It’s 2 years already since seeing my GP and her sending me off on my crabby journey (I prefer the term journey to battle), and it’s almost 2 years since I last performed as a teacher. So it’s not too long before this bleedin’ blog is 2 years old. 2 years of writing about kleptos, education, mismanagement, politics and other bollocks. Today I am going to try and channel much of that into a piece emanating from the powerful emotions raised in me at about 9 o’clock last Friday evening.
It was at that time that Jo, who’d been a teaching assistant in my various classes for many years, came up to me to give me a goodbye hug with tears streaming down her face. Despite my slightly inebriated state I knew and felt in that moment how much it meant to her leaving the job she’d done for so long with incredible energy, passion and love.
Last Friday was the last day of employment at Purbeck View School, an institution for young folk with autism and part of the cambian group overseen by kleptasaria, for over 20 staff and many had gathered at a place called Sandpit Field, the heart of Swanage Carnival week, to say goodbye. This was by far the largest number to leave at the same time in the school’s history and was caused by changes in working conditions imposed from above with no proper consultation, let alone employee participation. For those with nothing better to do in life will know from reading this blog that cambian are going through a rough patch. Since kleptasaria and co took over the school the company has expanded in adult mental health and children’s special needs provision at a rapid rate. As in much of the previously publicly owned world such as the railways (think southern railways) and the public utilities (think british gas and cedric the pig) cambian make their money from health and education, i.e. from the public purse, our taxes. A couple of years ago cambian did an IPO and offered shares to the public to, in the words of kleptasaria, expand the business further and retain staff. He gave himself about £9 million’s worth of shares because his retainer is obviously the most important.
A couple of years ago cambian shares were worth over £3, they’re now worth about 60 pence, maybe kleptasaria should take an 80% pay cut? Don’t be silly Duncan, you’re not living in the real world where ceos give themselves a 10% increase in the last financial year and earn a mere 130 times the average employee’s stagnating wage. Anyway, cambian ain’t doing so good and they’ve had to shed their adult services and look for other savings to keep their shareholders and bankers happy. And there was I remembering how private is so much better than public, so much more efficient with the invisible hand of the market ensuring all will be well.
So, why have Jo and so many others left? Well, as for many companies, the largest costs are wages, especially for ceos and directors, and as these obviously can’t be cut the burden must fall on the poor bloody employees. So despite supposedly already having contracts and agreed working conditions structural changes are imposed and, instead of teaching assistants being teaching assistants and coming in at 8.45 a.m. and doing their classroomly and educational duties for which they signed up for and have done very well for so many years, they now have to come in at 7.15 a.m. and be care workers for a couple of hours caring for the young people before changing their hats and becoming classroom assistants at 9 a.m. until 3 p.m. They do get a lunch break of half an hour (unpaid of course). Management have stated that none of this is at all financially driven, even though staff working the new conditions will be working significantly longer hours for no pay increase. Management have also claimed that it will ease the staffing shortage situation; good start losing over 20 staff. Still, that’s over 20 less salaries to pay and more work for those left to pick up.
When I was a teacher I always respected, involved and valued my teaching assistants and generally things went well and we worked well together. One thing that was needed for this to happen was having time together to discuss, plan and put together stuff for the students. Seems to me that with the new system any time teachers and their classroom staff will have together other than when the students are actually in the classroom will be in very short supply. Likewise time available for assistants to do their other classroomly duties will be in very short supply. Still, good old teachers will be expected to pick up any slack and work even longer unpaid hours preparing classrooms and work for students, clearing up at the end of the day, ticking and filling in sisyphean amounts of bureaucratic bollocks and generally running round and round a giant hamster’s wheel wondering whether they’re there yet.
Any comments which can counter my discourse gratefully accepted.
So Jo walks along the main school corridor for the last time, she passes the open door of the head’s office to be called in and verbally thanked for all those years she’d put into the school. Jo was not only an excellent teaching assistant and very child-centred, she was also a force of nature. With her startling red hair she’d organise the Christmas Fayre, a carnival day, red nose and children in need days, whole days activities for those bank holiday days when we’d be in school, day trips to Paulton’s Park and the zoo,and so much else my frazzled brain couldn’t keep track.
And all she got was a brief bit of verbal thanks from a head who was sat in her office surrounded by a plethora of gifts as she also was having her last day before going off on maternity leave. So certain people at the institution put the effort into making sure the head went off on maternity leave feeling loved and valued whilst Jo and others left with……………….?
Another of my long standing teaching assistants was Tania, she too was a brilliant person to have in the classroom and she taught me a lot about communicating more effectively and much more. After 22 years working at the school she left last Thursday, she had a lovely card from a senior manager and a brief letter from the head. There was, despite ample opportunity, no effort made by senior management to properly mark her leaving and contribution to the school. At the Friday’s leavers assembly there was a brief powerpoint about the staff leaving, they spelt (spelled you twat Duncan, can see why you’re an ex-teacher) Tania’s name wrong. Still the head got all her maternity presents, cards and I’m sure flowers. To those that have shall even more be given.
And the head of care keeps insisting it’s nothing to do with money, but then she’s done a great deal to undermine the education at the school. I remember her many years ago when talking about the care side being more important than the education side, I responded that the clue’s in the name: Purbeck View School, she scoffed and continued to deepen the divide between care and education staff. She now has much of what she wanted in terms of the school’s organization and already many have left and others have a bad taste left in their mouths with the way the reorganization has happened. Just as today’s news reports about the klepto ceos could be kept in check by having employee representation I’m sure that greater employee representation, that’s proper representation not just the extremely tokenistic bollocks like staff joint consultation meetings or ‘ask kleptasaria’ (why are you so inept asaria?), would be an improvement. But management knows best. In the old days the saying was: ‘those that can do, those that can’t teach and those that can’t teach teach PE’ (I taught PE). For a while now the mantra is ‘those that can do, those that can’t manage’ and they keep on reinforcing the Peter Principle: ‘The Peter Principle is an observation that the tendency in most organizational hierarchies, such as that of a corporation, is for every employee to rise in the hierarchy through promotion until they reach the levels of their respective incompetence.’
When I hugged Jo last Friday her upset was palpable, it made me very upset hence this blog. I hope at least a few who know about Purbeck View School might read this and add their comments and I’m more than happy to have any discourse with ‘senior managers’.
Keep on keeping on Jo and Tania, love Duncan.
Sorry I’m too angry to add a cartoon, although having written about my anger I feel a little better so:
PS please share this with local folk, I really do want a proper grown up discussion about this.