The waiting game that no one wins

3rd August 2001 at 01:00
A teacher appealing against his threshold failure hangs on - and on

My view of myself as an average person with average luck changed when I read a recent TES front page about Exeter University research into performance pay (July 13). I now know I am statistically very special. One in 270. I am one of those cases, rare as hen's teeth, in which the threshold scrutineer disagreed with the head's judgment on whether I should have crossed or not.

I have written before about my reaction to failing the threshold. In Friday magazine on January 12 this year, I gave my initial reaction, the predictable shock and bitterness. I then wrote about how the threshold debacle proved to be the final straw in motivating me to leave teaching (Friday, April 6).

But the conclusion of Exeter University's survey - in which, of course, I participated - has made me see things differently. I feel like the victim of some cosmic joke played on me by the pound;12-million juggernaut of the organisation that is administering performance pay. I feel helpless because I am a member of such a small minority that no one is going to take any notice of me.

I sent off my second appeal in March - the first one somehow got lost. I was delighted to hear that Cambridge Education Associates had eventually received this one, so I rang up and asked when I would be likely to receive the final verdict.

I said I had read that this could take up to 70 working days from receipt of the appeal - and that this would take me right up to the last day of the school term - my last day as a teacher. The woman I spoke to said this was not quite the case - the timescale was elastic. The 70 days started only from the time the panel looked at the appeal and there was no time limit. She commiserated and agreed that this could be a long time.

But there was a bright spot - she discovered that my appeal was in the first batch and the panel would look at it in a couple of weeks. I said it was a shame that I couldn't have had the result before the resignation deadline in June - I would have stayed in teaching had my appeal been successful. The woman was sympathetic and said she realised how much stress and strain the whole business put on applicants. But the regulations were all in the contract laid down by the DfES.

About a month ago,CEA sent me a request to send off more evidence in a prepaid envelope. I rang a few days later to see if it had arrived. It hadn't. I rang every day for about a week until they told me they had received it. The delay was down to the Post Office. I rang again. I asked when I might hear the verdict. I was told that "they" - the scrutineers - are all going off on holiday in August, and "they" like to get their desks cleared by then, so I might well be hearing by the end of term, or thereabouts. If I am successful, I asked, how would I manage to get my one year's back pay? I was told I would have to contact my employers and sort all that out myself - difficult, I imagine, during the holiday period.

So now I am waiting to receive the result of my appeal. I believe I have a cast-iron case. Does that, coupled with the 270-1 chance of a head's verdict being overturned, give me an overwhelming chance of success this time - or am I being set up for an extra crushing disappointment?

Given the mounting tide of criticism against a system in which "almost everyone gets through", will the CEAwant to hang on to us few failures to preserve some sort of vindication for the system? After all, some people - even though they are barely statistically significant - must surely have to fail.

So this is how my teaching career is ending up. Nervously awaiting a verdict from people I don't know - I have had as much opportunity to meet and talk to my scrutineers as bomb victims have of talking to the bomber. I must prepare myself to expect anything - and what-ever the verdict, I am in such a statistical minority that no one will even care.

The writer wishes to remain anonymous

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