It has to be said that the education system in this country (and probably worldwide, if I were to take an educated guess) runs on the goodwill (and extra, given-for-free hours) of the people who work in it.
Teachers and TAs are known for resourcing their classrooms themselves, buying large amounts of little extras (never take a trip to IKEA with a teacher – especially a primary one), as well as providing essentials, such as books for the library and breakfasts for hungry children, out of their own pockets.
Staff also regularly ensure that the children get the chance to experience a rounded education, being generous with their time by providing after-school activities, sending themselves to self-funded weekend CPD, working well into the night and arriving early in order to get the day job done, and done well.
Teacher holidays, while on paper looking like the best holidays possible, are rarely free, as, once the teacher or TA has got over the traditional end-of-term lurgy, there is planning to be done, trips to plan, reports to write, etc, etc. It’s a job that regularly overflows into as much free time as you will let it.
Workload, and the intensity of the work for school staff, is a very real, and very pressing issue.
Which brings me to SEND. Now, I’m not the biggest fan of the paperwork side of teaching (I’m more of a people-y person), but getting the planning, recording and assessing right for our most out-of-the-ordinary learners is essential. There is no escaping it. But, if we aren’t careful, what is, on paper, an essential, can rapidly become a bureaucratic nightmare, and by the time it’s finished, the ‘I’s dotted and ‘T’s crossed, the moment has passed and the document we slaved over for so long is irrelevant, out of date and ignored. Simplicity has to be the order of the day – and that goes for Sendcos too. Keeping records down to a useful minimum has to be a guiding principle.
If you are a school leader, making sure that your Sendco has time to do their job, finding them admin support and recognising their job as one of the most complex and demanding in the school is the start. Make sure that, if they aren’t on the SLT (and some of them don’t want to be), their voices are heard. Your teachers, students and families will thank you for it.
And for all of us, making sure that school doesn’t take over your life, accepting that there are limits to what you can do and that none of us have real superhero pants, cloaks or magic wands (regardless of what might be in the dressing-up box) has got to be a priority. A well-balanced life means a happy professional, and a happy one is someone who is able to do their job.
Nancy Gedge is coordinator of the Ormerod Resource Base at the Marlborough School, Oxfordshire, and the Tes SEND specialist