Winding down, and the bleat goes on

18th July 2003 at 01:00
I LOVE the way teachers congregate in various local pubs on the final day of term. During the holidays there's a ban on talking shop but it is a necessary part of the winding- down ritual.

I was party to various conversations but there were four recurring themes: why don't Moray schools close at lunchtime on the last day of the summer term? Job-sizing inevitably, chartered teachers cynically and CPD (although these were not the exact letters which were used to describe the additional 35 hours).

Early closure on the last day of term? The majority of the Scottish local authorities do this, and it's appreciated by their staff so I commend them for it. Not because I want to squeeze out another few hours of a holiday - some of which I will be spending in school anyway - but because it buoys the spirits and sends teachers and pupils away on a psychological high.

There is no educational justification for compelling kids to stay beyond lunchtime on the day they break up for the summer holidays, because not a shard of work will be done that afternoon.

Job-sizing? Now hasn't that turned out to be a can of wriggling worms? One flaw is that there appear to be discrepancies between local authorities.

At least, it seems that way. I know of one principal teacher of religious education - like myself - who is in a school of a similar size to mine. She presents no pupils for certificate work. Yet her job size is estimated to be the same as mine, although I present large numbers of pupils for SQA examinations. Does that not seem just a trifle strange?

She reckons that her job size has been bumped up because she claimed responsibility for supplying work to several odds and sods on her school staff who teach RE for maybe one period a week.

As for our colleagues in guidance .... well, I appreciate why they now feel undervalued and demoralised. The powers-that-be can genuflect all they like about how it's the job that's sized and not the person but don't forget either that some people will, albeit in three years' time, take a massive cut in salary of several thousands of pounds. Who among us hasn't wondered about whether this is legal? It certainly isn't moral and I despise the secrecy element of the weightings which have allowed this.

Chartered teachers? The farce continues. Various institutions are offering courses to lead to this qualification. One such provider claims that its chartered teacher programme will achieve professional development of the highest standard. This claim is unsubstantiated. Who judges the competencies of institutions to deliver these courses? The Scottish Executive's descriptions of the professional and personal attributes of the chartered teacher leave me confused.

The chartered teacher will have enthusiasm and the capacity to motivate. He or she will also demonstrate empathy and fairness, being caring and approachable. Exactly how and by whom will these commendable qualities be assessed? And why haven't I met anyone who is attracted to the courses on offer?

Finally, any lingering thoughts that the story of McCrone might have a beginning, a middle and an end are laid to rest by the truncated part of the plot that is CPD.Here is one reported snippet of conversation between two teachers from different local authorities. One says to the other: "This CPD - having to account in minute detail for 35 hours - is a right nuisance."

The other replies: "What are you talking about? We don't have to account for our 35 hours - we just do a bit of reading or whatever, and no one is checking up on us."

OK, there you have it. It's a chaotic quagmire. Never mind just a few hours in your local pub at the end of term - maybe you should just stay on the razzle for the summer, because one thing is certain. After the holidays, teachers will need energy for the unavoidable battles ahead.

Marj Adams teaches religious studies, philosophy and psychology at Forres Academy.

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