The Head Teacher

in News

I am sufficiently curmudgeonly for the term “Head Teacher” to grate. What was wrong with Headmaster and Headmistress? Androgynous political correctness has, I regret, passed me by. But I do like the word teacher, and also admire HMs who still find time to teach. And the best lessons frequently have little to do with the official curriculum. Leading a school through a crisis such as the sudden death of a much loved pupil or member of staff is not just operational and emotional, it is also a great teaching opportunity for the HM in the context of the school’s moral education and its sense of community. Teaching is about inspiring and exhorting. How sad, therefore, that the Director of Studies at Queens’ Cambridge has recently been reprimanded for “warning students that their studies required their full attention” as this could cause stress and be “extremely damaging”. This came shortly after the Christian Union was banned from Balliol Oxford’s fresher week as it risked indoctrinating students and endangering their entitlement to a “safe space”. Another retrograde aspect of the times is the recent decision by one of the teaching unions that all involvement in sport, by non PE staff, and involvement in clubs and activities should only be undertaken in return for specific remuneration. What has happened to our professionalism and collegiality? The teacher’s role is, of course, is to inform and enlighten. But it is also to challenge and stretch sometimes taking pupils beyond what even they considered possible. The comfort zone has no place in good schools. As teachers we are deluding our pupils if we pull punches and fail to set the highest standards and objectives. Whether it is the HM or the most recent NQT the job of teaching is the same. It is to be co-equal members of a noble profession dedicated to the education of our pupils, not to sell them short within a cocoon of political correctness.

Anthony Millard

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