If only they appreciated what I have to do

3rd October 2003 at 01:00
All right, I admit it, I had a wee gloat when it was first leaked to the press that secondary teachers were in line for a gubbing after the job-sizing exercise. I even briefly allowed myself to dream of a hugely increased salary that would be the same as a secondary headteacher of a school the size of Dyce Primary.

Reality arrived in an innocuous envelope and I learned the point at which my post has been pegged. To be honest, I was not unduly upset at the time, as my salary is conserved above that. I only became explosive about the principle of it all when I learned a couple of days later that my depute head was to be paid at only a couple of points lower.

I did some arithmetic. The depute would be going home with about pound;35 a week less than the next heidie. The red mist descended and I became Victor Meldrew.

"I don't believe it! How in God's name can both the depute head and the assistant head score higher than me on curricular development and quality assurance? My score on leadership, good management and the strategic direction of colleagues was 55. Fifty five out of what, I would like to know. And what exactly are top marks for whole school policy and implementation? I doubt that it's 47."

Don't get me wrong; I know my deputes, like others across the country, work long hours and deserve every penny of their salaries, but I wonder what I do in a week for the extra pound;35?

Is it my politely enduring a public verbal mauling by a face-studded parent who looks like she could punch her weight?

Or could it be my getting home on the eve of a holiday to find a message on the answer machine from an assistant director of education informing me that a parent has gone to the press about my alleged single-handed and simultaneous physical assault on three secondary pupils in my playground?

Or then again, might it be my taking part in "informal discussions" with a teacher and the Educational Institute of Scotland field officer about everything you could care to mention in her life being wrong and its all being down to me?

I intend to design a tasteful sign for my successor to hang on the office door when he or she feels that the pound;35 mark has been reached each week. It will say: "As of (time, day) please direct all enquiries to the DHT".

I am reminded of the parable of the labourers in the vineyard, in which some people work long hours and others work significantly fewer for the same money. I never could grasp the message, other than "Thou shalt not question relative salaries". The formula for the pay structure in those days was clearly way ahead of its time: mysterious, secret and unquestionably right.

It is neither very good nor good if some doubt the extent to which they are genuinely valued.

In my naivety, I always imagined that people knew what the job of primary headteacher was like, that they understood that the haunted look and dark circles reaching to just above the jawline were not signs of being a closet party animal.

The recounting of a visit to the hairdresser by a colleague dispelled some of my illusions. During the course of the usual question and answer routine, it was established that she was indeed a primary headteacher and that, no, she did not teach a class. "So, what do you do all day then?" was the innocent follow-up enquiry.

It is difficult to expand on the intricacies of the job while being subjected to a vigorous head massage but some attempt was made to outline the responsibilities.

She was clearly not impressive. "Do you go in every day?"

Surely - no, surely not - you don't think that PricewaterhouseCoopers interviewed hairdressers across the land before deciding on the points system for the job-sizing exercise?

Joan Fenton is headteacher of Dyce Primary in AberdeenIf you have any comments, e-mail scotlandplus@tes.co.uk

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