Tuesday, 15 April 2014

Not for your convenience: Professional Development, Holidays, and what schools are actually for

For those of you who haven't met him, let me introduce you to the English shadow spokesman for education, Tristram Hunt (a man who, as my UK counterpart once said, is in grave danger of becoming his own rhyming slang). Now young Tristram has one job as long as his party are not in power, and that job is to not act like the current education minister, a bottom-feeding polyp by name of Michael Gove. That's it. Don't be like the most hated man in education, and you'll find that a huge voting block swings behind you.

"Yummy mummies love Sherlock, don't they?"

So, what has the young Hunt done? He's looked at a labour sector rife with teachers suffering from stress and long hours, of children under intense pressure to pass archaic and confusing assessments, at the dismantling of public education in favour of "free" schools, and decided to take a swipe at.....

Professional Development.

Parents, according to this man who has clearly never developed in any way, let alone professionally, are "baffled" about why a group of postgraduates in a professional career may occasionally need time for staff training. This pronouncement was backed by a handwringing helicopter spokesmum from website Netmums (note, not mumsnet, which carries more political clout than most print newspapers) who said that staff-only days are "Awkward" for parents (note, not caregivers. If you're not the parent then clearly you don't need representation at this level). She went on to say that she was "suspicious" of the timing of staff only days, as they are usually after holidays or weekends.
We do so little work as it is, let's add in some extra days for skiving!

Where to start with this torrent of patronising bollocks?
Dear Netmums, real mums, politicians and journalists looking to give something else a kicking now Judith Collins and the Maori party are old hat: Schools do not exist for your convenience.
Schools are not office-hour holding pens so you don't need to pay for childcare for 40 weeks of the year. Teachers are not babysitters with diplomas whose sole role is to keep little Foccacia and Mumford out of your hair while you work on your career in marketing. The education system does not exist for your convenience.
Our role is to educate your child. To socialise them, to give them the skills they need to operate in the same society that you are busy working in. How well this is done is a discussion for another time, but that is at the core of what we do. In order for us to do that effectively, sometimes we need to have training to improve our performance. You don't stand outside your local opticians that's closed for staff training on Wednesday mornings, banging on the glass demanding that you either be let in or that they post up exactly what is happening in there, as it's "awkward" for you not to pick up some contact lens solution at that moment.

Of course, if working class kids were allowed to work, then all these inconveniences would disappear!
Same goes for holidays. You may be a successful 35 year old careerist who never gets tired ever, but your six year old, who is learning the fundamentals of reading, of becoming a person, does. They need that time out of class to be kids, to absorb and reflect on what they've learned over the previous eleven weeks. It's not always about your convenience, it's about (you guessed it) the needs of the children who are ultimately the most important people in all this, and incidentally the ones who are talked about the least.
Now I'm not saying that holidays and staff only days aren't a pain in the arse for caregivers. But to hear politicians promote resentment at teachers for wanting to improve their teaching, and education ministers attempt to legislate longer terms and hours to better suit working parents, shows just how little regard they hold teachers and the education system in. Perhaps instead of attacking teachers, netmums and their ilk need to consider the societal conditions that have led to them require so much childcare in the first place.

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