Sunday, January 21, 2007

Extracting the Bodily Fluids

After school activities? Been there, done that, got the T-shirt. I’m not someone who’ll readily volunteer these days. Aside from being dumped on from a great height by the media and by assorted governments, our school was deemed to need “intensive support” for years. The LEA operated the neat syllogism: poor results- equals useless school - equals crap teachers. Consequently we had teams of ‘consultants’ poring over our planning and appearing like spectres in our lessons scribbling furiously on copious sheets of paper. This wasn’t a great inducement to stay after school and teach children – without pay.

After school events take time – organising lifts, sending letters home and sorting out replies. Then there’s the parents… most of them weren’t a problem, there was the odd moaner but you get that everywhere. However, if I’m honest what finally ground me down was that no one ever used that simple word “thanks”.

The latest “initiative” is ‘Gifted and Talented’, so LEAs are pressurising schools to arrange events and other organisations are getting in on the act. At our staff meeting we were informed that a Premiership football club were hosting a series of media training events at their study centre – I won’t ‘name and shame’ them, but let’s just say that last season they were one of the top twenty wealthiest football clubs in the world.

Six evening sessions were being prepared from 4 pm until 6 pm, so by the time we got the children back to school and saw them off home, it would be a 7 pm finish, all this without pay, free, gratis, on the house. I’m sure it didn’t cross the minds of the organisers, failed to register anywhere in their consciousness that teachers would get any remuneration.

So here’s this Premiership club that spends £37 million on wages (the bulk of which doesn’t go to the programme sellers or catering staff) but can’t afford a bean for teachers. Yes, it’s the Premiership folks! Extortionate prices for season tickets, it costs nine times more to watch Real Madrid than Wigan; dodgy owners, West Ham’s new proprietor Icelander Bjorgolfur Gudmondsson was convicted in 1991 of embezzlement and accounting offences and given a suspended prison sentence and then there’s the pampered, privileged, mercenaries a.k.a. ‘the players’ – the sexual mores of an alley cat, the intellectual prowess of a Big Brother contestant and the same standards of loyalty as Vidkun Quisling. Is there any Evertonian that can forget that moment when Wayne ‘Once a Blue Always a Blue’ Rooney scuttled down the M62 and accepted Alex Ferguson’s thirty pieces of silver? Mind you with Colleen’s horrendous shopping bills who can blame the poor lad? Then there’s Ashley Cole who threw a hissy fit and accused Arsenal of “taking the piss” when they offered him a new contract on the paltry wage of £50,000 a week.

In teaching there’s always the emotional blackmail that we should do it “for the children”. I’ve got a different take on it, the best thing we could do “for the children”, is to have teachers who aren’t stressed out by long hours, feel valued by society, don’t have to jump to the latest “initiative” and won’t be expected by all and sundry to work for nothing. Lest we forget, up to half of NQTs leave teaching within the first five years.

At the staff meeting there was muted agreement about covering the event, talk about a rota, no one asked me, maybe it was the body language – arms folded, jaw set, teeth gritted, eyes wide open staring into the distance in disbelief. Teachers really are fools to themselves, their own worst enemies.

An evening at a Premiership club’s study centre – without pay? To quote once again that wise old philosopher Ashley Cole, they really are, “taking the piss”.

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