The trouble with George
I wonder how many of the nation's teachers realise how much they owe to George Earnshaw. Dear old George is 58, a head of science and has been in his present post for 23 years.He is practically single-handedly responsible for a major change in the Government's line on performance-related pay.
It will undoubtedly be to him that many teachers will owe their imminent PRP rise. As such, teachers everywhere should ensure that George wins one of the much-coveted Teaching Awards next year.
I first met George at one of the hurriedly-arranged headteacher training follow-up sessions, designed supposedly to offer us some guidance from on high about how to add our comments to the teacher's completed threshold forms. We also met Michael, Sarah and Helen who, along with George, are hypothetical cases studies dreamt up by the DfEE for the purpose of the training.
It is fair to say that most, if not all of the heads present, assumed that we would be perusing a cross-section of forms, and that they would be of varying quality. And in some senses they were. Michael, Sarah and Helen were all so convincingly brilliant that one shell-shocked colleague spent the entire afternoon session trying to persuade the baffled trainer to hand over their non-existent school details.
George, on the other hand, had submitted a form which was so indescribably bad that all the heads present, without exception, decided that he had deliberately set out to make a mockery of the system. One of Ted Wrag's caricatures from Swineshire would have struggled to submit a worse parody of an application for a performance-related pay-rise.
Not that we didn't like George; we all immediately recognised him because we've all got one. George prides himself on the fact that he never goes on courses. By his own admission, he is coasting along hoping for an early retirement deal. In response to the request for information about teaching and assessment, George neatly avoids the subject altogether and waxes lyrical about his skills in crowd control.
Our trainer offers his verdict: "There is little evidence of George meeting the standards required. This is a serious omission on George's part." You can say that again. Strange way of phrasing it but all seems clear. George has palpably missed the target.
Then the penny drops. The serious omission bit merely refers to George's lack of evidence and that whatever drivel he may have written on the form, the DfEE desperately want the Georges of this world to pass. Apparently, our "wider knowledge" of the applicant can now make the form virtually irrelevant. The goal-posts have clearly been moved. It looks like we've all been made fools of again.
So well done to all the teachers who spent hours filling in the form, but next time my advice would be to ask George to do it for you. As for headteachers, I guess we'll be writing "standards met" much more than we originally thought at the outset of this process. And why not? That's clearly what the Government wants. Just ask George.
The author is the head of a large comprehensive in the north of England