What happens when a teacher is made redundant from school?
The air is cool, yet the sunshine beats through the glass pane and provides welcoming rays of warmth. It’s October and I look up from my computer and pause to reflect, noticing the leaves are starting to wilt on the trees outside. I find myself sitting at my desk at home and not at school for the first time ever in 17 years, since qualifying.
If you have not guessed already from the title or from this paragraph, I am out of work. Despite the change, I am busy-ish and managing to blog, gulp down a freshly-made salad, whilst also swaddling our newborn premature-baby boy in a warm blanket to entice his afternoon nap. It’s not working and neither am I, so back to the drawing board on all counts.
Once you have experienced redundancy, you realise that a) it’s actually happened to quite a great number of people and that b) I shouldn’t mope around and pull myself together! In today’s climate redundancy is vast becoming a wide-spread and familiar process for those in the private sector, but who’d have thought that teachers, nurses and the police were dealing with redundancy too?! It’s certainly a resounding ‘told-you-so’ to confirm we are still in a recession.
For those that have been lucky enough to avoid or protect yourself from restructuring within the workforce, the process is entirely stressful and demoralising. Despite having a Teaching Award, an MA and countless reincarnations as a teacher, you are identified, ring-fenced and simply branded as a money-saving entity. It is a brutal procedure and one I will do everything in my power to avoid in the future.
I can now recognise the signs. Over-staffing; reducing admissions; a poor reputation; new academy sponsors and a draft leadership structure are all indications of what is on the agenda of the strategic committee. You’d think that being in Senior Leadership, you would be part of the longer-term staffing commitments and decision-making, but not in my story.
Of course we all have choices, but redeployment was not for me, nor being pitched against my colleagues for new job descriptions, having read that my current role was being pulled from under my feet. I was not impressed.
Throughout the three month negotiating period, meetings, discussions, corridor conversations became increasingly stressful, tactical and tense. A poker face is required at all times, not just in the meetings with your Headteacher and union representatives, but also with students and colleagues around the school. This is not always possible to maintain, as the professional duties required of you as a teacher, are constantly challenged by your inner values and principles. Your educational philosophy is tested and you question why you started teaching in the first place. It is at that time, I can now recollect my vision for education that I desperately (now) need to word into a new job application.
Although not every student or member of staff may be on the same page, what underpins my entire reason for being in a school is a love of learning. Thriving on interactions with students, supporting them achieve small or large milestones, whether this be grasping that tiny aspect of subject knowledge to watch that ‘eureka’ moment, or finally reasoning with their own emotions and agreeing to apologise to Miss. Of course this extends further to working with colleagues and parents, building relationships and sharing expertise and is another huge element of a job that I have grown to love deeply.
If you can forgive me for just blowing my own trumpet for just one more sentence, it is a crime that vacancies remain unfilled across the entire country and to quote a consultant-colleague of mine who recently said to a group of people in my presence, “It is an indication of the mess that the education sector is in, that people of Ross’ calibre cannot find work in a school. It’s madness!”
I took redundancy for professional and personal reasons and I know it was a risk. One that I am proud of, but what makes me feel sad is, that eight weeks into a new school year, I am sitting here at home, when I should be interacting with students, helping tomorrows generation learn the skills they need for the jobs we do not yet know exist. What an impossible task! Who else is going to teach them this? Still, for now, I am at home exhausted after my second unsuccessful leadership interview. On both counts, the panel offered me a job and then later each rescinded their offers! I am left even more bewildered than I was before.
I sit back from my laptop and rest my back onto chair, I look up at the sun in the sky and dream about the thousands of busy classrooms full of loyal, talented teachers and other classrooms. Many scattered with a sporadic mix of UK and overseas supply teachers seeking work, or the regular incompetent employee who on this occasion, has escaped the redundancy process or has yet to be identified using the extensive and time-consuming capability procedures.
On the rare occasion, when I forget about where I should be, I look down at my little miracle-boy and know this time at home is a rare and valuable time. I smile and feel satisfied that I can teach him the ways of the world, its’ ruthlessness and how standing up for what you believe in can be more important than any job.
It won’t pay the bills, but it certainly warms the heart.