My bowl overfloweth

15th December 2000 at 00:00
Kevin Fitzsimons bemoans the many jobs that are becoming part of his remit

I feel like Oliver Twist walking up to Mr Bumble Blunkett, who is presiding over his copper full of goodies that Mr Brown's budget has made available, and saying: "Can I have less, please?" My bowl is full of extra jobs, with performance management and performance-related pay just the icing on a cake that has made me sick. What has prompted my rebellion is the discovery that I am to be a team leader for members of my faculty. This will entail at least an hour's classroom observation of each of them, discussion to formulate their objectives and an hour's debriefing, once a year.

When am I to do this? It is for the head to arrange. What will I be paid? Nothing extra - it is part of my job. It wasn't a couple of months ago. What if I have an incompetent, self-seeking, bullying head who sees this as a chance to wield more power and manipulate my staff? We don't have heads like that, I'm told.

The performance management consultant (and retired head) who came to talk to us was the bluff, heart-in-the-right-place kind we would all like to work for. His presentation was funny, animated, informed, reassuring and shallow. Yes, of course you could use performance management as a weapon, but who would want to? I think of three heads I know. We can use performance management to go to the head, present our glowing reports and ask for more money. The next step is the individual contract that will mark the end of teaching as a collegiate entity. Destroy that and you destroy our single ost important motivating factor.

We can't give you more money anyway, says the head. It is earmarked for new buildings, or training, or outside consultants or lunch. We are not going to spend any of this windfall on anything so untrendy as teachers or books. Over the past 10 years, senior management has done less and less teaching, staff numbers have fallen and class sizes have risen. Recruitment problems are only the tip of the iceberg. The average age of teachers is rising alarmingly. All those who started with me in 1973 are now moving into their fifties. I am running out of energy - or should I say, it is leaking out of me. Idiot that I am, I like being in the classroom, but, ironically, it has never been easier to avoid it. Instead of being paid supply rates to go on courses in their own time, teachers are taken out of the classroom. Who replaces them? It's a catch 22.

Here is the logic. Who are the school's best teachers? Heads and deputy heads of faculties and departments. Where do we need them most? In the classroom. Who is given more and more work to do? Heads and deputy heads of faculties and departments. How do we give them more time to do the paperwork? Take them out of the classroom. It is an absurd scenario that would require a teaching equivalent of Joseph Heller to do it justice. Meanwhile the time bomb ticks on, and in five years or so, when we all decide we really have had enoughI This is the way the world ends; not with a bang, but with a prp.

Kevin Fitzsimons is head of faculty at a north of England comprehensive


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