I walked through the empty building. Silence. A lump in my throat as I said goodbye to each inanimate object as I walked past; the house point box, the lunchbox trolleys, the blackboard about why the school was fantastic. Each wall, each display, each classroom an old friend. My daughter and wife ran along the corridors giggling in the distance. To be in school on a Sunday, even as Headteacher, was a strange experience. Each corridor is usually teeming with life but not today. As I entered each new section of school, silence.
That was the day before. The day after was surreal. My decision had been made many weeks ago. It was my decision. Somehow I still wasn’t happy about going. This school had been an amazing experience for me. I’d met friends. Learnt to be an expert at different aspects of school life. Met my wife! Without this school my life would have been a lot emptier. I belonged at this school. However, the time had come. My last day. Staff did not know my plans. I don’t like fuss. They were gathered first thing and told I was going. Today. It was a lovely last day. Saying “See you soon” to people (there were so many friends there that I didn’t want to say goodbye to), passing things on and sorting things out. I left before 5pm and went home. Crying.
So. What’s my story? I am / was a Headteacher. I had worked at this school for almost 14 years. I started there as a brand new teacher. A NQT. Over the years, through various challenges, high points and low points, I was promoted. Three years ago, I found myself as Acting Headteacher and then subsequently Headteacher. My love for school made this a no-brainer. This no-brainer, in hind-sight, was a complete ‘brainer’; just one which I missed. I’ll touch on this later I’m sure.
Over the past eighteen months to two years I’ve sat and watched the Education sector in the UK being destroyed. I probably mean this in a different way to what you imagine. I’ve watched it being destroyed by negativity. The people who take to Facebook and say that everything is disgusting. The people who write in the Times Educational Supplement that things are disgusting in education and how things are ruined. It goes without saying, that I agree with a lot that has been said. There is a bit of me that wishes that I had stood tall, said that everything which is happening is terrible, and walked out. The truth is, it would have done no good. The people making it this way, do not care what I think. We are seeing in so many aspects, such as the NHS, that the people at the top don’t really care about anything anyone thinks! So in the meantime, education comes across as a place where everyone who works in it complains and moans. That is what will kill education. Morale will go. Fight will disappear. Soon you will be left with disaffected staff. Or no staff. The biggest problem is, of course, that there is already a “teacher shortage” but who in their right mind would want to go into teaching with al this negativity – coming from the industry itself!
Despite all this, my move out was not political. It was simply my time. I hope to continue in education one way or another. I am not against change. I don’t necessarily agree with it, or the way it is done, but on the whole can’t say that I walked out because of it. With one exception, anyway. The current assessment (for want of a better word) cock-up. We don’t like what you do, so we will get rid of it. Make up your own. We’ll test you on something at the end of the year. Not really sure what. But something. If your new assessment system is correct things will match fine. We’ll give you the documents you need to ensure that everything is on track, so you can work on it. These will come three weeks before the tests. Just take it easy and do some colouring for the first seven months of the year. That was bad for schools. However, it was an absolute disgrace for children across the country. Children were let down and that is my line. A child who goes through school absolutely amazing at Maths but not so good at English, because of the new assessment systems, won’t be cerebrated for being a mathematical genius. He / she will be presented with a piece of paper that announces they haven’t met the expected standard. Fail. In ten years time, as well as a disaffected workforce, we will also have a disaffected population coming through.
This is currently January 2017 when I’m writing this. All of this could be wholly wrong now. Could be completely irrelevant. Or, knowing the cycle of how things go, could have just been repeated by the next government that got in.
You may be surprised to hear that this is not writing based on Education. I did not shout any of the above or send letters stating it as I left. One day, I realised that it was becoming more and more of a choice. My familly, or work. Seeing my daughter for a maximum of ten minutes per day was not enough for me. I needed to move. As I said, I hope to remain in education…but I also wanted to see what else was out there. I decided to give myself until September to find it.
This is my account. The account of someone who decided to have a better life. To balance life better. To have quality family time. To, perhaps, have his cake and eat it. After all, I have no idea how this is going to go. It could be the best decision ever…or the worst! We see people on the TV all the time that quit the rat run and do pretty well. But they always seem to have a camera crew with them and you can’t help but think that they have had a bit of help from the film crew. This isn’t about being a teacher and quitting. The job I’ve quit, is perhaps fairly irrelevant.
My plan is to update this, each week – Monday morning – at least.
I’ve quit my job. Whatever next?