Oops - I've lost my vocation in the photocopier

17th October 2008 at 01:00
"Nothing could be stroppier than a clapped out photocopier in the mor-or-or-ning." And there's nothing like a song to keep your spirits up when you are third in line.

In front of me is a Year 1 teacher with enough count-the-spots-on-the-ladybird sheets to give an aphid a persecution complex. More worrying is the fact that the teacher ahead of her is on her knees with her arm up the photocopier's rear end, in the manner of a harassed James Herriot. A polite enquiry reveals she is trying to remove a sheet of sodding A4 piece by bloody piece from compartment B7.

I hum patiently to myself until I remember that this is the age of workforce reform. I shouldn't even be here. I've been liberated from the burden of clerical tasks. I even have two and half hours non-contact time to assess pupil progress across the entire curriculum, plan next week's learning outcomes, prepare individualised teaching materials, and surf the net for an October mini-break to Barcelona. So why don't I just click my fingers and summon a member of support staff to do my photocopying? Yeah, just you try it, pal.

Workforce remodelling witnessed a revolution the like of which hasn't been seen since Lenin turned up in St Petersburg asking for directions to the Winter Palace. The National Union of Teachers barely had time to throw up a few flimsy ideological barricades before an army of teaching assistants stormed the corridors of learning and massively inflated the number of shares in the staff lottery syndicate. The result has been a rise in standards and a fall in my expectation that a jackpot will guarantee early retirement. There has been little or no change in teacher workload, as reports two months ago in The TES report confirmed.

This is because primary schools such as mine - which are constantly swimming against a tide of deprivation just to avoid the predatory instincts of Ofsted sharks who can smell a missed target from 100 miles off - have been forced to use support staff to boost test scores rather than reduce teacher workload.

The result is that, while I still get to mess up registers, confuse dinner and trip money, put up lop-sided displays, collate, analyse, report, file and lose pupil data, consult,specialists, parents and outside agencies, wipe away tears, wash up paint things, mop up spilt milk, and sweep the floor with an appropriately inserted broom, I do so in the sure and certain knowledge that an army of support staff are moving with quiet efficiency through school, carrying out focused tasks in order to deliver tailored reading, writing and maths intervention programmes to those all important key target groups and individuals.

No sooner is it my turn on the copier than it grinds to a halt again, with more flashing lights than a night out in Magaluf. I open compartment B7 and stick my arm inside. I would send for the technician, but he's busy delivering advanced whiteboard techniques to a group of gifted and talented five-year-olds.

Steve Eddison, Key stage 2 teacher, Sheffield.

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