People were staying in posts, or were stuck in posts, because there was little opportunity for movement. Heads, Deputies and senior staff had stayed in their little bubbles for 20-30 years (post-war needs) so the system was offered the chance of a little shake up.
At the time, for mainscale teachers, there were five scales of promotion, 1-5, which later were “improved” to A-E grades. Education is nothing if not inventive…
I’d been teaching for four years by then and had hopes of a scale 2. Being in a one form entry Primary, there were only so many to go around. One colleague appeared to have her promoted scale 2 post for “keeping the needlework cupboard tidy”. By this point, I was responsible for topic related subjects and resources, games and PE and a couple of other more minor areas.
Being offered the chance of voluntary redeployment was a case of nothing to lose. My name went on a list, together with two other colleagues, who were looking for scale 3 possibilities.
The phone call came one morning, with a request for me to visit a particular school with a view to a scale 2 for PE and boy’s games; a little bit of stereotyping perhaps, but I was still relatively young and naïve. The school trick was to invite people to come after school. Being on the other side of town, the head’s reputation had not travelled extensively, so, flattered, I was shown around the facilities and saw potential in the role being offered. I became a scale 2 teacher from the following September.
There was no problem with the PE and games; we won lots of competitions and leagues in a range of sports, notably football, rounders, athletics and gymnastics. I introduced a mini 5 a side lunchtime competition, open to all, with each team captained by a member of the school team, to spread avoid a centralisation of skills. Things were looking very positive.
The problems began to appear after the Christmas break, when a parent came to discuss her child’s concerns in understanding some maths. It was clear that the child had been coping on memory, and was quite accurate in arithmetic situations, where challenge was presented as algorithms, but that, in new problem areas, this was being severely tested. As I had been allocated an ITE student, I had some time to take the child out of the class to work with the available Dienes material, to explore place value and calculations. The head was less than pleased and I got firmly hauled over the coals; I wasn't using her method, as the only acceptable method...
From this point on, to say that life was made very difficult would be an understatement. Books had to be handed to the head every week for scrutiny, to check that everything was being done according to her methods; there was to be no alternative. If the child didn’t understand, that said “something” about them.
The pressure became intolerable and, in the good old days of the Local Authority, fortunately both my own reputation as a teacher and the head’s reputation were well known. I was supported to make a move to another school, to work with a head who literally saved my career.
I worked with a team whose members all eventually went on to headship. It was an incredibly challenging time intellectually, but also the most developmental. Opportunities for personal development were offered and arranged. The head’s philosophy could be summed up as “employ well and offer opportunities, so everyone can grow”, and we did, feeding back from courses and other CPD. Some worked with inspectors; I was seconded to the Assessment of Performance Unit for a while to be part of a science project, from which experience, I was able to return to improve further the science opportunities for the children.
I’m grateful to Maida for enabling me to rediscover the joy of teaching, after a year in virtual purgatory. This made me a better manager of people, as I didn’t want anyone to be hurt by my actions, or possibly inaction on my part.
I determined that my staffroom, should I get to my goal of headship would be collegiate. This I achieved, acknowledged within Ofsted visits. Professional differences and providing the best education for children can be explored through discussion, rarely through dictat.
We currently have a teacher crisis; many leave, too few are training. We do need to “love the ones we’ve got” more and more.
The dictat today appears more Government-led, interpreted down to the chalk-face. In the absence of local support, individual teachers may well feel vulnerable; at heart the system is premised on individuals, not collectives. Heads worried about Ofsted ratings can be seen to be putting additional pressure on staff to achieve or to evidence more and more.
Pressure absorbs thinking time, which is always at a premium, distracting teachers from decision making at an individual level in their planning and interactions. It leads to stylised approaches to be able to demonstrate an ability to use certain “techniques”, either school determined or from specified “experts”, when thinking for yourself needs to be the essence of developing good teachers.
There were other times when to walk away might have been the easy option. I’m very glad I didn’t walk away; I loved teaching and ultimately headship, where I still took every opportunity to be in learning situations, class, group or individual.
Once a teacher, always a teacher, but able to rewrite the script if necessary.