There aren’t many people who can pander to prejudices about teachers like Sir Michael Wilshaw can. Apparently, we suffer no stress; we bugger off at 3.00pm each day, to commune with the birdies and smell the prefects; and so, we deserve a bit of low morale. Or, even better, a bucketload. Give him a few more minutes, and I won’t ever have worked during the holidays.
It’s an illuminating repertoire that Sir Michael’s built up here: one that discloses not only Mr W.’s kinda-impressive ability to offend; but also, in his superhero guise as The Voice That Tells It Like It Is, one that underscores the discrepancies in how different parts of the public sector are viewed and treated.
I have to confess to a vested interest here. I come from a family that groans so loudly under the weight of medics, that I occasionally have to dab my joints with a little WD40. And it’s hard to not draw comparisons when their choice of profession is the stuff of collective ‘Ooh’-ing while mine elicits a ‘What the bloody hell did you do that for?’.
And so it is ever thus. It appears that I must now work more hours per day to justify a pay rise. As most of the teachers I know have to apply for unpaid leave to have a poo, I’m not sure where these extra hours are supposed to come from. (Perhaps we need a time and motion study.) When junior hospital doctors worked silly hours, there were concerns that fatigue might impair their decisive abilities, and the housemanship system was duly altered. However, as teachers are expected to answer immediately to e-mails sent at 2.00am, they need only hang inverted from the rafters for a ten-minute power nap and accompanying headrush, before pinging off a reply, doing a little more light paperwork, and then taking full responsibility for the safety of young people who can detect the scent of danger like bloodhounds.
The differences are apparent elsewhere. When it comes to teachers, it would seem that every penny has to be justified – so much so that, when New Labour introduced the upper pay scale, it thought better of itself and lopped off the two highest points. These were replaced by the ‘Excellent Teacher’ scheme, the application for which requires such balletic manoeuvres through flaming hoops that only three dozen hamsters who trained with the Rambert have been appointed to said posts nationwide.
My medic rellies, on the other hand, are being paid more to do less than before, while still being regarded as modern-day saints who will always merit every last groat. They also have something called ‘overtime’, which I’ve heard of but believed to be extinct. Furthermore, teachers will have to work until they’re 68 to claim a pension that might just hit five figures a year. My medic chums can expect a pension in excess of £50,000 a year, and a tax-free lump sum of a hundred grand plus, to keep them in ski holidays.
Teachers have unions that engage in negotiations with the government, just as medics have theirs. Theirs are taken seriously; ours may as well be onions, given the eye-watering sorrow or mirth with which our assumption, that we’re worthy of being listened to, is greeted. Medics are seen as experts in their fields and usually are treated as consultation partners when new policies are being aired. We, however, are factota, not partners. Headteachers may be consulted as educational everymen; but, as any phool nose, their agendae are pretty far removed these days from those of the teachers. Heck, we’re not even possessed of classroom expertise any more – hence the need to turn the running of schools over to carpet baggers…sorry, weavers, creationists and embezzlers.
My favourite discrepancy, however, is the one concerning incompetence. When a surgeon sews up a patient, having forgotten to remove medical instruments from whichever cavity, the problem is that medic’s and theirs alone, generally. Similarly, when a GP engages in malpractice, usually involving loads of money or ladies’ breasts, they’re regarded as a rogue operator. When a teacher fails in pretty much any capacity, the problem is represented as endemic to the whole profession.
Despite the foregoing spittle-flecked rant, I don’t actually despise medics their privileges. Granted, I find it funny when I hear the ones I know claiming publicly that everything they do, they do it for you, with no visible regard for the high salaries and kneejerk deference they often command. Much like headteachers, in fact. But some parity of respect, if not treatment, would be nice.
Especially when you consider that hardly anyone gets to medical school without the input of teachers somewhere along the line.