Sunday, 9 March 2008

Ethos - I Found It !

Ethos : (n.) The character, sentiment, or disposition of a community or people, considered as a natural endowment; the spirit which actuates manners and customs; also, the characteristic tone or genius of an institution or social organization.

[Webster 1913 Suppl.]

In early November 2004, I and two colleagues were told by the head teacher that we had been awarded UPS3 – (a pay award – Upper Pay Spine 3). He told us that our salaries would be amended accordingly and that an adjustment would be made as the award was backdated to September.

This UPS3 was in line with government and county policy. Teachers in other Lancashire schools had already received their awards as a natural progression and without the need to produce any additional performance related evidence.

Two weeks later, the head teacher informed the three of us collectively that, as he had been absent during the preceding school year and had not been involved with performance management, he could not grant the pay award without written evidence. He made no apology for this and tried to convince us that it was in line with LEA policy.

The head teacher led us to believe that written evidence was needed to comply with his policy and that upon submission of our work that the UPS3 would be approved.

We duly produced reports but were later told that our work was not satisfactory and the head teacher said that we would not receive UPS3 awards.

One member of staff, following a discussion with the chair of governors, was granted her UPS3 – whilst I and my colleague had to contact our respective unions to formally appeal against his judgement.

Whilst waiting for union intervention, I decided that it might be more straightforward to ask the head teacher what had been wrong with the report that I had submitted. His behaviour at this meeting was aggressive and very personal – not professional by a long shot ! He lost his temper and shouted at me. (He is one of those people – prior to him erupting, his neck goes red then his face !) He told me in no uncertain terms that I had no ethos and that other teachers were more supportive of him and the school.

I have learnt to keep calm at these meetings with him – there is no point in me losing my temper … on this occasion, I could not tolerate his attitude and words and was forced to close the conversation and leave.

My UPS3 appeal was heard on 18 May 2005, some 6 months later ! At this meeting were the head teacher, chair of governors, another governor, an LEA representative and my union representative.

I made my presentation to those present. This met with an aggressive response from the chair of governors who was more interested in why my report had been submitted late. (I had not been told by anyone that it should have been submitted in the first place.)

The head teacher then responded to my presentation. He made no reference to my presentation nor the paperwork that I had submitted. He had his own written agenda and proceeded with a character assassination, saying :
  • I am not a team player.
  • I never support him.
  • I don’t take advice.
  • I am a law unto myself based on the fact that I had disagreed with his reasons for wanting the reception children to attend morning assemblies.
  • I take ad hoc coffee breaks.
  • I would do a lot better if I watched my colleagues in action.
  • I have no ethos.
When I tried to comment during his ranting, I was told by the chair of governors that if I continued to interrupt that I would have to leave the meeting.

After waiting in a room for 30 minutes, the LEA representative informed me that my appeal had failed for reasons never explained. (My union representative had not helped / supported nor intervened at any time – she had been as shocked as me but did nothing !)

Following this sham, my colleague withdrew her appeal, which was due to be heard later the same week, through fear of similar treatment / outcome.

I never succeeded in getting my UPS3 award but, later, I did find Ethos – it was in the china section of Dawsons Department Store in Clitheroe … who would have thought it ! … my partner even got me a poster to prove it !