Thursday, 12 April 2012

In defence of staff rooms

News today that new schools won't in the future be required to have staff rooms:

As someone who until very recently was an outsider to the world of teaching and education I can see why people who don't have the luxury of an equivalent  'staff room' at their own workplace might not see the need for teachers' (and support staff) to have such a place.

I didn't realise it until I spent time in schools how intense and isolated the life of a teacher actually is. Intense, because when you are teaching, you are teaching - performing on your feet with no respite in front of thirty so highly critical pairs of eyes. Isolated, because for the majority of your day you are doing this on your own with precious little adult company.

Whereas in most jobs  - however hard you work at times there is an inevitable large amount of 'down time'. And this is taken up with - for want of a better word  'fucking about'. I know,  I've done my fair share of this - when we were a manual craft industry it involved endless practical jokes and the odd game of 'studio cricket' - in the modern studio environment the equivalent is probably messing about on the internet. And as an executive there is always the liquid lunch and lost afternoon. At whatever level we feel - quite rightly - that the busy times earn us the right to goof around occasionally. And even if you're not goofing around, most workplaces give you an opportunity to down tools and have lunch - whether it's a Gregg's pasty or lunch at the Ivy.  Not so if you're a teacher - as I've found you even have to plan ahead with your toilet breaks ...

All of which points to the need for teachers' staff rooms if only as basic workers' right. I deliberately don't mention the use of the staffroom for all those impromptu meetings done on the hoof between teachers than are essential to the daily running of the school. Because adequate 'non-contact' time should be scheduled to sort all that out. As a manager in my previous life 'meetings' of one sort or another were the single biggest part of my working week. Nobody told me that I should be conducting all these meetings in my own  lunchtime - or that I would have to conduct them all standing in the stair-well.

But let's face it - the move to do away with staff rooms is primarily a political one. Teachers seem to be in the forefront of opposition to the ConDems nowadays and they are rapidly becoming one of the more militant layers of the labour movement. And the first rule of anyone in the business of suppressing opposition is to deny the dissidents their freedom of association ...

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