Worries, worries everywhere ...

29th November 2002 at 00:00
Monday Job-sizing is the current hot topic with my colleagues of principal teacher status and above. Lowly assistant principal teachers such as myself needn't worry ourselves but Simon Young, for once, has become animated about his job.

"Bloody hell!" I caught my PT in mid-profanity poring over a voluminous document this morning. "The EIS rep has told me to bump myself up a bit, Morris," he explained. "He says that I've got to detail most of my waking moments - and some of my unwaking ones as well - as being filled to the brim with thoughts of advancing attainment, developing curricular initiatives and bestowing pastoral care upon each and every pupil in my charge if there's to be any hope of getting principal teacher jobs sized accurately and fairly."

"And is he correct?" I queried innocently.

"Apparently so," sighed Simon. "I'd only put down a listing of my timetable commitments plus marking and departmental meeting duties and my help with the school magazine last year."

"That's what you did, isn't it?"

"Well, yes," he said, somewhat sheepish. "But I need to make it sound a bit more impressive than that, apparently. Because if that's what goes off to the job-sizing number cruncher at PriceWaterhouseCoopers, then my job will be down-sized by several salary points faster than you can say Houghton and Clegg, along with all the other PT posts. Or curriculum managers, I should say.

"To think it should come to this after all my years of experience. Writing my own job description, then applying for my own ruddy job!"

"Well, all I can say," I offered with Job-like condolence,"is that I'm glad it doesn't apply to APTs like me."

"No," he agreed, before blasting my self-assurance to pieces. "Your job's just going to disappear."

"What?" I asked sharply. "How d'you mean? They're not job-sizing below PT level, are they?"

"Not in guidance, no. They're just abolishing you."

Now, I must confess to having missed a few editions of the educational press recently, but this one had completely passed me by. To my horror, Simon explained that guidance issues and pastoral responsibility for pupils looks likely to come under the remit of all teachers, "as used to be the case before the promotion rush of the '70s," he smirked annoyingly.

I was aghast. I certainly didn't envisage anything like this when I signed up to the generous pay awards we received under the post-McCrone agreement. If I had, I'm not so sure that I'd have agreed to it at all.

Tuesday I still haven't written up my report about attending a Masterclass at the SETT exhibition two months ago. Because this event used three hours of my continuing professional development commitment, I am keen to ensure that my efforts are fully recognised.

"Why?" queried George Crumley over lunch.

"Because," I spooned up the last of my caramel flan with custard, "if I've spent all that time away from school, then I have to justify what I did with the time, surely?"

"Why?" he repeated uselessly. "You don't need to justify it, Morris. You just need to go. Simply attend an event of educational significance, no matter how dubious it is. And record the fact. As far as CPD is concerned, that's more than enough."

I don't think that this is what the Minister for Education has in mind when talk is made of rewarding professional commitment, but I decided to keep silent counsel on the matter.

Wednesday If only the Minister for Education would visit Gail's primary school. She seemed particularly enervated over tea this evening and I foolishly made sympathetic enquiry about the cause of her distress.

"Don't start me, Morris!" she prevaricated. Then she started.

"First of all, I deliver a pretty outstanding lesson - even if I say so myself - about John Knox and the effects of the Reformation on religious and daily life in Scotland. Then I ask if there are any questions. To which Pauline McGrath asks: 'Miss! Are you a Catholic or a Prostitute?' " I sniggered unwisely before she drew me a steely glare.

"And then three workmen appear in the corridor outside my room - completely unannounced - as I'm about to start circle time and start drilling size 4 plasterboard Rawlplugs into the wall.

"I go outside to see what they're doing, and discover they're installing a cooled water dispenser for the pupils!"

"That's nice," I ventured to suggest. "It'll mean they can ..."

"Don't 'That's nice' me, Morris Simpson," she retorted.

"Doesn't it strike you as ironic that they've got money to install water-coolers and paper cup dispensers for the kids when they could just as easily have a plentiful supply of water from my classroom ceiling? It's been dripping gallons for the past five years, despite three visits from the clerk of works. Still it keeps leaking!

"Drinking water? They could have a bloody shower under my roof if they wanted to!

"We've had four attempts to fix it," she continued unabated, eyes ablaze. "There's a bucket underneath it that has become such a permanent fixture that the carpet fitters cut around it the last time the floor was renewed!

"And the last time they tried repairs, one of the workmen fell off the roof and had to be carted off to hospital!

"Since when, we've heard nothing more. So I've decided to apply for a public-private partnership arrangement for my classroom. It seems to be the only way you get anything done these days!"

I smiled benignly and started to explain that PPP might not be all that it's cracked up to be - I'm glad that it's not come to Greenfield Academy yet - but Gail wasn't in any mood for listening.

"Don't start, Morris," she urged again. "I don't care whether I'm still around to pay for it in 30 years or not. I just want a classroom that doesn't have water dripping into it. In the 21st century, it's not too much to ask. Is it?"

Maybe she has a point.

Thursday More CPD opportunities! Simon received a departmental invitation to the Rockston Film Theatre for a twilight reception next month, as it launches its winter educational programme.

"You're not giving up an evening for that, surely?" asked Angela Slater.

"Of course I am! I've got 25 of these bloody hours to fill and you can't do all of them by reading TES Scotland and catching up on classic novels or they'll begin to smell a rat," Simon explained crossly. "And anyway, cross-media initiatives will look pretty good on my job-sizing form."

It seemed a cogent argument to me, so I added my name to the listing and dropped Janet Rich an e-mail message asking whether she would be interested in joining us for a spot of inter-school CPD.

It remains the most amazing coincidence that my first ever girlfriend, relocated via the Friends Reunited website, has ended up teaching English, and so close to Greenfield Academy as well. And after the unequivocal success of our meeting last month, it would seem foolish to let the chance of an another evening's happiness slip away ...

Friday Richard Dick delivered news of great import this morning, via the rectorial e-mail bulletin he has recently taken to circulating among the staff. (Mrs McKenzie in the school office still distributes photocopies "just in case".) "It's with some pleasure that I can announce Greenfield Academy's selection to be part of phase three in the council's PPP development for school buildings,' read the somewhat brief memo.

"No doubt some of you have read scurrilous reports casting doubt upon the long-term value of public-private partnerships, but can I make it very clear that I view this as one of the best opportunities in many years to tranform the educational aspirations of our children. If any of you have differing views, I'd be more than happy to discuss them in private at a mutually convenient time."

"And who said the Soviet Union was dead?" queried Frank O'Farrell, a very old Labour activist, who is completely opposed to PPP.

"Say what you like, Frank," I chided him along. "At St Ainsley's they've got one of the best looking schools you're likely to see in a month of wet Scottish Sundays."

"From the outside, perhaps, but have you been inside? Inadequate ventilation, locked staff toilets, student traffic jams and no staffroom."

"No staffroom?" I was aghast. It's more serious than I'd thought.

Notwithstanding the serious professional discussions that occur in the staffroom regarding learning and teaching outcomes, there's a more serious issue to consider. Where would we be able to hold the Christmas karaoke?

Next month: Mr Dick launches a HGIOS programme, again.

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