Surely the biggest problem with academisation is the quality of school management. It is because of poor school leadership that so many teachers face poor behaviour, ridiculous marking demands and horrendous surveillance which destroys their professional dignity. If I worked in a school like this, and I was told that the management were going to be given even more power to decide my working conditions and my contractual obligations, then I would be afraid. I would be very afraid. So I’m not surprised that strike action is being considered.
Academisation will deliver benefits for staff and, more importantly, for pupils, when it is coupled with improved school leadership. With good leadership and the right ideas, staff will be able to commit wholeheartedly and put their shoulders to the wheel together, because working hard isn’t the problem. The problem is working for too long, and working at pointless things.
It’s when we are required to work hard at futile activities for the benefit of paranoid managers that depression begins to sink in. When we know the point of what we are doing, we are prepared to put the effort in. Hard work for a worthwhile goal is rewarding; it’s one of the most rewarding things in life. But hours spent generating paperwork to satisfy an insatiable surveillance machine are soul destroying.
Hard work is rewarding, but there must be a limit. Working excessive hours is immoral, because it leaves no room for a life outside teaching, which is necessary for the sanity of staff. It also leaves no room for reading and building one’s own subject knowledge, which is so vital for keeping our cutting edge as practitioners.
It’s also unfair to demand excessive hours from teachers. It’s reasonable to compare an average level of working hours in a normal full time job. A forty hour week with twenty days of annual leave and public holidays means someone works 1856 hours a year. Divide that by 39 weeks of term and you get about 47.5 hours a week, or about 9.5 hours a day. While it may be reasonable to demand more intensive working during term time, filling the weekends, evenings and ‘holidays’ of teachers as well is unjust as well as being unsustainable.
The retention and recuitment crisis; poor academic results, especially in areas of social deprivation; excessive workload: all of these are the fault of poor school management. It’s no good their saying that ‘it’s what Ofsted wants’. Ofsted themselves have told them that they need to have the backbone simply to think about what is good for their pupils. When managers discover their spines and get some better ideas about things like feedback, then academisation will not be a threat. It will be a fantastic opportunity for school leaders to carry out the great ideas which are already being implemented in schools such as Michaela.
But how many teachers out there right now can really, honestly say, “Great, my headteacher is going to have even more power to decide what happens in my school! Now things are really going to improve!”