Woe, woe, woe is us

It was a strange and sad day last week when my wife and I called the staff into the music room to inform them that we had decided to resign from our posts as headteacher and deputy at the school. We did our best to explain our reasons for leaving. Nobody had seen it coming, and everyone was stunned. I couldn’t help feeling that we were letting them down.

The letter to the parents was even harder. We went through draft after draft until I was almost happy with it. Could it explain our reasoning clearly enough? What response could we expect? The next morning it was clear that not only had parents accepted our arguments but were wholly supportive of our decision, although many asked if we might be persuaded to change our minds. And as to the children, they remained as fickle and forgetful as ever. As anyone who has ever been told they are “the best teacher in the world” knows, a year later Mrs Smith will be taking on that heavy mantle in your stead. For most of the children it was very quickly back to business as usual.

Teaching is not an occupation that you can leave at the door when you go home at the end of the day. When couples are both in education the danger of taking the static and hum of a day’s teaching home with you is more than doubled. As headteacher and deputy we have found that we haven’t just brought the day’s problems home with us but have let school business permeate through our waking (and often sleeping) lives.

Hmm.

Peter Foggo is the deputy head of Longparish Church of England primary school in Andover, Hampshire

That couple is on a household income of somewhere in the £100,000 to £130,000 level I would have thought.

Five times median household income and they want to whinge about it taking a bit of time, including a bit of stress?

An entire 105 pupil roll?

Grow a damn spine man you’re rolling in clover there.

47 comments on “Woe, woe, woe is us

  1. This explains so much that is wrong with education in Britain.

    How many drafts did he go through? Grow a pair!

  2. They’ve probably paid off the mortgage and have a fair bit put away, decide to enjoy life a bit.

    However, being massive drama queens they make out like they are abdicating the Throne of England.

    This was a very difficult and personal decision we just so happened to tell a national newspaper about.

  3. JuliaM – “Foggo by name….”

    That is just the way he says it. He probably spells it like Margot Asquith.

  4. This is our local primary school and they are highly regarded teachers. I know several of the governors who had nothing but good to say about a the pair. It sounds like a mid-life crisis/early retirement decision, and the letter to parents was picked up by the press. The excuses given in the letter didn’t really cut it with the parents who are politically as blue as you will find anywhere, but the Foggos are the sort of people who wouldn’t​ just leave without giving a reason.

  5. http://www.longparish.hants.sch.uk/?page=News

    Apologies, it’s not relevant specifically to the thread, but do any of us ever recall stuff like this? What on earth have we become?

    Healthy Snacks in School

    Please can we remind parents that children should only bring in “Healthy snacks” to eat at breaktime. Please do not provide your child with chocolate or sugary snacks. Thank you

    Due to children with serious nut allergies in school, please could we ask that nuts in any form e.g. Nutella, peanut butter, etc. are not included in children’s packed lunches. Thank you for your co-operation.

    Please can we also ask that you ensure your child has a water bottle in school at all times. Thank you.

  6. We have found that we haven’t just brought the day’s problems home with us but have let school business permeate through our waking (and often sleeping) lives.

    Welcome to management.

    In fact any half-decent career these days involves taking work home.

  7. At the schools I went to, if you wanted a drink, you stuck your head under a tap or used a drinking fountain, hoping all the while that none of your mates would sneak up and goose you. What’s all this about water bottles?

  8. *finds school on Google Maps*

    *checks OFSTED report*

    “Only a very small number of pupils are supported by the pupil premium (additional funding for pupils known to be eligible for free school meals, looked after children and those from service families). There are no looked after children attending the school.”

    Mad. Absolutely fucking mad. If you change your mind, tough, because whoever is running that school has already got someone to take your job. They’d have had candidates breaking down the door.

    Running a nice small primary just isn’t that stressful. Sorry. Running one in a poor area? Yeah, that’s hard work. Because every pupil that starts a fight or is off truant or has problems at home requires a ton of work. Heads and teachers of those schools are often real heroes for what they try and achieve against the odds.

  9. It seems that teachers are still n the lead over academics in the whinging stakes.

  10. @BiW,

    As a governor of a larger (about 400) primary school with few free school meals, in a nice area, who just went through the hiring of a replacement for our retiring headteacher, I can tell you that we only got 2 applications…

  11. From further down in the article:
    “For us the final straw was the proposed creation of a new generation of grammar schools, and with them the reintroduction of selection in education.”
    Oh do fuck off, as our esteemed host would say.

  12. What Andrew M said. Hopefully one day teachers will wake up and realise their jobs are not all that different from everyone else’s after all.

  13. 100 pupils for a whole school? Fvck me, that’s significantly less than the intake for just year 1 at my daughters’ primary school. I know the head of her school gets 55k as he joined last year.

    If they’re on 50k or so each the council lunatics really have taken over the asylum

  14. “Hopefully one day teachers will wake up and realise their jobs are not all that different from everyone else’s after all.”

    How can they when its a closed loop system?

  15. What the actual fuck? These people had the cushiest jobs in the whole UK education system.

    They’ll probably find a sabbatical on the beach in Thailand a bit tricky. Two days in a grotty inner-cty comp and they’d be tearfully soiling themselves. No doubt the stress of running a corner shop for a single afternoon would drive them to suicide.

  16. “One is of a constant struggle, where competition is seen as the main driving force. The other is of a world based on cooperation, nurture and encouragement, where collaboration is considered the key to success. I know which I prefer.”

    Someone should tell them what the world is actually like outside their cocoon. Teachers like them are raising another generation of snowflakes.

    Most (all?) schools now have a bereavement policy, involving closing the school for a day after the death of a pupil. Naturally, all the children are offered counselling – which is either useless or makes a sad event traumatic.

  17. In reply to Bloke in ND & MC…I did the switch from dept. director, private industry to primary school teacher. I could not believe the difference in stress levels; it was like being on a permanent holiday & they simply would not/could not come to terms with the fact that their ‘sooooo stressful’ job was not comparable! I came to the conclusion that at least 5 years employment in the ‘real world’ should be compulsory before anyone is accepted to train as a teacher.

  18. NellC: for several years I’ve received direct mail saying “we need engineers like YOUUUU to enter teaching!”. I’ve dutifully applied to do teacher training and each time have been turned down.

  19. Anyone else here ever worked with their partner? I have, extensively. It’s much, much harder to leave the work at work that way, even taking into account the normal demands of a senior position, simply because there are two of you being reminded of things, and then there’s someone to discuss it with.

    If the Foggos were working in different schools, they’d bring the work home with them less. But, they wouldn’t get the perks of working together, either.

  20. Village school, 105 pupils – in my day there would have been two classes. He could teach one, she the other. I fail to see a need for other teachers, though obviously they’d want a secretary and a janitor.

  21. AndrewM:
    First time: “we’ve already got enough students”
    (but if you’re so desperately short of teachers why the **** are you imposing a quota on applicants?)

    Second time: “you don’t have enough experience”
    (well, yes, that’s WHY I’m applying for the training, duh!)

    Third time: “your degree was more than 30 years ago”
    (surely EVERYBODY’S degree will be “out of date” when you specifically target people in other professions trying to tempt them over into teaching)

  22. The excuses given in the letter didn’t really cut it with the parents who are politically as blue as you will find anywhere, but the Foggos are the sort of people who wouldn’t​ just leave without giving a reason.

    Wouldn’t it have better for all concerned if they’d chosen to leave without giving a reason, rather than subject unsuspecting parents and students to their smothering self-regard?

    Shut up, Foggies…. For the sake of the children.

  23. Hopefully one day teachers will wake up and realise their jobs are not all that different from everyone else’s after all.

    Here in Ohio the state legislature had the temerity to suggest that teachers should be required to pair with businesses for a number of hours each year as part of their continuing education requirement. The outrage was immediate and eventually the suggestion was dropped.

    One of my neighbors teaches, and after he finished bitching about it to me I asked how many times he and his colleagues had asked businessmen to come watch them teach, so they could fully appreciate the difficulties they faced professionally. (Lord knows I’ve been invited more than a few times over the past 20+ years.)

    He got the strangest look on his face… As if he’d just discovered that not all roads are one way. But I have full faith that he’ll find a way to pick himself up and wander forward unscathed, now that he’s tripped over reality.

  24. Why a self respecting journalist wouldn’t ask them what they intended to do next, is beyond me? It’s pretty germane to any symbolic point we’re to take from this grand gesture.

  25. Most (all?) schools now have a bereavement policy, involving closing the school for a day after the death of a pupil.

    A kid got killed in my school, a tree fell right on top of him. I saw his body, and there were quite a few others injured. What pissed me off the most is I got ordered to chapel to help me reflect on what had happened. Idiots.

  26. “Wouldn’t it have better for all concerned if they’d chosen to leave without giving a reason, rather than subject unsuspecting parents and students to their smothering self-regard?”

    I think that question answers itself. I suspect it also makes it harder for the governors to find a replacement than if they has said “Right, that was a doddle, now we’re off to sit on a beach for the next 10 years”

  27. “Most (all?) schools now have a bereavement policy, involving closing the school for a day after the death of a pupil.”

    When I was at school one of our number died in a swimming accident. When we heard the news we all agreed that it was a pity. Then the bell rang and off we trooped to lessons.

    Healthier attitude, that.

  28. “For us the final straw was the proposed creation of a new generation of grammar schools, and with them the reintroduction of selection in education.”

    It’s political theatre. Me! Me! We are good thinkers and we are deeply, sorrowfully concerned about stuff as we retire early on a fucking massive pension.

  29. jgh,

    If your degree was more than 30 years ago, then it was a proper degree, and not some meaningless sheet of already-used Izal. One the other hand, it means you are well over 50, and they won’t get their investment back. They can’t say so, because that would be ageist.

    Rob: Massive pensions

    The average Teacher’s Pension payout is about £10k per year. Not that massive, huh? Sure, it is a final salary scheme, but to get the max you have to work 40 years. Also, you pay 6.4% of salary and employer pays 14.1%, which is 14.1% you don’t get as salary, meaning in effect you paid both. The old scheme racked up 1/80 of final salary per year of service, the new one 1/60 but no lump sum, so in effect, slightly worse. If these two have 20 years service each they’ll be on the old scheme, and will get 20/80 of salary each, but not until they are 60, which is 20 years or so off. If they have 30 years service, they’ll get 30/80 but it is still 10 years or so away. At £50k salaries it will be about one average industrial wage for the 2 of them together.
    Whatever they are leaving for, it isn’t a fat pension.

  30. “The average Teacher’s Pension payout is about £10k per year”
    That is meaningless, it should be the average for a teacher who has worked 30 years.
    However this
    “At £50k salaries it will be about one average industrial wage for the 2 of them together.”
    Is far more useful.

  31. “What’s all this about water bottles?”

    You’re a lucky guy not to know about this. Every friggin’ school day we have to send each one of our kids to school with a water bottle full of water, because drinking from a water fountain is… I don’t know, too unhealthy? Too dangerous? And the schools aren’t going to let them drink from the taps, even though they can fill up their water bottles from the taps. It’s a PITA. Every so often a bottle leaks, and the bag gets sodden. It also makes the bags heavier to carry for the little kids.

  32. Anon,

    Sorry mate, it isn’t meaningless. It is just to say that Teachers’ Pensions aren’t ‘fat’. That’s all it is intended to. This £10k ccvers everyone from people who barely make it into eligibility right up to former Polytechnic Vice Chancellors who typically pay themselves £300k per annum, and who can in principle retire on full pension if they served enough years.

    A Head and his deputy getting the average industrial wage as a pension in combination, doesn’t seem fat to me, not when they effectively paid in 20% of their salaries into the scheme for 30 years and won’t see a penny for another 10. You can live on it – many do, and do so on less, but ‘fat’ it isn’t. You may find the figures for any salary – the details of the scheme are public.

    In the Police scheme, you get 1/60 for each year up to 20 years, and then 2/60 for subsequent years, so that give you 40/60 after 30 years, which is rather fatter than the Teachers’ scheme. Perhaps it ought to be, that isn’t the question, the point is whether it’s a fat pension or not.

    What makes a pension ‘fat’ depends on final salary AND number of years of service. So someone coming in from outside to be VC of a former Poly on (say) £300k for 5 years gets 5/60 (they’d be on the later scheme) or £25k – which compared to many years of service on a normal scale is ‘fat’, but trust me, although it seems that there are plenty of fat cats, the numbers pale into insignificance compared to those in the scheme for a long career because, as I said, the average payout is £10k, or 1.6 x the State Pension. To get £10k as a bog-standard teacher you have to pay in for 25 years. Hardly a quick return, either.

  33. @ Excavator Man
    Final Salary Pension schemes are *very fat* for Head Teachers and their Deputies who get pensions based on their Head/Deputy Head salaries based on their contributions as junior classroom teachers.

    One of my friends has fairly recently taken early retirement from being a Head Teacher (possibly because his wife was working long-time in a Hospice which is more than enough stress for both of them, from which she more recently retired) and they seem to have no money worries.

    The £10k includes all the women who worked as teachers for two or three years between leaving college and getting married and those who took up teaching for a few years (having never done it before) after their children grew up and left home until their husbands retired (I have friends in both categories). What is more important is that it EXCLUDES the pensions that they receive from other employments: for example I have entitlement to a state pension and occupational/personal pensions but until last year I drew only on the occupational pension from less than half my career, which is enough to live on [I now draw state pension because DWP gave me inaccurate information implying that it was the rational choice] and my personal pensions can be passed on IHT-free to my son.

  34. ” they effectively paid in 20% of their salaries into the scheme for 30 years and won’t see a penny for another 10″

    LOL

    I like the qualifier ‘effectively’.

    Teachers pay about 6% of their salary in *recent* years.

    The employer ‘pays’ 14%. Let me give you a hint – there is no real money. They just promise you a future government will pay the liability. They wouldn’t be paying you this money in cash because they can’t – a 16% rise for all teachers would break the education budget. By just promising you the money, they don’t actually have to record it in national expenditure (the wonder of government accounting…). The only people paying anything are future taxpayers.

    If you are paying 6% towards your pension, then that is crudely equivalent to saying you fund 6 years of retirement with a 22-60 year working life. With investment returns, make that 12 perhaps.

    Strangely, that leaves another 13 years of funded retirement entirely unaccounted for.

    Or let’s look at it another way.

    I don’t know if the 10k p.a. figure is really the right one.

    Anyway, I note that a single life annuity with RPI escalation (roughly what you get with a pre-07 teacher pension I think) is currently about 2.3%.

    To buy that 10k annuity, you would need a pension pot of £434k. I’m not kidding.

    Add another 10-20% if you get joint life benefits, I’m not sure if you do.

    Oh, plus the 3x annual salary lump sum. What is that… 60k?

    So, a pre-07 scheme retired teacher is basically handed a retirement bonus of half a million pounds.

    Half. A. Million.

    (Yes, new entrants are different, though it’s still a tidy pension scheme, and most retirees now will be on roughly 2/3rds of benefits accrued under the old scheme, not 100%).

    For each and every teacher. Really quite remarkable.

    Now I don’t say all this to bash teachers – I doubt they realised their pensions would be so valuable when they started their careers. The civil servants who set up the scheme certainly didn’t, and I reserve my anger for the governments of all stripes that pursued unfunded schemes for decades.

    But I do wish they would understand how beneficial their deal is.

    PS… just think about the top civil servants, military, emergency services etc…. they are getting pension payouts worth millions of pounds. Real CEO level packages.

    It’s the unspoken scandal of our times, and one of the big reasons our government services are being squeezed – ever-increasing proportions of our budget go into funding retirements.

    It’s true on a national level with state pensions too; there haven’t been any ‘Tory spending cuts’. All the department budget cuts you hear about have just gone into ever-increasing state pensions.

  35. A single data point.

    My wife stopped teaching about 20 years ago. During her time she racked up 15 years reckonsble service in various jobs. Last year she started to receive a pension of £4.8k.

  36. sheet of already-used Izal.

    When my dad died in 2015, we speculated that management at Izal called the workforce in to announce that their last customer had died and they’d be forced to close down.

    My mum and dad’s bathroom had two loo paper holders, the rectangular one for an Izal box for my dad and one for a roll of multi-ply, luxuriously soft toilet paper for everyone else.

    PS: Should anyone be in the market for a part box of unused Izal, let me know.

  37. Teaching is not an occupation that you can leave at the door when you go home at the end of the day.

    Yes it is. I do it almost every day.

    I work from home most nights, and often weekends, but it’s on non-emotional stuff — preparing lessons, marking etc. There’s no stress in that, and because the school day is relatively short I need the extra hours to get my load done.

    What I don’t take home is any concern for the students. Teachers who do that will kill themselves with stress. I worry about them at work, then turn it off as soon as I leave the door.

    In general teaching is stressful if 1) you’re not very good at it, or 2) you choose to let it be.

  38. The fact that the group they were least concerned about was the students may indicate why they find teaching so hard

  39. Regarding the worlds best teacher dig
    Jim Henson said
    [Kids] don’t remember what you try to teach them. They remember what you are.

  40. @oblong, I’m afraid that the 14.1% is actually paid to the Teachers’ Pension, and money that your employer (Council) pays on your behalf is money you ain’t gonna see on your salary. The ‘effectively’ is because I wasn’t going to work out what the percentage overall is. But here you go: For each £1k pay, you pay in £64 and also get £141 paid on your behalf. That looks like 20.5%, but it’s actually £205 out of £1141, which is just under 18%.

    Sure, at the beginning of your career, you don’t get paid much, so you don’t rack it up as a lump sum, and it is a final salary scheme. But, despite there being lucky blighters who rocket into a top job at the end of their career, you normally have to be a Mason to get that.

    I never said it wasn’t better than a lot of people get (but it is worse than some others). For anyone stuck at the top of a grade, it isn’t so good. The one case I know in detail the individual served 22 years out of 40 on the same grade. Not everyone gets the top job.

    Trust me, you don’t get RPI – it’s CPI. The £10k average comes from the Teachers Pension website. As for what the pot is worth and whether it would buy an annuity, it just goes to show how one gets screwed.

    @BiND – so by the time they worked her salary forwards, it looks to have been worth £25.6k in today’s money. She should have got a £14.4k lump sum, she was on the old scheme.

    The point is that for the majority this is not a fat pension. It’s a reasonable one – you can live on it. It might also seem undeserved, or not paid for, or better than you get proportionately in industry, but it’s a job without company cars, private medical, sales incentives and bonuses, and with not many exceptions, you take your holidays when they are expensive.

  41. @ excavator man – taking your 18% at face value still looks fantastic compared to most private sector schemes which are now mostly defined contribution at around half this level.

  42. To buy that 10k annuity, you would need a pension pot of £434k. I’m not kidding.

    Yes, this. It’s what nobody working in the public sector fully understands.

  43. @excavator

    “It’s a reasonable one – you can live on it”

    No, it’s not reasonable.

    It’s not the amount, the £10k, that’s unreasonable. I agree it’s an ok but not great amount to live on when combined with the state pension.

    The unreasonable part is the length of retirement, 23-25 years from 60, after only 38 years of work.

    Plus the indexing, plus the plan benefits, plus the low employee contributions.

    Concentrating on the flat amount is only about half the story. What pre-07 teachers get would be fair if they retired in their mid 70s perhaps.

    “I’m afraid that the 14.1% is actually paid to the Teachers’ Pension”

    No, it’s really not. The entirety of the funding in the teacher’s pension plan is a government IOU saying ‘I owe you £200bn’. Its an unfunded plan – the money is an accounting fiction, a number that simply indicates what the cost ‘should’ be, if anyone actually paid it.

    And just so you know, it’s an understatement – the government estimates deliberately assume unrealistically high investment returns. The true worth of a pre-07 retiring teacher’s plan was probably equivalent to 30-35% of salary.

    The newer schemes are more reasonable, but still very generous.

    If they use the new schemes, and really funded the missing 14% (or really 18% maybe if the government used realistic actuarial assumptions) then there would be little to complain about.

    Not all public sector pension schemes are this dreadful – councils in particular actually tend to have funded plans – but many are.

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