Teachers are not responsible for an underfunded, overstretched system which requires ‘interim’ reports and the like, reducing children to numbers, letters and percentages rather than treating them as actual people.
There’s a lot of walking on eggshells in a house full of teenagers and a feisty eight year old, trying to assert himself against their sometimes united front. My partner often arrives home from work at a delicate point in teen interactions with someone locked in the bathroom and others glowering in a corner. “Good day?” he begins tentatively before he absorbs the general atmosphere.
Daughter three is a world expert in silences with attitude. Generally her response to how her day has been is greeted with a one word response. “Bad”. We had one of those ridiculous letters from the school about absence the other day. She had a week off for flu last term. Apparently she is now on a 96% or so attendance which is triggering alarm and concern because all students are expected to have 100% attendance no matter whether they come down with the bubonic plague or not. It is up to parents to ensure they are forced into school at all times.
The letter came the same day as an email arrived for daughter two about a mock exam result. Daughter two locked herself in her room in tears. It turned out that she had not written anything much in the exam because that very day her heart had been broken and the cause of the heartbreak was sitting directly in front of her. The teenage years are not perhaps the best ones to plonk GCSEs into. I did the speech about not letting some boy ruin her future, but heartbreak is heartbreak and we’ve all been there and bear the scars. It’s not easy at any time in life, but at 15 it is particularly hard. Daughter two needed a vegan sausage roll from Gregg’s, not a ‘disappointed’ email from the school.
It’s not that I don’t have a lot of sympathy for teachers. They are not responsible for the system they are in which requires ‘interim’ reports and the like, reducing children to numbers, letters and percentages rather than treating them as actual people. I am particularly sympathetic given the ongoing cuts in funding schools are dealing with.
A close relative is a teacher and has cut down on her teaching load due to the strains of work and family. Part of the reason is that her school has cut its teaching assistants in the afternoons. That meant she was left on one occasion with a class full of five year olds and no support. One of the kids had an accident and needed to be cleaned up in the toilet. There was no-one else to do it but her. She had to clean him up with the toilet door open so she could keep an eye on the class. The poor child was humiliated.
The same day we got the disappointed letter, an email came from the school’s head teacher. It directly contradicted the Government’s claim that the teacher pay rise was “fully funded”. It’s the second email we’ve had in the last few months asking for money. It said: “We are not levying a charge per student as some schools have chosen to do.” Instead it asked for voluntary contributions. It seems the gradual privatisation of public services moves on apace. Those schools in wealthy areas with access to wealthy parents will flourish while the rest will be left to their own devices, will be increasingly stretched and will have problems retaining the staff they have.
The idea of job shares for teachers was floated at the weekend and flexible working is a big issue for teachers. But it is workload – and pay – that is the problem. Job shares are all very well if you can afford to work part time and if part time really does mean part time. Working Families have spoken about the need for human-sized jobs. This is where focus should be directed.
Meanwhile, there is a consultation on the possible closure of our library. Public services need proper funding. Unfortunately, the whole of Whitehall is taken up with preparing for a disaster which will make things much worse.