Can there be any teacher across the country who does not know the misery of a downbeat staff briefing? I have had four head teachers in my career and their staff briefing can make or break the week.

Unfortunately I currently feel extremely broken!

Our staff briefings are on a Monday morning; as if it wasn’t bad enough being ‘ripped untimely’ from the weekend like Macduff from his mother’s womb (Macbeth of course), we have to endure a briefing about the week ahead and the ‘treats’ that lie in store for us. My previous head ran briefings in a very congratulatory fashion; they began at 8.45 and consisted of such things as, teaching star of the week, birthday cards, praise for things that had gone well and usually a quotation or anecdote about the positive aspects of teaching which we could use to remind ourselves that this was actually a profession worth belonging to. One that we really enjoyed and despite the hard work felt was valued by the SLT and the community.

Those days are over.

Current staff briefings now begin at 8.30 (to give us time to attend the briefing and then go on gate duty; thoughtful) and they are an unrelenting catalogue of misery, whinge and castigation. There is never a staff briefing without a mention of Ofsted and what they are looking for. It seems that our whole day, week, term and career are based round what Ofsted want. Now often this will chime with what is best for the student but not always; nevertheless that is the overwhelming tone of the briefing and it is very depressing. Naming and shaming is now a regular occurrence. Missed a deadline for data? Named and Shamed. Forgotten to fill in an electronic daily report? Named and Shamed. Didn’t take a class register (because SIMS was down and you didn’t have access to it and then by the time you did you were doing something else and it quite understandably slipped your mind?) Named and Shamed.

Star of the Week has been scrapped although we still do have birthday cards (the secretary told me that the previous head had bought in so many that the current incumbent was keeping it going until they were used up), but praise for what has gone well seems to be a thing of the past. The little kindnesses to fellow staff or students, the above and beyond the call of duty things…they just don’t matter. A few years ago one winner of star of the week was a teacher (let’s call him Teacher A) who noticed a visitor looked a bit upset in reception; it turned out the visitor had just got a phone call to say her Dad had died. Teacher A made a cup of coffee for her and sat with her for half an hour until her taxi arrived to take her to the hospital. He didn’t worry about inputting his data or whether he had marked all his books, he just sat with another human being and made them feel they were not alone, at a very dark time.   He was rewarded by our old head, singled out in briefing as being a lovely person and thanked for his compassion.

I fear that if that happened now, the head might Name and Shame him in the dreaded Monday briefing, for wasting time when he could have been analysing Progress Rates!

Teacher X



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