Workforce reform and SBMs, another view

I am a big fan of @sbl365. Her blog posts are entertaining, pithy and straight on point. From the reaction and comments that she receives, it is clear that her views, so well articulated, are universally held by SBMs and the profession. However, I do think that an important part of engaging with the blogging world is to respond, to have a conversation, to present an alternative view. So instead of my usual short “excellent blog” type response, I thought I would offer a different view.

You are probably not going to like it…but isn’t that what debate is about?

I too started working in a school in the early noughties, I was lucky (and it was luck) to be appointed as an SBM right from the start. I came from being a director of a relatively successful small business making and selling computer power distribution equipment, into the weird and wonderful world of education. I’ll be totally honest, I wasn’t expecting to stay long.

But here I am 15 years later. I have been given (and taken) the opportunity to grow considerably along with the role, at my own pace, with the ability to balance work with the needs of my family, a divorce, remarriage, more children and the fulfilment of a dream to complete an MBA. As a result I’ve never worried too much about what I haven’t got, I’ve always just been really pleased to be a part of the team and to ‘have it all’.

I don’t have a problem with the term ‘support staff’. I take a lot of pride in facilitating the teaching and learning in a school. I absolutely and unequivocally do not want to be a teacher. Not because I couldn’t, but because I don’t want to. I believe that, having worked with them for so long, and known so many, I do understand a little where they are coming from.

They are (quite rightly I believe) protective and defensive of their profession, their ‘coal face’ role in the school and their ‘closed shop’ industry. They are one of the last heavily unionised professions in the UK, without which, it is clear to me, successive governments would ride roughshod over teachers’ rights in pay, equality, conditions and hours, because most politicians believe that teachers only do it for the love of children.

This possessiveness can come across as an inability to consider every staff member in the school as of equal value, but in my experience, as individuals, they are quietly highly appreciative of everyone’s contribution.¬†Collectively, teachers are blamed for many of the ills in society. It seems to me that their task is (for the most part) disrespected, thankless, sometimes monotonous and often stressful. The joy in their work comes from the satisfaction of others (i.e. students) success, working in a subject they enjoy and excel in, and their relationships with colleagues (oh, and the holidays!)

With an understanding that the ‘closed shop’ mentality helps them maintain the teaching ‘profession’ status, as well as a decent standard of living, it is suddenly clear why they are reluctant to share it with a ‘non-teacher’.

So, why does the School Timetabler need a PGCE? I agree with @sbl365, actually they don’t, but by appointing a teacher to the role (or at least advertising to teaching staff first), the SLT can be confident that they will automatically have support from their teaching staff body – a requirement if the function is going to work with the least possible controversy. Of course, teachers, on a very basic level, want to work with teachers, parents want to know that the teachers are in control, unions want to protect their members and the Government needs to keep them on-side (and in the classroom).

I actually think that there are leadership opportunities in a school, you’ve just got to¬†look a little harder, be a little more persistent and be the very best applicant for the task you aspire to. Dress for the job you want, (both physically and in attitude). Believe in yourself and your ability, and most importantly, communicate the direction you want to go to your line manager and the SLT.

Over my fifteen years of working in education, attitudes have changed, horizons are broadening and support staff are becoming more integrated and accepted into a collegiate ‘school staff’. However, in my view, we have got to shake off our own ‘second class citizen’ attitude. Support staff who pay no attention to traditions, bowl along staff meetings whether or not they are invited, apply for internally advertised jobs and request honest feedback, will see that the only divide is the one that they, themselves, perceive.

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