What do teachers want for Christmas?

Wine, chocolate and candles are all well and good, but what teachers really want is something quite different…

Yvonne Williams

What do teachers want for Christmas?

As the most lengthy and demanding of terms draws to a close, survival mode has been fully switched on. You’ll need it to get through the end-of-term celebrations.

Are your ears up to the deafening chorus of the karaoke favourites? "All I want for Christmas is you", "I wish it could be Christmas every day" and (much more emotionally grounding) "Do they know it’s Christmas?"

Has A Christmas Carol and Scrooge taught your class that giving equals happiness? Perhaps it’s something they’ll bear in mind when choosing you a Christmas present.

Of course, at this time of year there are always articles about gifts for teachers: should they be expected, financially capped – or given at all? Personally I’m always grateful for cards or presents. It’s nice to be included in pupils’ thoughts at this time.

And while chocolate, wine, cosmetics and novelties are all appreciated, what most teachers really want for Christmas is rather more abstract and long term.

In the spirit of the festive season, I’ve taken the word Christmas to spell out the gifts that would transform the profession into one that would be self-sustaining and life-affirming.

C is for…collegiate profession

A structure that is energised by teacher initiative, that thrives on equal discussion between colleagues. One that's self-directing rather than dictated top-down, driven by what teachers think works well in the classroom, and which sees teaching as an art as well as a science. Researchers, politicians and exam boards should be sources of support and reference.

H is for…happiness in the classroom

A release from the monotony of examination criteria and liberation to a wider curriculum that promotes arts and humanities, as well as science, technology, engineering and maths subjects. Perhaps it could even stretch to an understanding that pupils are not units of productivity, but have ambitions and desires beyond the functional remit.

R is for…remuneration

It’s absolutely vital that employers and government get this right. It’s not just about pay that will attract new graduates or a salary that will keep them in the job for another five years, but about justice. Longer-serving teachers should not be seen as a drain on the system to be discarded or overlooked should the budget require “efficiency savings”. Most of all, it should mean a fairer deal for teachers in FE and sixth-form colleges.

I is for…information technology that works consistently

How many hours have been wasted in school by online platforms for registration and data input? These may be the mode of the future, but they aren’t yet sufficiently robust to support all the work they have to do and the number of teachers working on them. Too often workload is added to by contingency planning; onerous though it is, it’s vital to avoid glitches in sound and problems with websites. Trouble-free technology is vital to a smooth learning experience.

S is for…school buildings

They’ve been the source of considerable disquiet for some time. Insufficient maintenance has led to crumbling classrooms and temporary rooms. A wonderful Christmas present for schools would be national funding for repairs and rebuilds that does not involve crushing repayments taken from school budgets.

T is for…time to do the things that matter…

...not what the accountability system demands.

M is for…money

Schools must be able to afford textbook resources and have better teacher-pupil ratios. What better means of providing social justice than by giving all pupils a fair deal in the classroom, whatever part of the country they live in?

A is for…assessment that is accurate, fair and subordinate to teaching

For too long, assessment has been allowed to lead teaching, resulting in the inevitable narrowing of the classroom experience. Ofsted and exam boards are starting to believe that teachers should be teaching beyond the confines of assessment objectives. There needs to be more national discussion of provision for key stage 3 post-levels so that one form of tyranny is not replaced by another.

S is for…sustainable workload

This would make the world of difference to all teachers. Cutting the fat of overassessment, overplanning and excessive data entry, as well as rationing bureaucracy and record-keeping, could all contribute to a much healthier and more efficient education system. Having more personal and family time would be the best Christmas present of all.

Yvonne Williams is head of English and drama at a school in the South of England

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Yvonne Williams

Yvonne Williams is a head of English and drama in a school in the south of England

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