The more you earn, the less you teach

24th March 1995 at 00:00
Teachers should be paid more to work in the classroom rather than as administrators, says Alan Tootill. Why is it that the less we teach in the classroom, the more we are paid? And the more we are paid, the more responsibility and duties we are given so that what teaching we have left, we do less well?

As a middle manager I am paid roughly double what a probationer earns. Yet as a probationer, I recall being able to spend far longer preparing lessons and assessing work. I experimented readily with new ideas. I adapted to change quickly.

In many ways I was a better teacher then than I am now, particularly by my second and third year when I had sorted out how to manage a difficult class. Now much of my energy goes on a few intellectually stimulating aspects of curriculum, finance and staff management and a great deal of tedious administration.

At times I teach on auto-pilot, not from desire but necessity. My lessons can be interrupted up half a dozen times by other members of the department who need books, paper, keys.

As far as teaching and learning goes I find it hard to justify my earnings, however many policy statements I come up with. Equally, my headteacher earns roughly twice what I earn - what value does that put on teaching and learning?

In my view, a priority within the profession for the next decade should be to reduce management numbers and to cut pay differentials. The money generated should be used to reward quality classroom teaching, which is at the heart of good education. It wouldn't be as difficult as it sounds and would, I believe, do much to raise standards.

Take a simplified example. My school has some 85 teachers. Ignoring three of those for senior management posts (with salaries no more than one-and-a-half times that of the average teacher), if the remaining staff were all teaching an 85 per cent timetable, some 15 jobs could be shed at a current saving of about Pounds 300,000.

If Pounds 100,000 of this was spent on administrative assistants and counsellors to carry out the routine departmental administration and pastoral work, instead of on teachers who currently do that work, there would be money left over for teaching - about Pounds 3,000 per classroom practitioner.

Additional savings would come from reduced wages for senior management and much lower differentials for middle managers. They would be classroom teachers first and foremost and would be first among equals in terms of decision-making within the departments.

Something must be done to stop the current waste of talent, time and money such as a deputy head organising the name plates for teachers' desks in preparation for a parents's evening!

If teaching and learning are the key issues in quality assurance and the raising of standards, then we have to put properly rewarded teachers back in the classrooms, free from time-consuming administrative tasks.

As long as we appear to value teachers' time spent out of the classroom more than that spent in it, we perpetuate a contradiction.

Alan Tootill is a head of English in South Wales.

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