'The threshold debacle was the last straw. Any illusions evaporated. I had to get out'

6th April 2001 at 01:00
I've decided to leave teaching. The threshold debacle was the last straw, prompting an internal crisis in which I reassessed my career (see Talkback, Friday magazine, January 12). Any illusions I might have had, evaporated. I looked clearly at the profession and realised that I had to get out, writes an English teacher in north London. My other reasons will be familiar, even to teachers who have crossed the threshold.

Performance management. The general lack of respect for teachers. The coming metamorphosis of English into dreary Gradgrindian literacy, with its flashcards and scripted lessons in which the last vestiges of English teaching as we used to know it have been squeezed out.

Then there is the sight of ever-increasing regiments of supply teachers trooping through the staffroom, which, coupled with the ever-increasing list of unfilled vacancies, suggests a future in which schools are held together by an army of temporary mercenaries.

Leaving my job does not seem much of a risk. If I can't find a job outside teaching, I can turn mercenary myself and relinquish the deadening responsibility of a permanent post for life on supply. Teaching jobs are two a penny.

So what have I been up to as I try to find my way through the maze of my new life as a threshold failure? I've been buying the newspapers and perfecting my CV. I've been firing off applications to the world of work outside. It's difficult to prepare a good CV; you have to look closely into your professional life and produce a positive view of your achievements with the evidence to back them up - oddly reminiscent of filling in the threshold form last June.

I had my first "outside" interview the other week. Second-class citizens are easily impressed by superficial luxuries: the calm reception area, the original oil paintings, the thick carpets, the hum of the tea trolleys, the receptionist who takes your coa and hangs it up.

And the threshold? For my own self-respect I have put enormous energy into pursuing my appeal. I will be vindicated, though whether I win will not affect my decision to leave. The mechanics of the appeal are complicated, and inefficient.

I was anxious, and eager, to state my case, but I could not find the appeal forms on the internet, where they were supposed to be. A phone call to the DfEE elicited a response from an embarrassed employee who told me the appeal procedures were not in place yet, but that he would send me a form as soon as one had been designed. Weeks later it arrived. There are three grounds for appeal; I wrote 3,000 words, citing all three in fine detail. It took as long as filling in the wretched application in the first place.

Which brings me to early last month. I had sent off the appeal form three weeks earlier, with plenty of stamps on it. I was not optimistic. The timescale means I will have to wait months for a decision, by which time I may have left teaching. If I am still in the classroom, the deadline to reapply for next year will have gone so that if I fail and want to reapply, I would not be able to do so.

I felt some unease since I had had no acknowledgement of the form being received. I phoned the agency responsible for the threshold process. Only senior staff, I was told, could answer my enquiry since it was about an appeal - and they were all out at lunch.

I returned home to a telephone message. They had no record of my appeal form and suggested that I write the application again - using registered mail. Furthermore, had they received it, they would not have been able to send me a letter of acknowledgement because the DfEE had not yet sent them the agreed wording of the letter.

I had turned another corner of my post-threshold maze and met a blank wall. I have requested another appeal application form.

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