On my way to my appointed perch I was introduced to a famous photographer, a distinguished-looking chap. On my way back, I reprimanded a small child for practicing leaping right over benches while 1600 people were moving around. I may need to return to him, but he won’t be hard to find.
Last week was busy busy: a super-cool concert for the Greenwich Music Trust, a day out at Tate Exchange for Curriculum Leaders to think, sixth form taster days, Headstart Day for year 6, a visiting author, a Holocaust survivor, the Visual and Media Arts Exhibition, Sixth form Party, Year 11 Prom (including pink and white carriage and horses), a community day on food, year 11 and 13 leaving ceremonies and the early close that went with them and a new curfew at the shops to enforce.
This week so far: new staff induction day, a piano and singing concert, governors, a tea party for older folks, more camping (further afield, wetter), university visits, UCAS clinics, teachers’ research projects deadline, year 10 careers events, non-uniform day for the Red Cross, a controversy about gazebos, as I write, the Piano Recital. Tomorrow the last internal interview of the year and a governor visit about student anxiety. Next week: an international food fair, the year 7 disco, a farewell barbecue, the Curious Incident, a visit from another school’s sixth form team, four awards assemblies and finally, the big gathering that marks close of play.
All this, you understand, on top of the teacher’s day job, teaching and learning, timetabling and planning, rewriting schemes, tidying round, assessment and testing, sharing skills, worrying, supporting, negotiating with the world and more trips and visits. Next year’s plans not just to write but set up. Building maintenance, and wondering what to do now so many budget headings are empty four twelfths of the way through the year. It’s no wonder when the dog visited again before camping in Kent we fell on her as if she was a therapy animal.
So you can imagine I’ve had a few thoughts about the School Teachers’ Review Body’s recommendation that the 1% cap on teacher pay stays firmly pulled down over the ears of the profession. No money, they said, but we’re ‘deeply concerned about the cumulative effect’ of five body blows teaching’s sustained:
- 35,000 teachers left in 2015, and it’s a bigger number every year
- Retention rates are plummeting (and there are more children every year)
- Teacher pay’s fallen behind other graduate sectors
- Recruitment targets for teachers have been missed for four years
- There’s no money in the system. Even the 1% is unfunded.
Here are some other things we’ve done this week. Engaged with the process of enabling young people from other schools to have a fresh start, from both ends. Waited for the phone to ring from the clipboard brigade. Tried to do our best for angry, unwell, distraught children and their parents. Tried to plan for examination courses where the specifications are barely approved. Taken part in the inspection of the local authority’s special needs work. Followed instructions from Operation Sceptre to tackle knife crime, in a context of no funding for youth work. Thought about money not less than all of the time.
I quoted Causley’s great poem about the end of the school day being like a ship re-entering harbour in July 2014, after our first Piano Recital. After this, our third, it feels as though we’ve been out at sea all year on government storms. Do we long for doldrums?
Saxophone music drifted across the concourse as performers rush to hug one another before the concert and the young chefs prepare nibbles. Pianists gather in shirts and ties, unusual for Tallis, and discuss formal wear. I don’t mean to sound as if it’s just perseverance or endurance at this time of year or that misery dogs our days, far from it.
It’s a joy. Thank you for sharing your children with us.