On the voices of experience

15th March 2013 at 00:00

After a rewarding career of more than 35 years in various Glasgow primaries, I will soon retire, along with a number of teacher friends. Of late, we have been in a rather reflective mood, discussing the many changes we have seen. One of the biggest, and most worrying, has been the way that the role of the experienced classroom teacher has been eroded and often undervalued, particularly in relation to management appointments.

We all have stories of old school heads and deputes who were tough but knew the job inside out and had gained the respect of staff because of the experience they had under their belt and the career-long devotion they showed to their schools. Now, the local authority seems to appoint managers who have barely spent any time in the classroom and whose only goal is to reach headship before they are 30.

Time served in the classroom is vital, not only to hone the craft of teaching, but also to build up the relationships needed to work with children, parents and colleagues. In the opinion of many colleagues, 10 years' solid classroom practice should be a mandatory requirement before being considered for promotion. For me, it says a lot that people enter the profession with the aim of getting out of the classroom as quickly as possible into roles for which their lack of experience makes them totally unsuited.

Collegiality is viewed as important, but the notion of a top-down model is still a reality where curricular change takes place - not because of its worthwhile impact on children, but more as an opportunity to build up the CVs of inexperienced managers who use our schools as stepping stones in their career path. Time and again, the voice of the experienced teachers, who day in, day out deliver what matters in the classroom, is sidelined in favour of the latest eye-catching fad.

We often talk about pendulum swings in education, and I have seen many of these. More than ever, appointing panels and local authorities need to value the sort of experience that comes from the heart of a classroom, rather than chapter one of a local authority manual.

I do hope the pendulum swings back some time soon; it is long overdue.

Anne Smith, Blackstone Crescent, Glasgow.

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