Sneaky way to cut the costs

1st July 2005 at 01:00
Today I am in supply teachers' heaven. I have been allocated an entire day of blissful peace and tranquillity as an examination invigilator. At the mere prospect of such a stress-free day, my shoulders loosen and I walk with a light and breezy ease to the examination hall.

I have heard regular full-time teachers describe invigilation as soul-destroyingly boring. We have all heard of exam games such as "guess who will finish first", or "see who can hand out the most sheets of paper", designed to alleviate the tedium.

For me, however, it is a real pleasure to be bored. Better boredom than days of unfamiliar classes in the wrong rooms, with the wrong books, but mostly with the wrong attitude, playing their own games of stalling tactics and puerile disruptions in order to test my resolve and avoid working.

It is a saddening reality in many schools that the inevitable disruption of a teacher being absent is often compounded by this type of stupidity, which has to be overcome before proper teaching can take place.

I am being paid my usual supply teachers' rate, so today is a well-paid as well as an easy option. However, I have recently seen adverts placed by schools in south Wales, asking for "suitably qualified" people to act as invigilators for a fee around half of what I am currently being paid - with no mention of teacher training.

Maybe I am being overpaid for this job, as it is far easier than doing a usual day of supply teaching. But should the responsible task of exam invigilation be done by a person not necessarily teacher-trained? I have also seen adverts for "suitably-trained people" to supervise classes in the absence of their usual teachers - again, with no mention of any teacher training being required, and offering substantially less than supply teachers' rates.

These adverts have really made me question what it is to be a supply teacher. I have always tried to teach to the best of my ability in any given situation, although at times this has been difficult, and occasionally nearly impossible, given the circumstances I have encountered.

But I have always believed my role to be that of a teacher, not a supervisor of pupils. Have some schools' expectations, with an eye on the budget, fallen to such an extent that the mere supervision, rather than the education, of their pupils has become an adequate option?

Andy Dole is a supply teacher working in south Wales

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