Mistletoe and Wine. The season is upon us. A week free from planning, marking and dreading (in the worst schools) moderation visits from senior staff who expect every lesson to be as they would deliver them. I used to find the Christmas holidays great, but all too short. A week (if the dates fall right) of last minute shopping, getting everything ready for the big day; a week of family business, celebration and so forth, and back for training days and early mornings, probably more exhausted than I felt at the end of the previous term.
But following the festivities and excesses of Christmas itself, so we commit ourselves to New Year resolutions, to which we adhere, like a cheap glue stick, with ever reducing effectiveness until, like last term’s displays, they fall from the wall of our commitment.
Yet while our intentions are good, let us consider the resolutions those connected with education should be making for the year ahead.
Justine Greening, Secretary of State for Education
One: Fight hard and determinedly for a proper pay increase for teachers, to go some way towards redressing the balance of falling real salaries that have been forced dismissively on the profession for so long.
Two: Bring back the option of early retirement. Not all, but some teachers are simply exhausted from battling red tape, press derision, poor salaries, ludicrously long hours, recalcitrant students, aggressive parents and unprofessional senior colleagues and inspectors. They are spent by the age of 40, so by 55 some have nothing left to offer. Not from their own failings, but from the conditions under which they have been forced to work. Reprise their opportunity to retire then. It is in the interests not only of those shattered teachers but also the children they educate.
Three: Lose the title ‘Minister for Women and Equalities’. Firstly, it is demeaning for both of your roles, since it suggests that neither is a job in itself. It reeks of political correctness, since it suggests that education does not offer a fair chance for women (maybe true, but just as true for many other groups not specifically mentioned). Two major jobs are too much for one person, do one of them well rather than two barely adequately.
Your (not very good) Headteacher/Senior Manager
One: Remember that your staff have lives outside of school, and need their evenings to relax, to spend time with their family and to recharge for the day ahead.
Two: Remember that planning is for the teacher to deliver the best lesson for their students. Sometimes, a couple of words is enough. It is not about completing templates that take longer to fill out than the lesson lasts.
Three: Remember, every day, that you are a teacher first. Teach some classes. Recall what your colleagues are going through. Get out of your office.
Make those commitments, stick to them when the going gets tough and next year you will be working from the list below.
Your good Headteacher/Senior Manager
One: Remember that your work is appreciated. Even if it seems that it is not.
Two: Keep at the forefront of your mind that your school is about firstly your students and secondly your staff. It is not about the Government, Ofsted or Governors.
One (and the only one): Ask yourself three questions and give yourself honest answers. Are you 100% committed to securing the best outcomes for your students? Are you 100% committed to your staff? Are you even 1% committed to any other cause, in your role as a Governor? If the answers are not absolutely YES, YES and NO, then resign immediately. You are doing more harm than good.
The Headteachers of Certain Independent Schools Whose Opinion of Themselves Is Rather Good
One: Your school is no more special than any other, and nor are your results. You have more money, independence and parents with a vested commitment to your school than those in the maintained sector. Continue to do your best, but don’t brag about it in the media.
Two: Instil in your pupils a sense of their own privilege against the disadvantage of others, so that as adults they can do something about such inequality.
Three: Share your facilities with less well funded schools.
Four: Learn from the best practice of maintained schools.
One: Ask yourself this question. Would you to tell your Doctor how to treat your illness? The answer should be NO. So, don’t tell educational experts how to teach. Inform them about your child, then let them take over.
Two: Teachers are human, make mistakes and have bad days. Be tolerant.
One: Be nice.
Two: Remember, your teacher is trying to do their best for you, even if it is not how you would go about it.
One: Be nice.
Two: Remember, the teacher is trying to do their best for their students, even if it is not how you would go about it.
One: Remember, your family is your family and school is your job. The first is what really matters.
Two: Stand up for yourself, and don’t allow yourself to be bullied by anybody.
Three: If the pressure gets too much, step away. There are other careers where you will be treated with respect and have your talents recognised.
Four: Hold on, even when your next lesson is going to be observed and it is with 10B, to the knowledge that you are doing a great job. That, even when it is hard to believe it, there are students, parents and colleagues who think that you are amazing.
And have a brilliant 2018.