What keeps me awake at night - 'Science teacher' made me go bang

David Marley

What keeps me awake at night? Not a lot, except when I read the unremitting negativity of the "science teacher from the South East of England" who filled this column on 30 March with complaints about the "super" head for whom he works.

I have to come clean: I'm the head of a large community comprehensive that has recently converted to academy status. Ours is a successful school with a strong reputation. As with science teacher's school, the pupils are happy and successful, which also makes our parents happy. Unlike science teacher, the staff are generally happy, too.

Well, I would say that, wouldn't I? And just like science teacher, I don't have to prove it with any actual facts. Just like the guff he served up, you'll have to take my word for it.

It is worth considering the morale of teaching and other staff in schools. They are still reeling from the pensions onslaught, Mr Gove's sound-bite politics, the seeming nosedive in local authority capacity and effectiveness, and from Sir Michael Wilshaw's attempts to smarten up the troops.

Actually, most of my colleagues are happy. Not always. But they work in an atmosphere of respect and a culture of challenge. The respect is central - respect for each other, for the children and their parents, and the senior leaders' respect for all of them. And the challenge is equally important. The staff here are not docile or lacking in articulation, but long ago they gave up the idea that the school would work better if they were left to get on with it without clear accountability.

They receive a great deal of praise for what they do and show understanding of the strategic drive to improve what we do. They "get the big picture". What they don't like is a makeweight colleague. Teachers here work hard. When someone shirks, they are uncomfortable and eventually intolerant.

Teachers like science teacher don't like being held to account. They don't like being told that what they are doing is wrong or open to improvement. They don't like it that heads and senior colleagues search for consistency, set challenging targets and monitor performance.

Perhaps what should keep science teacher and his ilk awake is their part in the school's previous failures. Science teacher could have said: "Although I don't agree with everything the 'super' head has done, I do agree that giving children greater self-respect and higher levels of success is a good thing."

Finally, if the cap of a more successful - possibly more demanding - school doesn't fit, science teacher and others like him could do the honourable thing and move on.

The writer is a headteacher from the South West of England. To tell us what keeps you awake at night, email david.marley@tes.co.uk.

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David Marley

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