Wednesday, 28 May 2008

Hyperbole in Hyperspace

Teachers online are in danger. That was the gist of a news article on the BBC yesterday.

School teachers using their home computers have been warned about the dangers of putting too much personal information on the internet.
Concerns were raised about teachers contacting pupils by e-mail, or communicating through social networking sites such as Bebo or Facebook.
Some fear that it could lead to the kind of accusations that have ruined careers in the past.

My response to this: no shit, Sherlock. And yet when I was surfing around one of these social networking sites the other day, searching for some photographs that a relative had posted, curiosity got the better of me and I did a search for my school name. I didn't want to snoop on pupils: that would feel so wrong, even if they do expose their private lives to such a public forum. But I wanted to see if any other staff used the site. And I must admit, I was surprised by how much information some of our staff members put up for all to see online.

But what was more surprising were the "friends" that these staff members linked to. At least half of them appeared to be present and past pupils of our school. I can understand that if you teach somebody for up to 7 years and they then go off to university and beyond, then you are curious about their future and how they get on with their adult lives. But where do you draw the line?

The General Teaching Council of Scotland is asking teachers to adhere to an agreement about using social networking sites. Usually I rankle at any intrusion the GTCs want to impose on us teachers, but I think they are right in this case. Here's what one of the teachers says at the BBC news article:

"There are some new technology issues that do come up. A friend of mine had a social networking page and was recently approached by a pupil to become their friend, to which they rapidly replied: 'no thanks'.
"In rural areas, where teachers live within the catchment areas of the school or perhaps have children who go to the same school, they may have pupils who are friends with their children and maybe even visit their house.
"At what point does it become the teacher/pupil relationship, or one of the friend's parent?

"There has to be a balance between building a rapport with pupils, but also maintaining a distance and a level of formality.
"There is always an element of naivety, particularly with those who are new to the profession, but this new code will benefit us and protect us."

Untold Junk

I was a squirrel in a past life, or will be in a future life. I’ve started to clear out my filing cabinets and found untold junk. Important documents I was going to read later but never did; scraps of newspapers and magazines that I was going to incorporate into lessons but are now curled up and yellowing; photocopies of reports from the days of yore when they were still handwritten; papers I’d searched for high and low but were under my nose all along; confiscated notes from Year 8s who are now grown up and have left school; lesson plans long forgotten but gladly rediscovered… and all because I’m such a hoarder.

But now the hardest bit: how can I part with stuff? How can I sort the wheat from the chaff, the useful resources from those I will never need again? Obviously a lot of the above list is easily jettisoned, but as I don’t know what the new school has yet, I can’t decide what I will need. Besides, what if I have to teach beyond what I’m expecting? What if I move schools again in a couple of years? So even what should be a simple job of clearing out my classroom and packing up papers into crates is taking much longer than I expected.

Friday, 23 May 2008

And so it sinks in

It takes a while to actually realise you’re leaving your job. At least, it took a while for it to sink in for me. Maybe because I had been thinking of it for so long that the novelty just wore off, and also I only associated the idea with hassle. Maybe I already knew deep down that something would turn up before the May deadline and I’d be off, and so something inside me was already prepared. Or maybe the nerves and adrenaline take a while to subside, and only then does reality bite. And that bite comes in different forms:

1. People you never really spoke to before come up to congratulate you and actually mean it.

2. You see your job advertised with alarming rapidity.

3. People start planning your leaving party without consulting you.

4. Somehow the kids know before you do. “Is it true?” they ask and you try to work out if they’re happy, sad, or just curious.

5. You start to view your classes with different eyes. With some pupils, there is overwhelming relief that you won’t have to deal with them or their parents ever again. With others, there’s some sadness that you won’t be following their progress when you see so much potential.

Today were the interviews for the post I am vacating. I was going to say “my job”, but I think it ceased to become mine when I staked a claim in a new place. I’ve never been at a school for as long as I’ve been in this one, and so never before have I felt such mixed emotions about leaving, even though it’s a little way off yet. I was involved in some of the interviewing processes and so was eager to know who had been given the job at the end of the day. I was pleased for the successful candidate and it was a happy moment to see how excited and relieved they were when they were told: texting colleagues and family whilst shovelling papers into their briefcase and trying to take it all in, just as I had done so recently myself.

But it was as I walked out to the car park that the reality sunk in and I realised I had just been replaced. And that was the moment I knew that I really will be leaving. Today was the end of a busy half term. That means I have just one half term left... the next time we break up I will be saying goodbye for good.

Wednesday, 21 May 2008

Not green? Not surprised

I just read on the BBC News site that Most schools aren't turning "green". This comes as no surprise to me, and something that I'd wanted to have a rant about for a while - the absolute WASTE of resources generated by just one school. Whilst one teacher on our staff battles on to try to win us "green" awards by creating a little garden that pupils can work on at lunchtimes, and organising the paper recycling, the rest of the school - pupils and teachers alike - continue to contribute to astronomical fuel bills and sheer waste of paper. Regardless of the PSE sessions and geography and science lessons, in practice the school is worse than any other place I've worked in.

Here's what is NOT green about the school:

1. The building: draughty most of the year, with windows rattling in rotten frames and doors continually left open. For over half the year the heating has to be turned up full everywhere to make a difference. For a few months in summer we swelter in the heat generated by the sun beating through the badly insulated building, whilst the computer suites bask in their incessantly whirring air conditioning.

2. Computers and printers left on - all the time. No matter how many times we are told to shut them down at the end of the day, most rooms contain equipment still left on at the end of every day, overnight, and even all weekend. It makes me furious.

3. And while it may grow on trees, paper is wasted every single second. Kids printing out their work send it through multiple times, and then when it is actually printed, it's full of mistakes so they have to repeat the process. Kids think nothing of screwing up a piece of paper and requesting another one when a drawing has gone wrong, even though they could just erase the mistakes. Two photocopiers churn out multiple worksheets and letters home (that get left on classroom floors) every minute of the working day. Weighty booklets of documentation are distributed to each teacher at regular intervals, and most of it goes unread.

4. The buses waiting to take pupils home sit there for at least 15 minutes at the end of the day belching out noxious fumes from their antiquated exhausts, making bus duty the equivalent of smoking several really big cigars.

And we're all guilty of something too - through choice or by necessity, most teachers live a good car drive away from the school, because nobody wants to live too near the pupils, or share a bus with them at the end of the day...

Tuesday, 20 May 2008


You'd think this would be the best time of year... exam classes are on study leave, freeing up several lessons each week. The mornings are light and so are the evenings. The student teachers are still in school and can now be left alone with classes to do their thing. So why is practically everyone at school so blooming tired all the time?!

Roll on half term; the lower school has gone hyperactive and hormones are a-go-go. Without Year 11 in school and with no sixth form prefects on duty because they're all on study leave, the middle years now think they rule the roost and spend their time loitering in corridors and snogging in doorways. Just wait for the Year 6s to start visiting and even Year 7 will start to strut their stuff, realising they're not the babies any more...

Monday, 19 May 2008

The truths about job hunting

1. It’s incredibly difficult to get an interview if you have passed over the threshold on the pay scale.

2. It’s absolutely draining: from the repetitive form-filling to the same phone call home every day enquiring about the post, just in case.

3. But like the child who continues to chew gum every lesson, even though he is reprimanded every time, until he eventually gets away with it… if you send enough applications off, and widen your radius, and cross off the criteria you’d carefully put on your list of desirable attributes of potential new employers… you will eventually get an interview! Hooray!

4. And then the nerves really kick in, along with self-doubt, and the frustrating knowledge that you could do the job well, but you just don’t do interviews very well.

5. The traumas of the interview day are documented elsewhere. And it’s all too recent and raw for me to re-live here. But after what is now months of anxiety, I can finally announce: I have a new job! More hooray! Well, same job, different faces and places…

And the wishful thinking would be that a new job won’t give any cause for ranting… but the chances of that…?

Friday, 16 May 2008

It's Friiiiday!

I don't know how we got there but we did... it was a slow crawl to the last bell today. After days and days of sunshine, the rain finally came and left the kids giddy and wound up. Year 11s milled around the school, fondly glancing in classrooms as they wandered down to exams, as if they had been away for years, not just a few days of study leave. But the rest of the school were in the mood to fight, push, swear and back-chat.

And so I only have the energy to lift the glass of wine to my lips before an early night...

Wednesday, 14 May 2008

What a shocker!

What a shocker indeed - but a nice one I must say. Today a member of the senior management team dealt with and solved both things that I raised, and did so within three hours.

In a world where you can drop a form into somebody senior's tray and then never hear anything about it again, it was a totally pleasant surprise that just had to be noted here!

Give that SMT member a gold star!

Tuesday, 13 May 2008

Faking it

In the news today (although I'm sure I've heard of this before) is the revelation that a university has told its students to inflate their opinions of it in a survey so that it ends up higher in a league table:

University staff have been caught pressuring students to dishonestly answer an official funding council survey of student satisfaction.
Kingston University staff have been recorded instructing students to inflate their responses in the annual National Student Survey.
"If Kingston comes down the bottom, the bottom line is that nobody is going to want to employ you," staff warned.

I don't see how this is any different from every school going through an inspection, which bribes or threatens the pupils to behave well, smarten up, respond in lessons, etc. It goes on all the time. Just like the schools which force pupils to take vocational qualifications that are the equivalent to 4 GCSEs so that the school looks like it gets 100% of pupils attaining 5 GCSEs.

It just goes to show what nonsense league tables are. And yet I still look at them. Because with all the higgly-jiggly going on, you know that if a school looks average or worse, then surely it's got to be a really dire place with a management team that can't even fiddle figures to make their own school look better...

Scottish 6th formers on grass! etc!

I just wanted to get in with the most obvious headline first when I read about a sixth-form prank in Scotland:

The entire sixth year of a school was sent home on their last day after pupils turfed over the floor of their common room.
Teachers at Banchory Academy took the step after it was discovered some pupils had been drinking.
Aberdeenshire Council said it was decided to send all 100 pupils home.
A spokesman said there were concerns about disruption to exams taking place in the school. One 17-year-old pupil was charged with breach of the peace.

Sunday, 11 May 2008

Another week of hot weather forecast

I'm just hoping that as usual the forecasters have got it wrong. After being categorically told we can't leave the classroom, I know for sure that, if I am confined to my room with an average of 30 sweaty adolescents while the sun beats in through the windows, I will just wilt and fade away...

Saturday, 10 May 2008

So I wasn't the only one

Earlier in the week I read a blog entry by a maths teacher who had taken his class outside for the kind of lesson the Teacher Training Agency pretends we do all the time: in his case, putting maths into action, measuring stuff and photographing lines of symmetry. At the time I added a comment that I hoped he didn't get a bollocking like I had done.

And then today I read that he did sort of get told off for being innovative.

I wonder if we are just all living in parallel worlds (must be the maths influence). How many other teachers tried the same thing this week? Who else tried to enliven a lethargic class by taking them outside to breathe in fresh(er) air and feel something other than the tingle of wireless networking on their skin, to hear the birds sing instead of the background drone of computers on standby and flies trapped in hot classrooms?

I took a class outside for a lesson for two main reasons this week: firstly, they were in real danger of dehydrating and having their brains frazzled in my very hot classroom where the blinds are broken and you can't open the windows very far in case they swing round and smash; and secondly because there were 35 wilting children in a classroom with just 32 desk spaces, and it was to be an active lesson to satisfy the kinaesthetic learners (and disguise the desk: pupil ratio).

Unfortunately our traipsing outside coincided with a member of the senior management team patrolling the grounds for smokers (or perhaps he had just snuck outside for a crafty smoke himself). But whether it was nicotine withdrawal or just the heat of the day, he decided to start shouting at the advance party members of my class who were doing nothing wrong at all: walking out orderly and quietly as I'd asked them to. I caught them up and muttered something before whisking them away, but the damage was done: the kids were justifiably unhappy to have been yelled at for no reason, and I just knew this would come back to bite me on the bum.

But nobody even gave me the right to reply. Every one of those kids could have told anyone who asked them what their learning objectives were that lesson. All of them were actively involved in our al fresco lesson, and they all gained something from it. I'd done my risk assessment of the situation: I had asked about allergies and made sure they had water and we were close to the shade in case it felt too hot. I'd taken more care over their health and safety than the groups of pupils doing PE just over the way, pounding round the track with no shade for over half an hour.

Instead of the job satisfaction of knowing my lesson went well, I just waited for the bollocking. I wouldn't have expected one had the senior teacher not kicked off, but we all know the SMT can't possibly lose face after a hissy fit. And sure enough, the next morning at our daily meeting, a big point was made that learning ONLY takes place in the classroom, and that NOBODY was to take pupils outside because learning DOES NOT take place there.

And I've been sulking about this ever since.

Stupid Post Office

For want of a nail the shoe was lost.
For want of a shoe the horse was lost.
For want of a horse the rider was lost.
For want of a rider the battle was lost.
For want of a battle the kingdom was lost.
And all for the want of a horseshoe nail.

For want of 6p postage, a job was lost. I just found out that one of my job applications arrived 9 weeks late because the Post Office was holding it hostage for the want of 6p. Please learn by my mistake. Find a Post Office branch that hasn't been shut down, access it during its paltry opening hours, and get your job application weighed before sticking stamps on it.

Friday, 9 May 2008

More on jobs

Yesterday I let off a little steam about the ridiculous recruitment process for teaching: the tight turn-arounds and the all day ordeal of the interview day. But that's not the be all and end all of irritating things about interviews. For there is one thing that everybody dreads when they turn up to interview, and that is the presence of The Internal Candidate.

Schools are legally obliged to advertise posts - I'm not entirely sure of the legalities, and I know of exceptions where posts have only been advertised internally. In my current school, the situation is different to any I've seen elsewhere: rejiggling a job and advertising it to all-comers is their sneaky way of getting rid of a staff member they don't want. It seems really mean. But also justified in some situations.

But when I have turned up to an interview, as I did recently, and there is the dreaded Internal Candidate, it can often feel like a foregone conclusion. As indeed it was in this case. The post had been advertised, I found out in retrospect, because the Internal Candidate had never had a proper interview, and had been taken on straight from teacher training college to cover a long-term absence. So the job was his, but we needed to go through the charade so it could be made officially his.

It must be horrible for the Internal Candidate to go through the day for what is essentially their own job, but it's also horrible for those, like me, who turn up to feel like they have been duped.

All day the school's staff were popping in and out of the staff room, saying hello and good luck to the hapless fellow. The kids in the corridors were making comments on his smart attire. At break time he was chatting with his colleagues while the rest of us sat there like the spare parts we were. When we had to teach a class with a short sample of a lesson, he had the advantage of knowing the class and the pupils, being familiar with the classroom and its resources, and knowing what they had already studied that year.

But still, I retained a glimmer of hope. Maybe he was a really mediocre teacher and they were looking for the opportunity to recruit somebody more experienced, like me. By the time the formal interviews arrived, I felt surprisingly relaxed, whereas the Internal Candidate was visibly twitching and shaking. He was the last to be interviewed. I had already whittered on for far too long but hoped I'd come across as friendly if nothing else. He was in there for 20 minutes, and then it took just 2 minutes before the Head came in and asked him to back into his office. The rest of us just pursed our lips and began packing away our papers. Two minutes of post-interview discussion just screamed stitch-up. It's never taken a panel less than half an hour to come to a conclusion before. By the time the Head started to explain to us what good candidates we had all been, I just wanted to punch him for wasting my time!

Thursday, 8 May 2008


Getting a job in teaching is an anxious process from beginning to end. And then beyond...!

As time ticks on, panic starts to set in. That's because with teaching jobs, you can only resign at three times in the school year, with a few privately negotiated exceptions being rare. To start a new job in September, for example, you need to hand in your notice by the end of May. And as the end of May is usually half term week, any job interviews have to be completed before the third week in May. If you were to get a job after the deadline, you have to wait until Christmas to be released from your old job and start your new one... and how many employers are willing to wait that long when they have a vacancy? Which is why those jobs advertised in May and June are most suitable for those currently training, as they will be available to step straight into the role in September.

Then, if you do get a job, the sooner you do so then the better it is for your school. If they too can advertise your post and recruit somebody before the May deadline, they will have a wider pool of applicants to choose from for a September start. So the pressure is on.

If all this pressure isn't enough, there's the application and recruitment process itself. You send off your forms and letters and you wait... and sometimes you wait... Many schools don't respond to those not asked to interview and so you are left in limbo, biting off the postman's hand in anticipation. But if you do get a phonecall or letter inviting you to interview, the turn-around can be so quick. Everybody has deadlines to meet, and so it's not uncommon to find out your interview is the day after next, leaving you little time to prepare - and panic!

Then there is the day itself. This is probably the worst moment of teaching. Far worse than over-excited Year 8s on a wet afternoon, far worse than moody Year 10s last thing on a Friday, and even worse than any department meeting or bollocking from your boss. How bad can it be? Well here is the usual interview ordeal:

1. You are at the school not just for an interview, but also for informal chats, tours, inquisitions by pupils, gentle interrogation over coffee and lunch, and probably to teach a short lesson in a wholly artificial set-up.

2. You spend this day doing your rota of activities along with all the other candidates, so you are battling your competitive spirit whilst trying to look agreeable and like a good team player.

3. You are doing all this while trying to get a feel for the school, the pupils and the staff. There's so much to feel nervous about, yet so much to take in.

4. You have to make your mind up on the day whether you want the job. After formal interviews, usually with several people including the headteacher and governors, you and the other candidates sit together and fret for what seems like hours (and sometimes it can literally be that long). Then the door opens... and in comes the Head with possibly a Deputy or a governor. Sometimes they announce who got the job in front of everybody, and sometimes you are called into the office separately to be told your fate. And if you are offered the job, you have to say yes or no right there and then. It doesn't matter if you have another interview lined up for the following day or week - it's now or never.

5. There is usually no opportunity for feedback - and if you want to know why you didn't get the job, after such a stressful ordeal you probably don't want to hang around any longer after hearing the words "sorry but...". So you spend the journey home agonising over what you said in response to questions like, "What are your strengths and weaknesses?" You wonder if they didn't like the way you looked at the stock cupboard on the school tour, or whether you should have asked about computer access. Did your outfit put them off? Did you choose the wrong sandwich filling at lunch? Who exactly took a dislike to you, and why?

In all, it's a demoralising process from start to finish, and enough to make you wonder if it's better the devil you know...

Monday, 5 May 2008

Teachers need more training

This morning's news is that the sun is shining on a Bank Holiday Monday. It's also, according to the BBC website, that Teachers need better training. When I saw the headline I bristled as is the way of the teacher, that the suggestion is that I'm not doing my job properly. But when I read further, I saw that it's not talking about me, but about teachers who don't do their jobs very well.

The study found a pupil taking eight GCSEs and taught by eight "good" teachers would score four to five more GCSE points than the same pupil in the same school taught by eight "poor" teachers. An "excellent" teacher had an even greater impact.

This much I have seen to be true. Last Inset day we had the usual figures waggled at us, then we all had to go back and check our last sets of GCSE pupils from a big list. Whose had exceeded their targets, thus having "value added", and which pupils had minus figures next to them? While I don't understand the maths behind the figures, the pluses and minuses formed patterns and it was obvious which teachers hadn't added as much (or any) value than others. There were several comments thrown my way, disguised in a veil of congratulations, but only thinly disguised because I could detect the snideness and disappointment. It was probably a horrible thing to do, to make us go through these figures together. Far better for quiet reflection as individuals than to sit there and squirm.

But my successes are down to one thing that I can think of. For about two weeks before each of the mock exams in Years 10 and 11 I teach the exam. I then consolidate this by using the month before study leave to do the same. It sounds obvious, but I know not every teacher does this. One top set a few years ago had never seen a real copy of the exam paper beforehand. They had seen photocopies of past sections, but nothing prepared them for the thickness of the exam booklet or the fact that there were about 12 sections and they only had to answer on three of them. I heard of at least two of those candidates who started answering questions on topics they hadn't even studied, just because they were unfamiliar with the layout of the paper and began to panic.

I know some people think that you shouldn't be teaching pupils to pass exams. Why not? They need the qualification, I want the good results, and isn't that what eleven years of schooling is working towards? It's not all I do, of course. In fact, for the rest for the time I spoonfeed my pupils the least out of most teachers I know. I want them to become independent thinkers who will go on to work or higher education being able to think and do things for themselves without being told what to do or handed step-by-step guides.

But if I was able to make suggestions to the other teachers in my department, it would be to teach the exam. Give them past papers, make notes on the types of questions that come up, get them to figure out what the examiners are testing you on when they use particular words or phrases. Give them example answers and get the pupils to grade them, then tell them what the examiners thought. Let them figure out why one answer scored much less than another. Even in the past couple of weeks my Year 11 class has been shocked in this way: one answer was full of waffle which they mistook for genius, generally awarding it 8 out of 10 when in reality it had scored 2. Unless they see what makes a good answer, how are they going to know what the examiners are looking for? We look at as many past papers as we can. They prepare notes on how to answer on particular themes and subjects. They practise writing the first paragraphs, the opening sentences, and essay plans.

It's too late now for this year's GCSE groups. I know I've done as much as I can to make the exam process clear and less intimidating for my groups. But for the rest, it's just the luck of the draw. My form group is Year 11. Last week I was tidying away some resources and asked the few who weren't chasing round the school handing in coursework who wanted my spare copies of past papers. None of them, apart from those in my teaching group, had seen any others before apart from those we did in the mocks.

Now I'm not saying that my way is the best way to prepare the pupils, but those plus and minus signs on our "value added" sheets would certainly look like I'm doing something that the others aren't. And I just wish I had the opportunity to show all of them that it really is that simple. There's no trickery or witchcraft and I'm not trying to show everyone up. It just works for me and seemed an obvious thing to do.

Sunday, 4 May 2008

Chinese School continues to be a joy

I wrote about the televisual pleasure that is Chinese School a while back. It continues to be amazing and heart-warming and also shocking. The dedication of the teachers is borne from the education system which instills such a sense of hard work and virtually no play. If the hours are long for the students, they are even longer for the teachers.

Class sizes in the high school seem to be between 40 and 50 and yet bad behaviour is not a problem; it's all about conformity not rebellion. And having such high levels of poverty all around them, the students know that succeeding in school is the only way to escape a way of life where fields are still ploughed by oxen and wooden ploughs and clothes are washed in dirty polluted rivers. At the charity school which takes in 5 and 6 year old children as boarders, a few of the new cohort were found to be malnourished and one had to be sent away again as he was carrying hepatitis. The children selected for the school are the lucky ones though - they are well-fed and clothed, and learn all kinds of skills as part of their education. But their sadness at being separated from their families for weeks at a time is infectious, and it can be a real tear-jerker of a programme.

It also got me thinking: what would I prefer? The British way of doing things, where classes of over 30 are said to be overcrowded, but only because the children can be so unruly and difficult to teach, or a class of 50 compliant hard-working teenagers whose own self-control and work ethic has been moulded by the state since their earliest years? The relatively short school day of 5 hours of lessons with marking and planning and extra-curricular activities, or the Chinese school day of 14 or 15 hours, starting with communal exercises before breakfast and finishing after the school closes after 10pm every evening? Crumbling school buildings or... ah, crumbling schol buildings? An interfering government which dictates the curriculum and keeps a close eye on schools by sending in government officials and penalising poorly performing schools or... oh. Some things transcend continents.

Perhaps education only takes on its true value when it really is the only way out of poverty. And that simply isn't the case in Britain, not any more. At least, it isn't perceived to be by those who would benefit from it the most.

Bank holiday weekend pastimes

Just over four weeks ago, during the Easter holidays, I had a day off from working and doing chores. This weekend I'm having two days off. As it's Bank Holiday Monday tomorrow, I can do my marking then. I was going to do it today, but an excess of wine last night means that I'm watching "Frasier" re-runs in my pyjamas instead.

However, this sounds like fun too:

Teachers at a conference have jeered a minister after
she talked about league tables and tests in schools.
The flashpoint involving Children's Minister Beverley Hughes happened at the National Association of Head Teachers (NAHT) conference.
During a question-and-answer session, she said thought teaching was a great job, but was jeered again by a large proportion of the teachers in the hall.
The NAHT is currently holding its annual conference in Liverpool.

And Liverpool is the capital of culture, as well. Sounds very cultured.

Did the strike work?

I haven't heard much about the aftermath of the strike, apart from parents who were inconvenienced by having to look after their own children for the day. But that was the point. Strikes are meant to inconvenience people. They are meant to show what would happen if you didn't have workers doing their jobs. They are meant to highlight what an essential service the workers provide. There was a particularly narky debate going on at Frank Chalk's blog - mostly by posters who look like they could benefit from a little extra education themselves.

Just days after the strike, we heard that several schools in the vicinity are to make staff redundant because of falling pupil numbers. Funding to schools is being cut. Staff in my school have been offered the option of early retirement. And funnily enough, in the current climate of uncertainty about pay, the pressures that an Ofsted inspection brings, the doubts and uncertainties about the new diploma system, and the proposal that schools should monitor pupils' obesity and drug use, there is no shortage of people ready to give up the job.

Ridiculous ideas

Coursework deadlines, mid-term madness... I haven't had a chance to rant for a while! But then I saw this news on the BBC website:
Parents who spend quality time with their children should be rewarded through the benefits system, head teachers' leaders have said.

I don't know where to start on this... the simple truth is, if you don't want to spend quality time with your own children, then don't bloody have any. Unfortunately that's not how many parents see it. Whether it's the middle class mothers whose children were just another item on their "things to do before you're 40" list along with seeing the pyramids and learning to scuba dive, or the benefits-addicted women who have their eye on a house-upgrade, there are plenty of parents who palm off their children to after-school care, weekend clubs, boarding school, or the loving care of the TV.

Now I know what you're thinking. It's expensive bringing up kids these days. It's not practical to expect mother (or father) to stay at home or work part-time so s/he can spend quality time with the children. But what are these expenses? Video games, satellite TV subscriptions, childcare, after-school classes?

I thought perhaps this was a report about giving parents benefits help instead of insisting mothers go back to work as soon as possible after the birth of their children. But instead:
Perhaps parents who spent time reading to their children, going to school parents evenings or helping out in their school, could get higher payments, she [National Association of Head Teachers president Clarissa Williams] suggested.

And I just didn't know whether to laugh or cry.