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Should I talk to my union rep?

Discussion in 'Workplace dilemmas' started by Kate80, Dec 8, 2015.

  1. Kate80

    Kate80 New commenter

    I'm p/t at 0.7fte. I guess I'm doing 40-50h just trying to keep on top of stuff.

    I know things are tough out there for everyone so I don't want to whine on when we're all in the same situation.

    I've been considering approaching my union rep but I'm a bit too scared that I'm being an idiot. There are quite a few issues which are not being dealt with and it's making a bad situation worse. Firstly I'm our science dept there are no subject leaders. So, in chem, we have no head of chem, no lead teacher, no one on UPS and the whole team (excepting me) are new. We are all new to teaching A level. I feel as the most experienced chemist I'm the leader by default. The person in charge of chemistry is also the HoD and a physicist. So there are quite a few things eg sorting mocks, analysing data for resits which I've had to push. With the A-level reform we need to get our head around the practical assessment requirements. I did the online training today off my own back because I want to know how to do it. The training was very clear - the lead teacher for each subject must pass the training and, at the very least, share their training with their team. Well, we don't have a lead teacher so this hasn't happened. I'm genuinely concerned about our position wrt this.

    Like everywhere else I suppose we had to re-write our KS3 in the summer. The Sci leadership wanted to move to a test each topic where previously we blocked 3 topics together and did one test. I argued that this was increased workload for no real reason and increasing testing wasn't the way forward. Anyway no decision was made on what to do. Some new topics don't have tests because no one wrote them because there was no guidance. I gave one test to my group and it was completely unacceptable. I spoke to Sci leadership who then went in and put a different test in the topic so I was left to level this random test that no other group would be using. That's the tip of the iceberg with KS3.

    I expressed an interest in helping to mentor a PGCE student. My boss and I agreed that it was best that I didn't have a full pgce student to myself given my step up to A-level, my new chem team, the new KS3, the fact I'm only p/t and I'm wary over workload because I had a breakdown 4 years ago (hence the p/t). So, of course, I have ended up with a pgce student. I've never mentored before and was not allowed to attend the training as it was out of school. I ended up with a very challenging pgce student and it has been incredibly stressful.

    I have asked for A-level training for the last year and been refused but my f/t physics colleague was allowed to attend training. I feel like I am the presumed 'face' of A-level chemistry and am listed as the contact name. I have been timetabled to run A-level intervention (unpaid of course) in my lunchtime.

    I am a stubborn mule and really want to prove I can do everything expected of me and do it well. But I'm struggling. There is no one I can talk to about all this (workplace politics are always sensitive!) and because of that I was considering running all of this past my union rep. I don't want to waste his time. I can appreciate that he's flat out too. I absolutely cannot discuss this with my boss directly. Previous attempts have been unsuccessful.

    What do you think? Worth a chat or head down, power through? My husband is very worried I'll get ill again so I feel pressure and disappointment from him that I'm doing all these hours and pressure from work that I'm not doing everything I need to.
  2. applecrumblebumble

    applecrumblebumble Lead commenter

    Firstly I would not presume anything. You need to think of yourself, your health and your relationship with your husband. Too many schools will allow you to work until you drop and then let you go or invent some capability thing to get rid of you (consider the mule part of your thread). By all means have pride in what you are doing but you are 0.7 you are not HOD. I would speak to your rep. or go to your regional rep. and see what advice they can give. I would get out of the mentoring and refer them to their original decision, you have enough to do with the A level,
  3. TheoGriff

    TheoGriff Star commenter


    I agree with @applecrumblebumble .

    The mentoring is just one step too far. However if the other members of staff are too new in teaching to do it, one does wonder why the school agreed to appoint a NQT who needed this support.

    A quiet word with regional union rep might be helpful.

    Best wishes
  4. Kate80

    Kate80 New commenter

    Thanks for replies.
    I'm my own worst enemy. When I was recovering from the breakdown (it was only a small one) I was really good at saying no to stuff. Now, I see these things (the mentoring and the A-level responsibility) as a chance to shine again and show what I can do. 4 years ago I was f/t with a TLR so my career took a major slide and it's incredibly frustrating. I really dislike feeling weak compared to some of the super-folk I work with. There's also an element of stuff just needs doing. I can't get rid of the PGCE student now as we're committed although he's dangerously close to us refusing to work with him. Once he has gone at the end of Feb I will be saying no more to that mentoring malarkey!
    On the plus side, with the teaching recruitment problem (we really struggled to hire 2 new chem teachers) at least my job is pretty safe. In many ways I'm treated very well by my school and I appreciate that. That's what makes shouting up so difficult now. Well, I think I'd best at least pick up the guts to speak to union guy.
    That post about too much workload was good too. Will keep that stored away in case it's needed!
    midnight_angel likes this.
  5. TheoGriff

    TheoGriff Star commenter


    Gird your loins, lass!


    Best wishes

  6. JohnJCazorla

    JohnJCazorla Star commenter

    As a union rep myself I hope I'm approachable and no-one feels they shouldn't bother me with anything. Easier to say than to do I know.
    Also it's very likely the rep doesn't know about your predicament and such information (plus reports from other faculties) helps to rouse the troops for some kind of collective action if the management won't accept any responsibility for this.
  7. phlogiston

    phlogiston Star commenter

    It doesn't sound like a good place.Science departments need quite a lot of management and sub-management in a variety of ways. I think my old place has now realised how much stuff I was just getting on with despite formal responsibilities changing.
    I am guessing your school management is trying to keep the number of TLRs down (so much for the "rapid promotion for good teachers" they like to talk about in the ads).
    I would like to say "pace yourself". The trouble is that schools aren't places where you can do that, and there are many reasons why it is not good to just let the kids fail.
    When you say you can't talk to your boss - do you mean your schools head or your HoD?
    I am not sure that the union person would be much help at persuading the school to change the way the science depatment is run.
    I would try to talk to the HoD about how some of these tasks are going to be implemented - perhaps have a list of tasks with those you are willing and able to do ticked off.
  8. Kate80

    Kate80 New commenter

    Well, I bottled it. Couldn't talk to the guy. Felt like I'd be letting the team down. Going to have to think about the way forward over Christmas.

    You're dead right about the TLR thing. The whole Sci dept is lead by 2 TLRs and I don't think that's enough in a school of 1100+ pupils inc A levels, particularly given the curriculum changes. But, like you say, what's anyone going to do about it?

    I'm definitely going to put a lot of thought into what I should be taking on and will revisit my previous strategy of saying no! It's just so frustrating. Good health is the most important thing though.
  9. TheoGriff

    TheoGriff Star commenter


    How right you are!

    Best wishes

  10. Kate80

    Kate80 New commenter


    So, Very suddenly things got worse. By Friday morning I was a wreck. The major warning signs of a mental health crisis were there. I was, and still am, very scared. I got through Friday and rang my Dr but was told there were no appointments and to ring back on Monday. I had a brilliant Dr before so I'm hoping to try and get to see him again.

    I now definitely need to deal with the workload issue. My plan is to speak to my boss (HoD) on Monday. To keep the conversation focused I think I will prepare a letter to give her too. I will use some of the terminology from the pinned post. Is it reasonable to outline the specific parts of my workload that are cumulatively causing the problem? I want to avoid a character assassination. I like my boss. I can see that she is under huge pressure and I have no desire to add to that but I know that I will.

    I would like to quote the following as issues:
    Lack of clear KS3 assessment and 3 fold increase in KS3 marking load.
    A chemistry team who are all new to A-level and have no training and no leadership.
    The new practical requirement (cpac) for A-level. We have not been trained or lead on. We are not keeping sufficient records and I suspect we are largely unaware.
    Having a challenging pgce student to mentor, with no training, despite agreeing last year that I would not have a student as the situation in chemistry would be challenging enough.
    Work scrutinies that feel punitive rather than rewarding.
    Directing lunch and after school time with timetabled revision sessions.
    All of the above contributing to an unmanageable workload.

    Does that seem reasonable?
  11. applecrumblebumble

    applecrumblebumble Lead commenter

    I'm really sorry you have got to this point and I know like myself you want to show what you can do as an experienced teacher. The letter will help to consolidate your thoughts and make it clear what your concerns are. It all depends on how effective your SLT are in terms of managing this. will they act on this and make real changes - I'm sorry I suspect not. It sounds like they are up against it and pushing the workload onto the HODs. I hope your doctor can give you the help and time to collect your thoughts and to see if the school can organise the workload differently.
  12. grumpydogwoman

    grumpydogwoman Star commenter

    Why are you questioning yourself? Of course what you say is reasonable!

    As union rep (I was one before retirement) I'd pick 2 points for a 'fight'.
    1 No student mentoring. How bloody unfair to the student as well as to you. You're not prepared for it. Stop.
    2 Lunchtime and after-school? Check your directed-time budget. Lunchtimes are a no-no. Full stop. End of. Did you sign up for after-school? Is that contractual?

    But NO student and NO lunchtimes.
  13. Kate80

    Kate80 New commenter

    Ta grumpydog.

    I'm not sure what to do about the student. By all accounts I've done a good job dealing with a very difficult young man. My boss did ask me if we needed to get rid of him. However if we do that it could potentially cause him to fail his pgce and I couldn't do that to someone. He finishes with us at the end of Feb and I have told the AHT in charge that I cannot take another student. So there is light at the end of thar tunnel. I do need more support with this guy and, in fairness, some set have offered some assistance. So if I can come up with a workable plan I could make that particular situation better. I just can't think straight so that's a difficulty. Worth saying that the SLT at my school are actually really nice. Nothing like some of the horrors I read on here.

    There is no contractual obligation to do these intervention sessions but they are timetabled. I do see my boss' point of view: having a timetable prevents us all duplicating effort and means kids can go to the session they need. But I told my HoD that timetabling staff free time was very dodgy ground and got the old care about the kids speech.

    When I was ill previously my school were very supportive. I don't want them to think I'm taking the proverbial. I just cannot cope with this workload but hate letting them down.

    I really like my school. There are still good ones out there! (altho we're RI according to Ofsted - pah!)
  14. grumpydogwoman

    grumpydogwoman Star commenter

    Health and Safety require that you take steps to look after your own health. You health is suffering. It would be irresponsible of you to continue with after-school and lunchtime sessions. You have a responsibility to yourself and to your family.

    I take your point about the student but the sessions beyond directed time? No. You don't have to justify yourself but I guess you will. Health grounds.

    It's great that you like the school, the kids, your colleagues.

    But your withdrawal from sessions, whatever effect it has on kids or colleagues, must be done. The other staff are adults and, if hard-pressed, must paddle their own canoe. You are NOT responsible for their welfare when your own is in jeopardy.

    Your husband is rightly worried. He knows you better than they do. Listen to him.
  15. Kate80

    Kate80 New commenter

    Thought I'd update with what has happened. It's positive ☺

    My Dr and I agreed that work was the trigger, not the cause, of my mental health problems. As part of a wider treatment plan the workload issue would have to be addressed.

    Spoke to my boss today and gave her the letter I had prepared. She was brilliant and asked, genuinely, what school can do to support to me. She knows that in a few months I may need time off as part of my treatment plan and I think she's happier that I am being upfront and honest.

    I want to thank everyone who has commented. I really needed a bit of support to get me going and you helped provide it. I'd also like to add a bit of hope to all who are suffering under bullying SLT and managers. There are still good schools to work in out there!

    Maybe I'll be back in a few months and will be eating my words having been managed out but I hope not.

    Anyway, big thanks for the support. It's really cool how you guys helped out.

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