Your 'gain' is our loss

8th June 2012 at 01:00

Dear Senior Management,

Thank you for taking time out of your busy schedule to send us the email regarding "Gained Year 11 Time". I assume this refers to the microscopic gaps that have appeared in our timetables since Year 11 headed out to the dole office instead of the English block toilets. While I admire your alacrity (indeed the ink is not yet dry on the leavers' signed shirts) and the Nietzschean ambition of your to-do list, I feel I must point out an annoying seasonal bluebottle in the ointment. This time isn't gained, it's owed. If you totted up the overtime we put in last term - running catch-up sessions, photocopying revision packs the size of the Argos autumn catalogue and driving to Costco for class sets of chocolate muffins - you could send us on a three-week African safari and you'd still be in the red.

No one's fooled by your terminology. Calling it "gained" Year 11 time is a disingenuous ploy to trick us into thinking these hours are yours to direct. It might be "gained", but it replaces the shedloads of time we lost last term. It hasn't magically appeared from behind some Romulan cloaking device and, more importantly, it's not yours to exploit. This is a knave's trick worthy of my son: he regularly borrows a tenner from my purse then repays me at the checkout while quietly supplementing my weekly shop with a crate of San Miguel.

In most other professions, working overtime earns you time off in lieu. Even Don Draper, the ad man from the 1960s-style drama Mad Men, is allowed to slope off with the nearest obliging secretary and a bottle of Canadian Club after he clocks off from persuading fellow Americans to smoke Lucky Strike or wear pointy bras. But when teachers get to the end of their big teaching campaigns, such as GCSEs, the only thing we're rewarded with is more big campaigns, such as tackling literacy across the curriculum or shoehorning 12 months of citizenship into the Friday before half term. It's ironic that teachers encourage pupils to do their best by using rewards and punishments, while you goad us into performing our worst by forgetting to bring any carrots and using too many sticks.

We need this time to recover because, quite frankly, we're done in. If we don't rest and recuperate we'll never make it to the end of term. Expecting anything else of us now is heartless. Demanding that we use these precious hours to tweak schemes of work to meet the new Ofsted criteria is like asking your dying father to repoint your old ridge tiles when he returns home after a weekend of respite care.

Besides which I've already planned how I'm going to spend this extra "gained" time. I have to buy my sister a present for the birthday she celebrated three months ago; sort out a dentist's appointment for the filling I lost at Easter; peel the melted Tangfastics off the bottom drawer of my desk; and persuade my diastolic blood pressure to drop into double figures before it ruptures my eardrums and spatters my whiteboard with vintage type O. Finally, I want to read some Robert Frost. In particular I'd like to accept his invitation to "Back out of all this now too much for us" and enter a "time made simple by the loss of detail" where I can be made "whole again beyond confusion". Either that or bid for a three-night city break on eBay.

It may be in your nature to abhor a vacuum, but we really deserve one.

Yours faithfully

Anne Thrope (Ms) is a secondary teacher in the north of England. @AnnethropeMs.

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