I am not an organised parent. Turns out, without me noticing, my kids school breaks up this week. Needless to say I have failed to organise the necessary childcare for the holidays and have been frantically calling in family favours.
The done thing at primary school is to buy a gift for your child's teacher. A simple thank you in the form of bottle of wine or a bunch of flowers. I have been doing this for years. But this year it didn't seem enough. This year I felt that for the teacher of my six-year-old son I needed to really show how much I appreciated her. So the other parents and I have had a good old fashioned whip round and are pooling our resources to get her something special. Everyone is contributing with enthusiasm, chipping in to show her exactly how much she means to us.
I thought I might send the round robin text to George Osborne and Nicky Morgan. "Hey guys wanna chip in to show Miss Weekes that she was great." I fear the answer would be a definite no. Or perhaps something more formal like. "We really appreciate the work Miss Weekes has done for Britain's Children, we will be rewarding her with a 1% pay rise." Because Miss Weekes is a bloody brilliant teacher, even my six-year-old could calculate that his teacher has had a real terms pay cut for the past five years. I mean he might not put it in those words. He would probably say her pay deal was stinky pooh, and then laugh as if he had told the funniest joke ever.
What upsets me so much about the 1% is the fact that she gives so much more than her job description. My son Danny and all the children have progressed as they might be expected to, that's her job. But you know what is not her job? Offering support to us parents when things are tough at home. Just off the top of my head, my kids' teachers have helped kids and parents dealing with domestic violence, parents moving away, estranged family members coming back and many other issues. I have watched Miss Weekes cuddling moms in the playground and having some tough conversations too. My kids and I have not had it that easy either. Running a campaign then upping sticks to London is no small thing, and her support made it better. She helped Danny understand. She has set up Twitter accounts so that we parents can keep in touch and actually find out what happens at school. As any parent knows, ask a six-year-old what they did at school, the answer is always, "Errr... I had pizza for lunch...". The Twitter feed might seem small, but now I know what is going on, and my son and I can properly chat about it. For a mom who lives away, this is a real lifeline. She didn't have to do that.
All the teachers my kids have had have given more than 1% extra. My eldest son's teacher has calmly held my son's hand at lunchtime as he struggled to find his place in the jungle of relationships. She has shown him love when he was scared and helped our family get to grips with some of his difficulties. My kids' teachers have fought for them as I would have. Loco parentis innit.
As we parents gladly put our hands in our pockets and pool our money to say thanks to the amazing Ms Weekes and Miss El Manshewy, I hope it boosts their self esteem as they boosted ours and our kids. I hope they know, that to us, they are worth more than 1%. And when all is said and done and austerity looms less large and we can afford it again I hope Ms Weekes and all her colleagues are afforded the same pay "adjustment" to account for years of pay restraint that George Osborne and Nicky Morgan, and yes me too, were awarded this week.
To my kids' teachers, to put it simply, you were perfect.