Like nearly all teachers, I receive the email bulletins from TES for nearby jobs. I’m not desperate for a new job, but it’s always interesting to see what pops up, and if the right opportunity came along, I could apply for it.
On the face of it, I offer rather a lot. Highly experienced Head of Department, Oxford grad, pre-teaching career, best results as a teacher in a department which gets consistently outstanding results (both value-added and absolute), in a school which is usually achieving some of the best results in the country. I deliver CPD to colleagues, have a track record of supporting staff from NQT into excellent teachers, manage the most popular optional subject in the school, get used as a behaviour “enforcer”, operate as an active staff governor and so on and so on. Pass me my trumpet and I can give it a good old blow with the best of them.
But I have a few serious flaws. The first is that I do not do deference, in an education system which is increasingly infected with the Cult of the Leader. Secondly, I have a touching faith in evidence, and thus a reluctance to apply whatever latest fad comes along from Ofsted in my Department. Thirdly, I absolutely reject the concept that the only input which affects student outcomes is how hard, and how long, the teachers work. Its nonsense, and anyone who believes that should be nowhere near education. Fourthly, I’m fairly expensive (you don’t get all that good stuff cheaply).
But perhaps my most significant flaw – certainly in today’s education system, is this : I cannot abide bullshit. Jargon repels me. The sort of greetings card platitudes which infect our education system like a virus – mission statements, “no excuses cultures”, relentless focussing on this, that or the other, etc – make my blood pressure rise faster than hearing Gove or Wilshaw on the radio.
So here’s a job advert in a school which is within my working range. I’ve hidden identifiable features, so as to spare blushes.
“On XXXX XXXX XXX School become an Academy, sponsored by the XXXX Trust and I became the Headteacher xxxx Our aim is simple, to become outstanding. We have already made significant strides towards this and we are looking for driven, committed and ambitious leaders to join our team.
As the Headteacher, from day one I’ve delivered a very clear message to our staff, students and parents. It is that every one of us must take ownership of ambition and raise our expectations of the success we can achieve, both individually and as a community. I insist that this is not a school where complacency is tolerated. This is a school that is totally focused on ensuring that every child is supported and challenged to deliver outstanding personal progress.
If you apply for this post you must already be a dynamic, innovative leader who will inspire, motivate and challenge. You will have a roll up your sleeves attitude to work and enjoy working in challenging circumstances. Above all, you must be devoted to raising the aspirations of a community that has known sustained under-performance. This will be a three year commitment that will shape the right candidate to become a Deputy Headteacher.
I would have been interested in this school. I quite fancy putting my experience to use in a challenging school with the chance to do some serious good. A different advert would probably have attracted an application from me. But this was instantly an interest-killer.
Why ? Because this may not have been the intention, but to me it reads like this :
“I consider myself so important, that I am going to begin and end this advert blurb with references to myself. Oh, and I’ll put lots of stuff about me in the middle.
I’m obsessed with Ofsted, and see no distinction between what I need to do to obtain Ofsted approval, and what the students might actually need.
My staff weren’t committed to the children’s welfare, so I’ve had to tell them that I won’t tolerate their lazy disinterest. The parents and students were also neglectful of their own interests, until I told them how they had to manage their lives.
I consider the only inputs needed to be : (1) making teachers work harder; and (2) me endlessly banging on about high expectations and setting ridiculous targets which, when missed, will allow me to put my staff on competency proceedings. Clever solutions, patience and talent are irrelevant to my Victorian Workhouse For The Poor.
Everyone prior to me in this school was useless, but I’m the hero who is going to change all that, and I want to recruit a gauleiter with no external interests or life, who I can work to death whipping the rest of the staff for me.”
Maybe that’s too harsh. Is it too harsh ? What sort of person will this advert attract ? I have a nasty feeling that it will only attract those who will say, or do, anything to further their careers and get an AHT post. Alternatively, it may attract those who are so lacking in any independent thought, that they actually genuinely believe in this sort of vacuous west-coast psychobabble. I doubt that either variant is what this school needs. Not least because I don’t think any school needs cold-eyed careerists or empty-headed Wilshaw-wannabes.
Fundamentally, I think this : I’m a grown-up; an intelligent professional; someone with buckets of experience, a track record of success, and an independent mind. This advert speaks to me as if I’m a credulous sixth-former in search of a hero to worship; someone who is motivated by empty jargon and is willing to make major life decisions based on a half-time team talk from a lower league football coach. It’s childish, insulting and pathetic. And it fits all too well in today’s Gove&Wilshaw-created education system.
Dear God, but I feel so very old.