Oh, how we rolled in the staffrooms;Comment;Opinion

3rd April 1998 at 01:00
I teach in Glasgow, ergo I have high status and help to deliver a high standard of education. The city council document, High Status, High Standards, confirms this. The report states that the Government has "recognised the primacy of the education service in terms of national interest and this is reflected in the importance attached to education at local level".

Stop laughing. I tried my hand at comedy writing some time ago, with limited success. I recognised that some people were just funnier than me, people who write documents such as the one mentioned.

High status? At social functions, teachers hide their occupation. Glasgow is proposing to introduce "general studies" teachers to assist covering absences across the curriculum. SkivvySir will be trained in learning support, guidance, health education, education-industry links, information technology and literacy plus, of course, their own subject. These high prestige posts will only be available to newly qualified staff. Guffaw!

High standards? I don't see how shedding 300 teachers in recent years can have helped to raise standards. The council proposes retraining for those teachers who have failed to keep pace with the rate of change in teaching and learning. I phoned the education department and informed them I was interested in this development. I was told to make my way to Edinburgh. "But that's 44 miles away," I stated. "That's where the end of the queue is," said the official.

The proposal to extend the probation period to three years is side-splitting. It is more support for probationers that would improve teaching skills. Young teachers should have more non-class contact time to allow them to liaise with senior staff regarding problems. Continuity of employment would be a tad helpful.

Once again we hear the spiffing yarn that school performance is "critically dependent on the quality of its leadership". Logically, the headmasters of "sink" schools must be incompetent. Poor leadership can be a constant source of staffroom angst (and humour) but school performance is closely related to a myriad of socio-economic factors.

A further jape is internal teacher exchange, whereby staff can have a year out of their own school. Colleagues in blackboard-jungle schools are likely candidates. Clearly, the authors of the document doubt the motivation of some of the would-be applicants: "staff Icannot viewIthis as an escape route". Ah well, back to vaulting the wooden horse and trouser pockets full of earth!

An unpaid four-to-eight week sabbatical is whimsical. To be eligible, a teacher must be under 50 years old. Aside from the ageist discrimination, the council will have the final say as to what course you will study. I don't foresee a need to hire more clerical staff at headquarters to process the application forms for this scheme.

The "review the management structure" gag isn't funny. With senior management back in the classroom there is less likelihood of classroom teachers being bogged down in unnecessary paperwork. Last year, despite my school being situated between two of Glasgow's busiest roads, time was spent organising pupils to make up "Safe Cycling Routes to School". No pupil had cycled to school before this farce; none has since. Two years ago, however, I was knocked down while cycling to school. I should have worked out a safer route! (My initial injuries were slight but after two days compensation set in and later I was awarded pound;850).

The report acknowledges that a higher salary would increase status. But in a cash-strapped authority, a substantial increase in unlikely.

What could be an incentive to join the profession? A reduction in holiday entitlement, of course. A rib-tickling idea is to extend the school year to facilitate professional development. With the right spin, even I could be convinced that teaching is a high-status job.

Glasgow has the worst pupil to teacher ratio in the country. It has the poorest record of academic performance. Comedy is all in the timing. High Status, High Standards has 'em rolling in the staffrooms.

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