Wheeled into retirement

Steve Eddison

Worried about what might happen to you when you retire? Scared by the prospect of being forced to sell your remaining fully functioning body parts over the internet just to pay your energy bills? In need of a sure-fire investment opportunity to supplement that ever-shrinking pension fund? Then why not put every penny you have into trolleys?

Not literally. I'm talking about investing in the sort of trolleys people use to transport shopping over short distances: from the boot of the car to the front door, say.

In case you think I'm off mine, think again. Trolleys are booming. The day of the teacher staggering out of school laden with bulging shopping bags is over. The prodigiously rammed rucksack is dead. In our school alone, over recent years, the trolley has proliferated to the extent that main corridors are overrun with them. Morning and evening rush hours are like the M25 and congestion has reached the point where the senior leadership team are seriously considering setting aside a designated trolley lane. The worry is that a serious accident will occur, leaving the school susceptible to a massive personal injury claim.

This explosion in the use of pull-along, collapsible transportation devices has coincided with the massive workload increase that followed the implementation of the 2003 workload agreement. This, you may remember, gave teachers 10 per cent non-contact time in order to do about 80 per cent more planning, preparation and assessment. The result has been a steady rise in the number and size of pupil workbooks, lesson resources, planning folders and assessment files transported to and from school on a daily basis.

But surely the need for trolleys has peaked by now? Teacher workload cannot possibly get any bigger than it already is. Not true. According to the Department for Education, England will need 450,000 extra primary places by 2015 (TES, "The big squeeze", 30 March). That's equivalent to 1,000 primary schools in the next three years, which, given the current spending climate, are unlikely ever to be built or staffed.

So what's the solution? Well one option (as suggested in TES) is to increase class sizes. Apparently, Dylan Wiliam, emeritus professor at the University of London's Institute of Education, believes key stage 2 pupils could be taught in classes of up to 60.

Imagine yourself at the ripe young age of 67 - walking frame in hand, hearing aid turned to full, blood pressure medication working overtime - teaching that class of 10-year-olds. How depressing is that? Especially when you think about all the planning and preparation required for that differentiated lesson and the pile of marking you will need to take home at the end of the day.

But consider how many extra trolleys will be needed to transport stuff to and from school. I am no financial expert, but I would urge you to think carefully. Do you really need an overpriced annuity you are unlikely to live long enough to enjoy? Why not put everything into folding, collapsible, easy-rolling trolleys instead? Even if the wheels come off your investment, you will at least have somewhere to store your possessions when the local authority shuts down all its care homes.

Steve Eddison is a key stage 2 teacher in Sheffield.

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