It takes 14 hours a day to do a good job

23rd February 2001 at 00:00
I AM head of Year 10 and a teacher of religious education at Alderbrook school in Solihull.

On Friday, February 9, I arrived in school between 7.30 and 7.45am, as usual. Besides working a full teaching day, with no non-contact time, I did the following:

Counselled a 15-year-old pupil who disclosed that she was self-harming; spoke to the child's mother on the telephone and then discussed the problems with the mother in an interview in school; ran to and from my classroom, having made "local arrangements" with understanding colleagues to "watch my classes", met with six pupils during morning break to "sort" day-to-day pastoral matters; spoke to numerous pupils and colleagues in passing in the corridors about a miscellany of pastoral, management and learning issues; began counselling of a child over serious conflicts between her divorced parents; had a 10-minute lunch break.

Did lunch-time duty; dealt with an incident of serious bullying and assault; issued requests to colleagues for internl reports on five pupils; stayed late to catch up on telephone calls to parents and do paperwork. I made all the calls but only managed to scratch the surface of the paperwork.

I am not the only one working like this. A fellow head of year called into my office on her way home. It was 7pm. I left school at 9pm. I arrived home at 9.20 to wish my wife a happy 50th birthday. She, incidentally, is caring, understanding and supportive - but, she's worried about me.

This workload is not rewarded in our pay. Furthermore, the realities of what teachers actually do and their working conditions are not reflected in the ridiculous performance-management scheme. I haven't heard yet whether I have passed the threshold standards.

Perversely, I hope not, because then I'll feel justified in arriving at 8.45am, taking proper breaks and leaving for home at 3.45pm. The trouble is, I love teaching and want to do a good job.

Louis Kavanagh

15 Chartwell Drive

Cheswick Green, Solihull

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