Modern thinking or Nazi-style youth cult?

23rd November 2007 at 00:00
North Lanarkshire's education supremo Christine Pollock, acting in good faith and rewarding positive behaviour, has issued a letter of commendation to all teachers who completed one year of service, curiously as measured by the financial year, and without a single recordable absence.

The letter prompted heated debate in staffrooms. Those in favour of the Czarina's initiative, not just those who had received the letter, praised the modern thinking which they claimed could be seen to be reflecting key ideas of Assessment is for Learning and even A Curriculum for Excellence.

But critics pointed out that it was discriminatory against those who, through no fault of their own, experienced periods of illness, even hospitalisation, during the financial year. It was also said to be indirectly ageist as, sadly, people tend to be more prone to illness and disabling decrepitude as they get older.

Proponents of the "Pollock letter" insisted it was a well-deserved slap in the face for what they called "known skivers" and that the next step, possibly as early as next year, would see the letter accompanied by a healthy Christmas bonus. Consternation greeted this observation. It was thought to reek of a Nazi-style youth cult. The staff cynics hummed "Tomorrow Belongs to Me".

My view, after a hasty survey with teachers in the area, is that this bold move was a well-intentioned effort to raise staff morale and help reduce absenteeism. It obviously rewards the positive behaviour of the fit and healthy and those who turn up for work, regardless of aches and pains.

It provoked intense hostility, resentment and cynicism among many - most of whom did not need their negativity levels raised.

Was it worth it? Those who received the letter will treasure it, though it lacks monetary value. They did not expect a reward. How could they? It was a new initiative. But will they expect a second letter next year, should their health and morale hold out?

My final thought is that it will be judged a resounding success - if the number of recipients doubles, or more, next year.

Jack Ferguson, Oak Drive, Lenzie.

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