Wise old head of another era

16th June 2006 at 01:00
My grandfather died 20 years ago in his 100th year. He represented a very bad deal for the teachers' pensions scheme. He received it for almost as many years as he earned his salary.

He was head of a secondary school and would talk at length about teaching and the changes he had seen. He reckoned governments had been tinkering with education all his life.

His personal experience started with the great Liberal reforms following the 1905 election and encompassed a mass of legislation for the next 80 years. His considered view was that government educational policies are like buses: there will be another one along in a minute.

I wonder what he would have made of teaching and learning responsibility payments (TLRs). Governors have been having sleepless nights trying to implement them within existing budgets. It must be possible because the Assembly government and the Secretary of State for Education in Westminster have said it is. Alas, despite lots of meetings and head-scratching, our governing body has not found it to be so.

My grandfather would have been appalled by the despatches from my son, who has been learning to be a maths teacher at an English university. His first teaching practice was in one of the much-touted academies. Now he is in a school which makes the TV excesses of Waterloo Road and Teachers seem mild.

If I mention that one of the teachers "has an Asbo", and that on his first day he had to separate some Year 7 pupils fighting with fire extinguishers, you get some idea. If he can get 20 minutes of maths into an hour-long class without any major bloodshed, he and his mentor consider the lesson a success.

Fortunately, he has managed to land a job in a Welsh secondary school in a challenging area, but one with a good reputation. Given his teaching practice, I suspect he could now survive anywhere.

We have some things to be grateful for here in Wales. Apparently Jane Davidson is the longest-serving education minister ever in the UK. This means we have some continuity of thought, and that some of the excesses inflicted on English schools have not percolated over the border.

Perhaps we will not need to take my grandfather's advice on reforms - to just keep our heads down and wait for the next bus.

Martin Price is chair of governors at St Richard Gwyn Roman Catholic high school, Barry

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