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Saturday, 10 February, 2001, 00:08 GMT
The cost of teaching
Primary school teacher Kate Secker-Walker tots up how much she has spent on resources for her pupils - and explains why she is looking forward to leaving the profession.

In the staff room the other day some more experienced members of the teaching staff were talking about when they qualified - how they were not guaranteed a job and many of their friends did not get teaching posts straight away.

This was a time when there were plenty of new teachers each year and, more importantly, teachers were staying in the job.

I myself will be leaving teaching in July and the relief I experienced once I had made this decision was enormous - I am counting down the weeks!

So why are people like me leaving teaching? We have all heard about the low pay and ridiculous amounts of paperwork and these are definitely very compelling reasons.

For example, teachers are paid for about 37 hours a week to teach, plan, assess, mark work and put up displays.

But many teachers do more like 50 hours a week and take large amounts of work home too.

Less paperwork?

Is all this extra work worth it? Perhaps the answer is to pay us for what we do?

It seems to me that most of the paperwork I am asked to do is for the benefit of inspectors who may or may not walk in, rather than for the kids.

The government has said it is going to cut the paperwork. It turns out that this means reducing the amount they send to us to read, not the amount we have to produce ourselves. Who are we in teaching for, the inspectors or the children?

Teachers do not donate only their time but their money too. This academic year alone I have spent close on 350.

More than half of this was on photocopiable resource books to cover the new national literacy and numeracy strategies as well as other areas of the curriculum.

Cue music

Schools have been given money for some of the resources needed for the schemes but needed this to replace basics like reading books. As a result there is very little money left for resources to help the teacher.

The new "voluntary" curriculum is being increasingly adopted by schools - and it is very prescriptive about what you teach and how.

For instance this term I have to teach "mood through music and sound" so a large resource of recorded music is needed.

I was able to find some of the pieces in my own CD collection, but others I have had to buy especially. The same is true of the dance segment of PE.

Next term I have to teach "what we know of the Egyptians from what they left behind". The school has no real resources on the subject apart from a statue and a few books.

Stretched budget

It is a good thing my parents have just been to Egypt and bought me a whole load of things, and I found some books at the British Museum - more to add to the bill.

Again this is not the fault of the school but so many years of under-funding have meant that schools no longer have the store of resources they once had and certainly do not have enough of a budget to replenish now.

So teachers have no choice but to buy them themselves or not teach properly.

It could be argued that the books are for myself and indeed I will take them with me when I leave.

However I have also bought loads of general reading books for the children (mostly from charity shops), good erasers that do not smudge, sharpeners, good glue, felt tip pens and extra pencils.

Office job

These are provided by the school - but it cannot afford enough for the whole year and what there is does not last long.

All these things are not for myself and I will not be taking them with me - although I have not yet decided about the fish tank...

After five years of teaching I find I can walk into a job in an office, with my present skills, and increase my wage by 30% for fewer hours and a proper lunch break. So that is what I am going to do.

It is all very well for the government to give financial incentives to newly qualified teachers to teach in London - help with the mortgage and so on.

You see, there are incentives to start teaching but none to stay teaching.


In my view provides space for those involved in education to reflect on how it is going from their perspective.

The views expressed here are personal.

If you have something to say, send a brief outline to educationnews@bbc.co.uk


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