How big is your job?

11th July 2003 at 01:00
UNFORTUNATELY, the results of the McCrone-inspired job-sizing exercise hit staffrooms just as exhausted teachers were hanging on for the end of session (TESS, June 27). As a result, we entered the summer break with some staff demotivated because they were not sure what they would be doing next session, or how much they would be paid for it, and others demoralised by being told they had been overpaid for the job they were performing already.

Not a bad set of consequences from an agreement we were told was in teachers' best interests.

The exercise is not complete, however, and the need for one was implicit in the agreement, but you would question whether the tools used were sensitive to the nuances of individual teachers' approaches to the job.

Of course, job descriptions and remits are a sensible starting point - but even here there are pitfalls of inconsistency. Teachers differ in how they regard their conditions of employment. Some take a fine-tooth comb to the small print and will never be found doing anything extra. This is their right, and reflects the fact that the conditions are there to safeguard all of us, and to ensure no individual is taken advantage of by headteacher or authority.

However, in my experience more teachers choose to work longer hours and cover more tasks than are ever put down in print. They want to do the best job possible for pupils and parents - and, in many cases, because it is the "extras" that bring a real joy and satisfaction.

It may be an old-fashioned concept but teaching remains more than a job or career; it is seen rather as a vocation, and one in which commitment and dedication above the call of duty are recognised as part of the personal decision to become a member of the profession. Anyone who sees this as a sentimental and romanticised view should take the time to acquaint themselves fully with the hard graft of managing pupils, resources and change that is the lot of the committed professional.

The levels of stress within the profession reflect strongly the fact that Mr Chips has had his day and staff now struggle to combine the idealism of vocation with the hard-nosed business techniques of the 21st century approach to education and its demands for accountability.

The job-sizing exercise seems to have failed to take note of the most important element of the job we do: the human element. A more effective study would have come out with the word "big" for teachers - big jobs, big hearts, big influence.

Small wonder that many feel slighted.

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