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Academy workplace issues - a worker's voice

Mon, 26/03/2012 - 12:22

In Jan 2011 my school became an academy, as set out by the government that outstanding schools could become academies. As a staff we were duped into this. There was some consultation with unions, but as previous headships broke the unions in the school with their “divide and rule” regime, consultation was limited. We were sold the lie that we were now free of the thrall of the LEA, HMI inspections and, due to an outstanding status, free from OFTSED inspections for at least 5 years. This has not been the case , in fact being taken from LEA control now subjects us to far more stringent work practices, where union guidelines are not applicable or at the very least are bent to suit the requirements of management. Also being out of LEA control means if the school hits any financial difficulties, it will be teaching staff who suffer. As under LEA control they can apply financial help that does not endanger staff jobs. Fortunately this has not happened, yet. In regards to inspections we are subject to book marking scrutiny twice every half-term ( I teach 17 classes), departmental inspections, internal inspections on individual teaching, trainee-OFSTED inspections as well as a whole plethora of internal work audits and inspections. Rather than a decrease in inspections we are guaranteed an inspection every term at least. In regards to these inspections we are given two days warning. Then we are expected to produce not only lesson plans, which are not always an OFSTED requirement but lesson plan booklets. These must included information on every SEN child, Free School Meal students, ethnicity, first language, attendance, current and past performance, more able and talented students, resources, which have to be differentiated, seating plans with current levels and target grades and of course any Individual Education Plans for any child on the SEN register. These take at least 4 hours to produce just one. Imagine if someone is given two days notice and has 8-10 of these to produce? Inspectors visit a class for maybe 20 min. at the beginning, yet the teacher is expected to produce one of these for each class, create a lesson of outstanding quality and deliver the lesson. This happens 3 times a year. Now to further the workload, the new OFSTED inspection proposals made by Gove have again added a new dimension to our already over-burdened staff. Schemes of work must now be written as lesson plans, even though every year they are re-written anyway, a nice way to spend a six weeks holiday.
All of this makes for a 50-60 hour week, 70-80 prior to inspections. The main comment made by staff is always about being tired, over-worked, no work-life balance, more piled on us at every turn, the lack of actual teaching being done due to marking and other bureaucratic requirements. We have actually become a school, according to OFSTED is a school with outstanding lessons, but in fact we as a staff only merely perform for inspections. Staff are often too busy to give effective lessons most of the time. I will say that it is not the fault of the school, but the whole education system, but management could be a little more considerate towards an over-worked and in some cases, fractionalised staff. We could seek union guidance. The unions are impotent; because the previous headships made trade unionism a byword for dissent and made it known that active participation could lead to an arrested career development. Therefore to been seen involving unions is perceived as dissention and can lead to ostracising from other staff members who actively seek career advancement at the expense of others. To be fair the current head does support the strike action against pension changes and is accommodating in regards to leaves of absence. This does not negate from the fact they are overseeing their tenure as head with an over-worked and near-exhausted staff, who feel impotent to do anything about it.



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