September’s Teacher Education Days always create a strange emotion for those of us desperately trying to preserve that holiday feeling: flip-flops with no socks, clothing defiantly donned in spite of the rain, newly earned tans, and obligatory shorts – despite it being wetter and 15°C cooler than it was in the Isle of Wight.
Then there is Ray, an experienced geography teacher and NASUWT representative, who is sharply dressed in his suit – his ongoing protest that “our holiday has been shortened by five days”.
This protest has been ongoing since 1988 when Baker Days were named after – but not in reverence to – another Conservative education secretary, Kenneth Baker.
Ray’s annual historical sermon of seven-week teacher holidays addressed to the uninitiated new staff is a reminder that the old adage still rings true – “trust is like a bucket, only filled a drop at a time but lost in a moment when emptied”. It also reminds us that teachers’ holidays are sacrosanct!
Yet I like these two teacher education days, which I feel are crucial for our staff development and an essential opportunity for quality staff training, as well as a time to meet colleagues while in a relatively relaxed frame of mind.
I for one am determined to preserve this holiday feeling, this holiday mood. I am only going to be stressed by the big things.
Even Michael Gove, the education secretary, has of late managed to appear on television without generating the now tiresome Tourette’s-like reaction in me.
However, within five minutes of being back at school, despite all this effort to keep the stress at bay, we are hurtling back into the term and it’s getting difficult.
It starts with the idiosyncratic lottery of GCSE results, some departments are delighted and surprised.
This year PE and others are in despair and at a loss to know why the grades have been so affected. German, with their four different exams, are too vulnerable to exam boards, which are playing the higher standards game.
After the initial results concern it is in to the annual requests for re-marks – a profit-making exercise for exam boards and ultimately so futile! English grading makes my holiday-generated relaxed blood pressure rise in frustration at the unexplained unfairness and the lottery of which tier to enter students for; higher-tier exams seem to have been successful, foundation-tier exams downgraded.
Or cynically I feel the exam boards are thinking higher tier, high expectations of a B grade pass and a “good” GCSE, foundation tier highlights a school’s nervousness about the results and for the C grade students can mean a D grade.
We are ultimately “screwed” when as a professional, a student who walks, talks, writes and is a certain C is rewarded a D grade!
Nevertheless, I love this job and this half-term in particular. The results of 2014 are far enough away to not worry about for now and the school comes alive with…
…So much hope, the lick of paint on still tired buildings, the last flickering of summer, the new year 7 students in their shiny shoes, new colleagues in their shiny shirts, new colleagues to impress who do not know you or your ethos, and so much more.
Even the reprobates in year 10 have the holiday feeling and long may it last.
Now back to the suit and tie and those dreaded socks – and as Ray constantly reminds us all, another day nearer to death!
Diary of a headteacher is written anonymously and in rotation by three practising headteachers from schools across the country.