I wish I were Pat. It is performance management season at school and the headteacher's office has a steady stream of teachers entering with pulses racing and emerging with flushed cheeks. I don't disagree with performance management - I think it is fine to hold teachers accountable for their work - but I do take issue with the kinds of targets that managers consider reasonable.

For example, a senior colleague has been having problems with some disruptive boys in his class. He has been told that if there is one more outburst from any child in his class between now and July, he won't get a pay rise. Since his behaviour management skills are strong and the children in question have never exactly been angelic, this seems harsh to say the least.

The other targets I don't understand are the ones linked to children's learning. If you are on the management pay scale, 100 per cent of your children must make expected progress - this falls to 90 per cent or less if you are a newly qualified teacher. Should we really have lower expectations of achievement for children being taught by less-experienced teachers?

I don't think it's just my school. A friend tells me that her performance management meetings always begin with the headteacher saying: "So you're the maths subject leader, you're a teacher-governor, you run two clubs and you lead the student council, but what are you actually doing for the school?"

With attitudes like this, I don't really understand what performance management is for, apart from making sure that the coffers stay firmly closed against those grasping teachers in search of filthy lucre. But if you wanted to get rich, you simply wouldn't choose teaching.

Set me sensible targets that will help direct my energies and I will teach with a renewed zeal and focus; set me sky-high, unachievable targets and I will teach on with a sinking heart and a renewed sense of inadequacy and failure. Say what you like about Postman Pat, he never seems overcome by the pressures of the job. And in the end, he always delivers.

Jo Brighouse is a primary school teacher in the Midlands

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