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Did I mention Friday afternoons?

I just realised, that I hadn’t yet mentioned Friday afternoons! Up here, we don’t seem to use them for teaching. Hoorah.

No kids!

Walking into your room after your lunch on a Friday to find it empty is a truly lovely feeling. Not that I don’t enjoy teaching like, it’s just that teaching is a fairly abstract concept on a Friday afternoon in my experience – it’s very difficult to get anything in when all the kids are thinking about is the weekend. And although it is brilliant to be able to go home at lunchtime at the end of the week (really really brilliant), it’s even useful when you have to stay on instead. You can go to those working groups without staying into the evening and you can get all those niggly jobs out of the way and go home with a clear conscience.Can’t believe I’ve not mentioned this already!

Happy Easter

I’m so happy that my first term is over! It’s been a long one for me. It’s been a while since I had to teach a full timetable and it’s always a shock going back to that. This combined with getting to know the staff & pupils and dealing with the onslaught of prelims and reports – made more interesting with our double presentation of Standard Grade and Int 1 this year.

Well, I hope everyone has a very happy easter. I’m looking forward to a very good break which will include a week in Devon.

Easter explained

Different Cultures

My wife has finally managed to get herself a full time permanent post for next year. She is a primary teacher with a wealth of experience. When we were planning to leave Africa and come home we had assumed that she’d have no trouble getting a job and I would. How wrong we were. What has been most surprising is that most of her applications didn’t even result in an interview. When she has managed to get in the door, her interviewers sing her praises!

This experience has caused me to reflect on the Scottish approach to appointing newly qualified teachers. We both assume that one of the reasons it has been so hard for her to find a post is the system of guaranteeing a job for one year to NQT’s; this combined with the large number of teachers being trained these days.

We have been on the receiving end of this system before. When we last lived in Scotland, my wife had a temporary contract which she hoped would soon become permanent. I went off to England to train as a teacher, hoping to come back afterwards. While I was down south, the guaranteed system came in. My wife could no longer have her job, and there was nothing for me to apply for. So we had to move to England.

I can see the attraction of offering trainees a year’s work, especially when so many are being trained. But I have to wonder if it is the best thing for the schools and pupils of Scotland, or the trainees themselves. It results in a very high turnover in quite small departments that may otherwise have benifted from some stability. And the trainees often seem to be sent somewhere quite far from where they live. You also then have this strange system whereby NQT’s in one council are favoured for permanent jobs over NQT’s from other councils and experienced teachers.

These thoughts then naturally bring me to comparing back to England. Now, I think I was quite lucky with my job in England, but I can only speak for my own experiences. I was appointed in the February of my PGCE year, and it was a permanent post from September. I was supported massively by my department, school and LEA in my NQT year and beyond. From day one I knew I’d be working in this school for a number of years and committed great effort to my work knowing that the department and myself would benefit from those efforts. It is very settling knowing that your contract isn’t coming to an end.

The broader conclusion I have drawn from this comparison is the ideological differences between Scottish and English education. England seems to be more right wing – devolved responsibilty for LEA’s and schools. Whereas Scotland seems more left wing – more centralised decision making from council HQ and the Executive.

Is this an unfair conclusion to make? Which is better anyway?

Shaggy Blog Stories

My friend Rach has managed to get one of her fantastic blog posts into a book! It’s a collection of 100 short humorous pieces from the UK blogosphere called Shaggy Blog Stories. All profits from the sale of this book will be donated to the Comic Relief charity.

Rach is working as a VSO volunteer in Windhoek, Namibia and her blog makes fantastic reading. Have a look if you like.

Back again

Well, I didn’t really go anywhere – except for the dark depths of S3/4 prelims and reports. As I have four classes at this level it’s been an interesting couple of weeks! At least I can get back to the normal workload – plus S5 prelims of course.

Unfortunately, I received some bad news towards the end of last week. A colleague of mine from when I was working in Namibia has passed away. When I arrived as a regional advisory teacher in the Caprivi I had very little idea what I was going to do – I had only been teaching three years and I was going to have to train experienced teachers. There wasn’t even anyone doing the job already.

Many of the Namibian advisory teachers were understandably quite wary of this young white fellow coming out to tell them what to do and as a result, I was left very much to get on with it on my own. The one encouraging and helpful face I had for my first few months in post is no longer with us.

He always did his best to help me anyway he could and he was clearly a very intelligent and enthusiastic educator who had become trapped in the straight jacket of Namibian bureaucracy.

About 2/3 of the way through my year, he began to have a lot of time off work. He looked sicker and sicker each time I saw him and I assumed that he must have been HIV positive and had now developed AIDS. This is not an incredible assumption to make in the Caprivi as the infection rate is estimated to be 40%. This was explained to us during our induction as almost every second person you pass in the supermarket could be infected. A very sobering thought.

It was actually only last week when I wondered how this colleague was getting on. To be perfectly honest, I was wondering how long it would be until I received an email saying that he had passed away. And then the email arrived on Friday.

Very sad. My thoughts are with his family. Especially his beautiful kids, whom I’ve never met, but seen many times pictured all over the walls of his office.