If the face doesn't fit

1st August 2003 at 01:00
He's 57 and pound;2,350 out of pocket. Rowland Morgan explains how an attempted classroom comeback ended in frustration

Return To Teaching and earn pound;1,500, the Teacher Training Agency advertisement announced. We're so desperate that we're combing the world and paying foreigners to come over. Why shouldn't you have a go, with your UK upbringing, your Cambridge honours degree, your teaching certificate, your six years' classroom experience, your spotless police record, and your wide experience in industry? Oh, and the 40 children's books you've written?

Month one: You register for a Return To Teaching course at Roehampton College in autumn 2002, but places are few and the woman in charge turns you down. No reason given. Undaunted, you wait for spring 2003 and your local authority's course, which accepts you for summer 2003, but it can't cut a deal with the TTA, so there's no money. Every Monday from 8am to 4.30pm throughout summer term, working half-days in a comprehensive for nothing. It's an ominous start.

Month nine: You're well into the course, June rolls around and it's hiring time. You sign up with a range of agencies and search the job ads. You apply on paper and electronically for more than 30 full-time positions. In a marked absence of desperation, nine schools reply. Each sends the usual invitation to tour the school, teach a lesson and sit an interview. Only one offers to pay for your ticket. Over the next few weeks, three tell you they have already hired someone. Six to go.

First is a 90 per cent Asian school near Europe's largest Asian settlement.

Almost all of the staff are white, and one of your two fellow candidates (both young women) is Asian. You are not hired. Then it's a south London comprehensive in a ruinous state. It needs two teachers and, hey, these two young women will do fine, thanks.

Lick your wounds and head off to a suburban comprehensive. The competing candidate (a young woman) has not turned up, so you think you're in luck.

You do the lesson, sit the interview (with three young women), no job.

Grumpy now, you go to a secondary that's five minutes' bike-ride from home.

The male head says 75 per cent of his boys are under-performing. The department has eight women and one man. The two other candidates are young women, so surely you're in with a chance? But after your interview, it's nine women and one man. No gender balance problem there.

Your returners' course obviously carries no weight locally, so you travel to a Catholic girls' maintained school 45 minutes away by train. It looks like Hogwarts. The head is potty. The interview goes fine, but the subject head is a woman in her twenties. They don't invite you back.

Hitting the dregs now, you drive 50 minutes to a school that resembles a prison. On a winter's day, in the wrong mood, you would rather drive into a tree than go there. You back out.

Then there's the last minute advert: a smart private school down a shady lane, a 40-minute drive away. The school sends the material to teach, you work on it, and when you enter the classroom, you are disappointed to find that the pupils have already studied it in depth. We'll call you on Friday.

They don't.

Month 10: You have spent at least two days on paperwork and applications: loss pound;200. You have spent six days preparing, teaching and getting interviewed and rejected for nothing: pound;600. Your travel has cost about pound;50. You have done a 15-day course, cost: pound;1,500. You're pound;2,350 out of pocket and wondering should they rewrite that TTA call for teachers? Should it read instead: "We're combing the world for teachers who are women under 30"? I'm a 57-year-old man, and after nine months'

fruitless effort and a considerable waste of money, I'm getting the message.

Rowland Morgan lives in west London. Last month he got a year's contract at Battersea technology college, London borough of Wandsworth

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