How to beat downsizing syndrome

22nd September 1995 at 01:00
As one of the ever-increasing number of downsized teachers I read with interest the article (TES, September 8) on the Institute of Employment Studies' report Employee Morale During Downsizing.

In addition to feeling great confidence that I can now tell the bank manager with all honesty today: "It's all right, really, there's no problem, I've been temporarily downsized," I felt at first the rage that I suspect most redundant teachers will have felt when they read comments like "career counselling and increased access to training can also help retained members of staff adjust to any new job demands created by colleagues' departure" or "counselling needs to be adapted to deal specifically with the loss and grief experienced by survivors of redundancy, which the report compares to the reactions that follow a bereavement".

For most of us, it would have been quite a pleasant shock to have had some counselling about what being redundant might be like and to be prepared for the loss and grief caused by sudden and unexpected unemployment.

But after longer reflection, and with the anger under control, I would like to make some observations, based on my own experience of my sudden redundancy, after 22 years of teaching. I hope these will be of some practical use to those fearing redundancy is just around the corner.

First, read the TES report to get an idea of what you would like to happen, and then forget it. Regrettably, I imagine that this report may indeed be read, but will remain largely unnoticed and unused, certainly by employers, governing bodies and headteachers about to make cuts. They do not have the time or the resources to do any of this - they wouldn't be making the cuts if they had the resources.

Second, redundancy is not a pleasurable experience, no matter how well it is handled, and you need to accept that it is not handled well in most cases. The only way to get through with dignity, and a possible future, is to take control of things yourself by recognising you have skills and talents which can be used elsewhere, and these will be better rewarded and recognised. There are loads of things you can do! Once you've convinced yourself of this, it won't hurt so much.

Third, use family, friends and colleagues to support you. Don't try to survive on your own. It was amazing how much practical advice I got, all given freely, at times bluntly but always with great warmth. Not all of it led somewhere, but enough did.

Fourth, there is another world outside your school, outside of teaching altogether. It's worth exploring, for the variety of opportunities alone.

Above all, try not to stay bitter or cynical. You're bound to feel bad at first, but you can cope with adversity. You wouldn't have become a teacher in the first place if you couldn't.

Unfortunately, not all employers see their staff as valued employees and they do not provide them with a redundancy survival kit. So, value yourself and provide your own, before downsizing time comes round again.

JONATHAN PICKERING

(Full-time MA student) Institute of Education University of London Bedford Way, London WC1

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