My job isn't in tune with new political priorities

18th February 2011 at 00:00

Like many teachers at present, I imagine, I am worried about the security of my job. With increasing financial hardship in the public sector, cutting a leadership salary would create a significant saving for any school. Ours is no exception, as we have more than 1,900 pupils and a budget that is already stretched.

What adds to my sense of insecurity is the fact that my major responsibilities are rapidly diminishing, much like the melting icebergs in the polar regions. I am the deputy head in charge of "ethos and networks". That means things like: Every Child Matters; extended schools; information, advice and guidance; sport specialism; extracurricular activity; partnerships; and inclusion. Can you see where I am going with this now?

I looked in vain in the recent white paper for any mention of Every Child Matters. Our school places it at the heart of much of its work. We have an ethos development group with leaders for each of the five "outcomes". In each meeting one of the leaders outlines to the group how the school is doing against their outcome - whether it is "stay safe" or "be healthy" - using the latest data and developments. Year on year, we have compared our progress in the outcomes and this year we could safely say all five are good, and one or two would be rated outstanding if they were inspected.

But Every Child Matters is no longer fashionable with ministers. Nor, it seems, are extended schools. I was always aware that the funding for extended schools projects would not last forever. We have been careful to make them as sustainable as possible - for example, by running our health clinic in partnership with the local primary care trust and our breakfast club as part of our inclusion work.

But all the collaborative work we have done offering extended services as part of a cluster of local schools has reached a sudden end. After intensive planning and finance meetings we have had to disband the cluster, because the schools need any money left in the pot to keep some of their own after-school activities going.

Any more work of that kind will now be just an item on the meetings of our local education partnership - but that too is being pared back. It can no longer afford to cover schools' costs to send teachers to meetings on topics like transition, creativity and student voice. It has also had to "let go" the excellent administrator who booked the rooms, wrote minutes and reminded us of action points.

Back in September an information, advice and guidance manager started work at our school, reviewing our vocational education and work experience. But all such things seem to fit under the now-unfashionable heading of "skills", rather than the Government-preferred areas of "content" or "knowledge".

We are trying to meet our work experience commitments for this year, but as for next ... Well, we will have to consider that carefully, as well as the other valuable careers and guidance events we have built up with business partners over the years. They may have to go, along with the Connexions advisers we had in regular attendance in a careers area of the library.

As for our specialist status, what to do now funding is no longer directly dedicated to it? The director of our specialism has nobly constructed a paper on this titled Sharpening the Focus. In a more cynical mood I might dub it "Working out with the specialism director what our sacred cows are that we will not get rid of at any cost", but somehow that does not have the same ring to it.

Bound up in all this is the fantastic work of our extended services co-ordinator, who has developed a calendar of visits and extracurricular activities to die for. She is currently using data to relate the impact of extracurricular involvement on attainment, and the results look promising. But there are two problems. We have already been hit badly by the costs of the rarely-cover regulations, and there are now so many controlled assessments in the run-up to exams that we don't seem to have much time to really explore these brilliant opportunities for young people.

I won't even start on inclusion. You can guess the impact that the pupil premium, based on free school meals, will have on a school like ours, which has low numbers on that measure, masking the huge range of students who still need support.

It is really tough going, but you know what they say about when the going gets tough. We are going to get on with it, knowing that schools provide much more for young people and their communities than just exam results.

I will still, however, get envious at times of my fellow deputy's responsibility. He manages the curriculum - and there is not much going on in that area really, is there?

Di Beddow is deputy head (ethos and networks) of Hinchingbrooke School in Huntingdon, Cambridgeshire.

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