Would you apply for your own job?

18th November 2005 at 00:00
Was not surprised to read the results of the Headteachers' Association of Scotland's survey on the work-life balance of heads and their deputes (TESS, November 4). Alarmingly, almost a quarter of respondents said they would not apply for their own jobs. Certainly it seems that there are fewer and fewer applicants for these promoted posts.

This is worrying because smaller fields of applicants inevitably mean a dilution of the talent pool, and sometimes appointments are made which are not ideal. In fact, I hardly dare say it for fear of the rampant paranoia in the world of education, but it may be that we have too many first class, gold star, top notch incompetent idiots (fortunately, not in my school) running educational establishments. This is because the clever cookies who should be applying for these jobs are having the common sense to put their health first.

You don't need a forensic mind to conclude that local authorities put enormous pressure on headteachers and their staff to meet targets. Finance is a huge issue, with schools desperately trying to make ends meet, yet expected to minimise the numbers of excluded pupils, to improve attainment at every level, to make efficiency savings, and so on. Often, there is no one in the local authority who knows anything at all about the subject you teach. I find this extraordinary and sometimes even embarrassing.

OK, I'm tuned into the airwaves of stress and pressure on headteachers and their teams. Yet the problems they cite are also biting at middle management level. The teachers' agreement, for example, unambiguously lists development work as the domain of all teachers.

But no one can force teachers to buy into this. As one colleague, a principal teacher of just-about-everything in a smallish secondary school, is finding, his team is claiming that they have done their 35-hour week and that's it; we've clocked out. He earns pound;200 more a month than the rest of his department: for that, he must run the show - dealing with finance and administration, discipline issues, development planning, the organisation and delivery of courses and, regularly, dish out ample helpings of tender loving care to his overworked department.

A Scottish Executive spokeswoman in the same TES Scotland report talks about how the introduction of the 35-hour week has been beneficial. To whom exactly? Should we down tools by Thursday lunchtime if we have clocked up 35 hours by then? The 35 hours remains out of grasp for many promoted staff. In many ways, we are worse off than before. The factors cited by the HAS as being particularly stressful - demanding parents, raised expectations of staff and pupils, and pupil behaviour - are monumental issues and not for nothing termed "competing accountabilities".

Some parents are reaching a new low in wanton stupidity in the way they are prepared to countenance their offspring ruining the education of others.

I read with interest recently about the Scottish nurse who is currently suing her health authority for allegedly inadequate safety measures which resulted in a patient attacking her and breaking her nose. If she wins, this could be very interesting for other public sector workers, including teachers. Hey, it's a litigious age, so let's all sue.

Teachers are exposed every day of their working lives to the most soul-destroying and stressful behaviour. If parents were to see what is happening in classrooms, they would be shocked. Why is it that disruptive pupils have more rights than well-behaved pupils? It seems that ordinary pupils can't be protected and guaranteed an environment conducive to learning.

This crazy anomaly makes me angry and is the very thing which might drive me out of teaching before the age of retirement. To the headteachers who wouldn't apply for their own jobs, commiserations. You are not alone.

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

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