Will I join the 'disappeared'?

18th March 2011 at 00:00
Anonymous views from education's front line

This week: a key stage 5 teacher at a secondary in the North of England.

I have grown used to the unheralded disappearances of staff over the years I have taught here. Usually it was people who I only knew to nod at and mutter "Morning" to in the corridor but never really knew or talked to. You would hear tales from other staff: "Have you heard? Such a body's gone off now. We'll not see them again. SLT will pay them off." And you would nod, as if this was a perfectly acceptable state of affairs.

All the disappearances had one thing in common: they were never, ever referred to by the senior leadership team. No collection would be made, no farewell speeches. Just silence - deathly, unnerving silence.

But this week's events have put previous occurrences in the shade. This time it was the disappearance of one of their own. For once it was one of the members of the SLT itself who was the subject of the staffroom gossip.

As these things always do, it started with a rumour: "Did you hear that Mark's gone? Been escorted off the premises?"

All schools have a "Mark" - the human face of the SLT. The glue that holds the fabric of the school together. Need someone to dress up at a Christmas show for the kids? Ask Mark. Stuck for someone to help "police" a Year 7 disco? Mark's your man. The sort of teacher who's larger than life, and respected by staff and students alike.

But even the Marks of the teaching world are not safe from the vagaries of the power-crazed SLT. Larger-than-life Mark is no more.

His office has been cleared, his email account deleted. Why and how this has happened is unclear. What is clear is that he hasn't left kicking and screaming, demanding union representation and the opportunity to discuss, perhaps, a set of trumped-up charges which has been so unfairly made against him. Why? Mark's no fool - he has seen this happen before and he's been no less than complicit in it.

He knows that it is pointless arguing. When the SLT decides you are no longer of use, they will find every book in the library to throw at you. Much easier to take the path of least resistance: a large enough pay-off and a decent reference.

How has this been allowed to happen? Well, when you start to mess around with the comprehensive system you leave teaching staff vulnerable. Teachers' pay and conditions? Irrelevant. Union guidelines? Not recognised here, mate. So long as you keep your nose clean, bow to the constant over-the-top demands and sell your soul to the devil of a head, you'll be just fine.

So what can you do? You put your head down, get on with the job, and wonder, when you wake at 2am ... am I next?

To tell us what terrifies you or to share the unscripted events that have happened in your classroom, email michael.shaw@tes.co.uk.

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