The A word (ambition)

I always find it strange how the word ‘ambition’ has different meanings in education depending on the gender of the person who displays it.

With males, to be ambitious is seen as a positive trait. I know lots of male teacher friends who will brazenly tell me ‘well, I’m not going to be a classroom teacher forever. I’m going to be a Head within 5 years’. They usually achieve this in 4.

Male teachers can be extremely confident, loud, sometimes arrogant and it will be brushed off as ‘banter’ as ‘just the way he is’ – said while playfully rolling your eyes. A man without ambition is seen as weak, a bit wet. I worked with one male teacher who was ‘happy just where I am.’ He was the loveliest, kindest caring teacher I had ever met, but he wasn’t popular. Eventually he was ‘pushed out’ amid whispers in the staff room that he wasn’t very good, too soft, too quiet, he didn’t fit in with the ethos of the school etc. When in reality he was none of those things, he was just a genuinely nice guy who didn’t fit in with the other almost aggressively ambitions males in the school. The other males in the school were seen as attractive, people wanted to be around them like moths to a flame. No one wanted to be around Mr non ambitious. As I’ve said in previous posts, the very ambitious Head I worked for as an NQT was treated like a Rock Star on our Christmas do- the young female staff flocking around him, trying their best to gain his attention by dancing just a little too enthusiastically on the dance floor. He was loved, but I doubt he would have been as popular as he was if he was a non ambitious, quiet, Head. Love them or hate them, there’s just something about ambitious male teachers.

But now let’s turn to females who are ambitious. ‘I’m only going for assistant Head jobs from next year’ one female teacher stated loudly in the staff room when I was an NQT. This teacher was young, ambitious and female. She was disliked by pretty much everyone in the school. Unlike the male teachers, her ambition was seen as the unattractive type of arrogance. Who did she think she was? She’s a bitch. She’s full of herself. She’s too confident. All these things were said about her. And she’s not the first female teacher I’ve heard people speak negatively about just because they want to better themselves and be the best. And why not? It’s 2017 women teachers can be Heads, assistant Heads, Head of departments and be just as, or even more successful as men. Ambitious women shouldn’t be frowned upon. Is it because we still expect female teachers to be the nice, quiet, caring class teacher for their entire 35 year career without joining the SLT? How dare a female teacher talk openly about wanting a promotion?

My current boss is Head of the 3 PRUs in the borough. She power dresses, speaks assertively, is bloody brilliant at her job and is always talking about ambitious plans for the school’s future. And she is hated by the majority of the staff.

I am in the minority. I like her. I respect her for owning her ambition and giving us women starting out in this career path a role model and inspirational figure. The A word shouldn’t be a dirty word when coming out of a female’s mouth.



How much does a teacher really earn?

WagesThis post follows on from my most popular blog post to date ‘How much does an NQT earn?’ Written just over two years ago, it has had over 18,000 views and it it always looked at daily, even now.

So I’ve decided to do the same post but with an actual wage slip of when I was in the swing of teaching. As with the last post, you have to bare a few things in mind: This wage slip is from two years ago. It was when I was teaching in a mainstream school. I have quite a large student loan and although the dedication looks small on this wage slip, I get over double deducted now and I am outside of London. Also don’t forget that us teachers have had our oh so generous 1% pay increase each year for the past two years.

So here is a complete breakdown from my actual wage slip and gives you an insight into what a teacher earns. I am currently suffering from baby brain so I can’t quite remember what M scale this was from, but I think I had been teaching around 4 years.

Total Pay & Allowances:    £2,161.00


Employee NIC:     £155.23

Tax Paid:     £302.00

Pension:      £159.91

Student Loan:     £64.00

Total Deductions:    £681.14

TAKE HOME PAY: £1,479.86

As you can see, a lot of your wage you never actually get to ‘feel’. A lot is deducted before it even hits your bank account. However, I may be in the minority but I am actually pleased with my wage. Yes, I definitely think teachers deserve more and when you break down the hourly rate, most teachers are on less than minimum wage. But, now two years on, I am earning more than the figure above (surprisingly, not that much as I get taxed a lot more now and have larger student loan deductions and pension contributions) and I am earning a good wage. A wage that allows me to pay my mortgage, go on holiday, indulge my shoe and clothing shopping habit and generally enjoy myself.

You have to remember that you will start off on quite a basic wage but it soon creeps up and along the way you may be lucky enough to add on a TLR payment, SEN points of get appointed as a member of SLT. Sometimes you need to weigh up the stress/ workload balance though. I was offered a behaviour TLR at the PRU where I work. As is obvious, behaviour isn’t normally a strong point for referral units and the TLR was worth £1,300. The extra workload and pressure just wasn’t worth it for me at this time in my life so I declined. But it just shows that there are ways of boosting your income in education.

Being pregnant while working in a PRU.

Pregnant worker

Well, it feels like a lifetime since I last wrote a post. So much drama has been going on in my teaching career (more on that in future posts), but for now I’ll start with my biggest news. I am pregnant with baby no 2 and I have just survived the majority of my pregnancy in a pupil referral unit- and it hasn’t been easy.

First thing’s first, I would not recommend getting pregnant while working at a PRU. I know these things can’t exactly be planned as easy as that, but what I’m basically saying is, if you are working in a mainstream school but fancy changing to a PRU and you know that you would like children in the near future, my biggest advice would be to stay put in mainstream until you have had your children.

I found out I was pregnant in mid January this year and my female boss was very supportive and genuinely pleased for me, but she admitted that she did not know what to do next with me. In the 5 years that she has been in charge of the PRU, no one has ever been pregnant. In fact, not one worker- a lot having worked at the PRU for 12 years- could think of anyone who had been pregnant while at the PRU. It soon transpired that apart from one TA, in the whole 15 years of the PRU’s service I was only the second person to get pregnant and the first ever teacher. No one knew what to do. But everyone had an opinion.

It was a very stressful time, especially as I had to inform my colleagues when I was only 5weeks pregnant due to health and safety reasons. At 5weeks, I hadn’t even told my friends and only my immediate family knew, yet here I was telling an entire work force about my personal life. I was constantly worried with every early twinge that I would be forced to tell everyone that I had experienced some bad news and I would have to face everyone’s pity looks. Thankfully, that didn’t happen and I was soon at the ‘safe’ 12 weeks stage.

The next problem was that ALL my colleagues took ownership of my pregnancy. While they thought they were being kind and looking after me, it just made me very uncomfortable. Some wanted to tell the children straight away (‘Oh, they’ll be respectful of you’). I personally didn’t feel that this would be the case- I felt telling the children would make me more vulnerable. Other colleagues would lock me in my classroom (without telling me) if children were ‘kicking off’ in the corridors. They thought that they were protecting me, but there’s nothing like going to leave a room and finding that you are locked in and there’s no one around to let you out to put the fear of God into you! Some colleagues were great, letting me take regular breaks, relieving my playground duties etc. While others would make sarcastic comments ‘look at you sitting down. It’s not a disease, you know.’ Or one particular phrase that a certain staff member said almost daily ‘oh, playing the pregnancy card again, are we?’ Another time, my TA cancelled the educational trip that I had booked, going behind my back to the Head and saying that it was ‘for the best’ as it was too much for me. She ended up taking the class on the trip that she had suggested initially but that I had refused. Angry wasn’t the word.

Speaking of anger- I have never experienced such intense emotions this past year. Working in a PRU while being hormonal is not a good idea. I have let other staff members know when I have been angry with them, I have cried numerous times in the staff room, stormed out of staff meetings and even walked out of work at midday after one stressful lesson. ‘I’m going home,’ I simply stated to my Head. All of these things I am mortified about now, but my hormones have been all over the place.

I worked up until 38weeks in my last pregnancy and even though I am not due until towards the end of September and technically could return to work for two weeks after the summer, I am so over work. I have took my maternity early as I just couldn’t face going back. Even for 10 days.

Below are my quick tips for working in a PRU while pregnant:

  • Tell your boss and colleagues as soon as possible so that you can protect yourself.
  • Get a risk assessment done for yourself as soon as possible. Make sure you are firm about what you would like on there.
  • Don’t be afraid to refuse, yes refuse, to do certain things. I refused to teach PE. The children in my class are very energetic in PE and will deliberately ‘boot’ the ball hard towards members of staff.
  • DO NOT restrain children while pregnant. I refused to even go near any children as even a touch on the shoulder can cause a violent reaction.
  • Keep the exit route from your desk clear at all times to allow for a quick exit.
  • Make sure you take regular breaks. PRUs are worse than mainstream for not allowing teachers time for breaks.
  • Be vigilant at all times- know your children- who is struggling to keep hold of their emotions? Who looks agitated? Who may be about to ‘blow’?
  • And lastly rest. Make sure you switch off when you get home and get lots of sleep.

The Demon Head Teacher


I have been lucky to always work under ‘good’ bosses. I didn’t love them, I wasn’t best friends with them, I saw their faults and I could see their weaknesses and bad decision making at times. However, I always liked something about them. They had a certain likeability factor for me. I know countless people who worked with them who would disagree, but the main thing above all, is that I respected them.

My first boss was very unapproachable, so to speak. His office was at the far end of the school and you were always scared about knocking on in fear of disturbing him. He was very professional. He didn’t make jokes in staff meetings, there was no banter and he dressed in a full suit, waistcoat and tie every day. He came on Christmas staff parties but it always felt like your dad or granddad was there and I never felt I could drink on these work dos. He was also expressionless when you were asking him something; careful not to give anything away on his face. You could never tell what he was thinking, but you knew that his mind was working overtime processing what you had just told him.

However, saying all of this he was so knowledgeable. His behaviour management was excellent, he was fair, was a strong manager and very supportive. He is still the Head teacher that I contact for advice when I am thinking about moving schools or need a reference. He knows his stuff and puts the school first above his own ego. He was in no cliques at school and so would not let weaker teachers get away with things that I have seen other Heads do because they are friends outside of work.

My second Head teacher was very different. He was younger and more ‘modern.’ He had an open door policy; teachers were always hanging out in his office. He was very charismatic, treated like a Rock Star around school. At the Christmas party he would buy rounds of shots and dance around with the best of us. He definitely had his favourites though and again, his was expressionless and didn’t give much away. But he was supportive and reassured me in tough times. He knew his stuff and could give great advice.  He was also good in hard times for the school. He pushed through and believes in his school strongly. He loves the community and the families from the school.

The Headmistress I was under was quite ‘scary’, not approachable and I always felt like I was being spoken down to, like I was never good enough. I realised that this was just her way of speaking to people and once I realised that it wasn’t personal, I started to understand her. She was very critical during lesson observations but she did know what she was talking about and I could always see her point when she gave me feedback. This headmistress was a different person out of school. She was very professional in school but much more relaxed out of the school environment and once I became pregnant she became so warm towards me- that common ground helped our relationship.

My last Head (before my current one) was a lady at the pupil referral unit. She was Irish and 65years old, so had seen a lot. She had a lovely nature and was the most supportive Head I have ever come across. She refused to criticise and her lesson observations were all about uplifting teachers and giving them confidence in their jobs. She started each day with a group meeting and ended each day with a group meeting, acting as a sort of counsellor to the staff. She held everyone together and definitely had a ‘we’ not ‘me’ mentality. Yes, she had her bad points. She liked to say ‘yes’ a lot, then would realise, actually we can’t say yes to that. She had her favourites and she over spoilt the children, bribing them with sweets and chocolates. But she was well respected. By staff, families and the children and she still kept that professionalism. Power dressing every morning even though she would be restraining a child by lunch time. She knew her stuff inside out

Then comes my current Head. I could leave it there, but I’ll give you a brief description. She is very insecure. This insecurity is affecting everything. She will bad mouth the TAs to the teachers to get the teachers onside, then she will bad mouth the teachers to the TAs to get the TAs on board. She wants to be ‘down with the kids’ so is using slang when she speaks to them, the boundaries have been eroded, which means that the children do not have that respect for her. She wants to be popular so will swear in staff meetings, talk about drinking at the weekend, try and have ‘banter’ with the staff and be too friendly. It makes me uncomfortable. She wears t shirts and plain jogging pants to work- she would be the last person anyone would say was the Head teacher. There is zero professionalism. She will slag off other members of staff in the staff room, make sly digs about people to others, make bitchy comments and then wonder way people are no longer openly talking to her. I wouldn’t mind all of this if there were any redeeming qualities but the worse thing about everything is that she is shocking at her job. She forgets to do things. Important things. Paper work won’t get done, questions get ignored. There’s no communication anymore and we feel like we no longer have a leader. I am struggling to have any trust in her and I am worried about the future for everyone’s staff morale.

Teacher Negativity


I like the teachers at my PRU. I get on better with them than I have done at any other school I have worked in. I am the youngest teacher by far- in fact all of the teachers, except one, are old enough to be my parents. Yet I am closer to them than the teachers who were my own age at my last school.

There are only six teachers, which is great as it means we are extremely close. I trust them implicitly and we have daily meetings where we discuss what is going on in the school and how best to improve things. We also counsel each other, which is much needed in this job. I can air any concerns or off load any issues with them and know that they have my back. They are great. Apart from one thing. They are extremely negative.

I have only ever worked in mainstream schools before, challenging mainstream schools. I know what kind of pressures teachers are under. I had a class of 30, 27 of whom were EAL. I was under so much subconscious stress that I had an eczema flare up so bad that I couldn’t show my arms or legs for six months. I couldn’t sleep at night because the open sores from scratching used to weep onto my pyjama pants and stick to my legs. I will spare you the rest of the gory details. I found it difficult to sleep at night as I was constantly thinking about my never ending to do list, I had up to 90 books to mark on a daily basis, I had medium term planning to complete half termly. This planning would be heavily scrutinised and I would have to re do it or ‘improve’ on it. I had lesson observations on a monthly basis, these were classed as ‘teacher drop ins’ from SLT but the feedback was always crushing and soul destroying. I was constantly told my class were not making progress and what was I going to do about it. No matter how hard I worked I felt that I was always drowning. I never felt good enough. Ever.

I am fresh out of mainstream so I know how truly blessed I am to be working in an educational setting that finishes at 3pm, that only has 6 pupils in a class, no pressure on testing and false data. The problem is that all of the teachers have been teaching in the PRU for so long that they are taking things for granted. And they are very, very negative about their job, which is sometimes hard to cope with. They are outraged when they have to stay until 3.30pm for a meeting- I used to regularly stay at my last school until 5.30pm, sometimes even 6pm. They flat out refuse to do work at home, stating that their hours do not cover extra work. Refusing to work at home?! There isn’t any option in mainstream. You have to work at home, or nothing would get done. They are constantly saying that deadlines are not long enough when we are given two weeks to write 6-10 children’s reports. In mainstream you don’t have a choice. You are given a deadline and you stay up until 11pm every night until it’s done if needs be. Deadlines have to be met. Not these teachers.

I have to constantly pull myself back when I feel that I am getting into their mindset. I remind myself that for the first time in 4years I don’t think twice about wearing a skirt or showing my arms. I can fall asleep easily at night, I am getting paid more than I was in mainstream, there are great career prospects and my job satisfaction is at an all time high. I know that the problem is that these teachers are not moving with the times, they roll their eyes at the new online data system, complaining that it takes them ages to log data- I find it great that I can log things online in a matter of minutes, they don’t understand the fast pace in which education now runs and they really don’t know how fortunate they are.

For now, I will continue to support my colleagues but I will no longer allow them to drag me down and make me feel depressed, which I sometimes felt after having meetings with them. I know how lucky I am and I am positive about my job so that’s all that matters.

Update on PRU Life.

A quick update on how life is going at The Pupil Referral Unit. I can’t believe how must time has passed since I left mainstream. Good news- I still love it. Bad news- we have a new Head (more blog posts to follow). The work life balance is still fantastic, I cannot believe I am waking up at the time that I used to leave the house. I am getting more job satisfaction than I ever thought possible and I feel like I am making a difference to the children’s lives.

I no longer get that ‘Sunday night’ feeling and I genuinely wake up looking forward to the day ahead each morning. I feel like I’m challenging myself too and I want to better myself- I’m even thinking about doing a MA in Special Educational needs.

Pupil Referral Units are not for everyone. The daily insults, unpredictability and constant meetings and paperwork can be overwhelming and it’s difficult not to take things personally. But, there is still nothing like leaving the school gates at 3pm knowing that you have no marking to take home.

Enjoying your last summer holiday before being a NQT

Now for many of you starting your new job in September you probably feel like the hard part is over. You have completed your PGCE year. You passed those dreaded skills test, you even got a job quite early on and you got a few outstanding features in your lesson observations on placement.

Well the hard part is just beginning.

I hope your are very lucky and breeze through your NQT year. For me, I breezed through my PGCE year and didn’t find it stressful at all. However, my NQT year was absolutely horrendous. But that was only because I didn’t expect it to be. I thought it would just be like my PGCE year, but I was terribly wrong.

So my biggest tip for everyone embarking on their NQT year journey this September is to enjoy your last summer holiday. Absolutely live it up. Say yes to everything that you possibly can (finances allowing- for many of you you will not be getting paid until the end of September). But believe me when I say that this is the last year that you will be able to truly relax and switch off from work. You will not be thinking about targets, marking, other colleagues, that disruptive child who you have in your class. You will only be thinking of the excitement at starting your new job.

So make sure you:

  • Have lots of late nights.
  • Have a few days of staying in bed watching Netflix series.
  • Redecorate your house.
  • Do up your garden.
  • Have lunches with friends.
  • Go to the parks near your new school (you won’t be able to do this next year as the kids will recognise you).
  • Get drunk.
  • Eat lots.
  • Socialise.
  • And most of all- have fun!


Good luck for September. Remember you’re not alone and we’ve all been there and survived!