Now tell me a serious grump

31st October 2003 at 00:00
The current BBC2 series Grumpy Old Men offers a platform for such ageing luminaries as Sir Bob Geldof, John Sessions, Rick Wakeman and John Peel to sound off about all that most annoys them in the world today. Apparently, men between the ages of 35 and 54 have been identified as the angriest section of humanity, and their targets are fairly predictable: mobile phones, body piercing, call centres, other people's driving and youth fashions in general.

Being comfortably within this age group, I sat there nodding reasonably while the rest of the family took some solace from the fact that my regular grumpy outbursts were apparently age-based rather than personally generated.

It seems that my generation, having sought to change the world in the Sixties, are now somewhat less than chuffed at the world that has resulted from their efforts.

Maybe it was ever so, but there is, of course, a certain relevance to the demographics of the teaching profession. It is, by any standards, an ageing staffroom these days, and though men are easily outnumbered by women, the greybeards who remain can easily fall prey to grumpy old man syndrome.

Listening to Peel and Geldof over the past few weeks, it has become clear that some of their gripes are reasonable whereas others are merely the result of creeping late middle age. I believe that the same would be true if we analysed the more cynical comments we hear in our staffrooms.

Phrases like "quality assurance" and "performance indicators" are most likely to ruffle grey hairs these days, and these approaches probably encapsulate the major changes in education during the grumpies' careers.

There is much more accountability now than in earlier times and, to be positive, this has led to a higher level of management support - both in school and at authority level. Years ago education officers and even headteachers could be remote figures, These days, with involvement in development planning, they can be much more hands-on in their approach.

The quid pro quo for this, of course, is that staff have a right to expect that increased support. Where this is delivered, it is easy to see that we have made positive changes; where the pressure is applied but the support withheld, then grumpiness should rightfully be the reaction.

Effective schools have supportive and positive management at every level, and, really, if we have chosen a career that involves working with young people, we should have good reason to be positive in our approach, in every area of the job.

To those who steadfastly remain grumpy about education, I would say only this: you should try supporting Hibs!!!!

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