So, its been an exciting few months; from a pint at the Elmwood to an app and a thriving community in 2 months. I wasn’t expecting that to happen.
I think we have all heard the story of how we got started from Matt – if you haven’t you can find it here: I want to talk about what I have seen and experienced on our journey so far.
Even though I am a governor and have been a school photographer at John Hunt Photography for over a decade, I’m not a teacher so I wasn’t aware of the problems that teachers face every day. If I’m being completely honest, I thought - like many people outside of education - you had massive holidays and worked from 8.30 until 3.30 everyday - sounds like a cushy number to me; or it did until I actually saw what it was like. When we met I was sceptical of the need for the app. But Matt was so passionate about it and (don’t tell him this!) but after a single meeting I knew he was a genuine and sorted guy - me and Austin decided to take a punt on it. I expected a couple of hundred users within a month so I was shocked to see 10,000 users after a day of general release - Wow!
The data started pouring in and I could see a picture emerging of a large group of people in absolute despair. It wasn’t all users; but we had enough people crying every day to force me to rethink my opinions around teaching. When we started to look at the data in more depth I got more worried. I realised teachers don’t just know the stuff they are teaching; you need to learn it; and then you have to deliver that to a class. That’s hard - really hard. But - on top of that - you have 30 little people you have to nurture all day; some with very challenging individual needs. Add on top of that: meetings, reports, testing - the list goes on - and all this under the ever-watching gaze of Ofsted and senior management.
We decided we needed to go and see what the government was doing about it. We met with Heads; each with their own unique take on teacher work-life balance. We met with local authority leaders and academy principals. We discovered that government support comes in the form of reports and advice on how to deal with a 70-hour week. This was unacceptable to me. Personally, I don’t want my children being educated by someone who is exhausted after working a 70-hour week. Selfishly, my children should be educated by someone who is well rested, well-educated and happy. Some people are happy with a 70-hour week and that’s fine; but the majority are not and rightly so. I found myself talking to teachers who agreed with me and I see it all the time in the fit2teach Staffroom. But even though they agree with me, many seem to still accept really long hours as being in the job-description of a teacher - it shouldn’t be.
I run a company; so I understand the pressure that comes from running an institution. But I also understand that if I run my staff into the ground they will become unproductive. I have noted - over the last few months - the passion teachers have for the kids in their care; for their schools and the profession. If I could get staff with half the goodwill that you all you have; I certainly wouldn’t be risking losing it. I don’t want to knock all senior management teams. We met Karen in Wales – a fantastic Head – who cares deeply about the teachers at her school; and Josh from the South of England who is inspirational in his role around teacher-wellbeing. And there’s our own fit2teach Staffroom members who - as a whole – are amazing; offering support to teachers in need; while celebrating progress and success.
I have access to data so I can see the improvements that our teachers have been making; and I see the comments in our staffroom. These things make me immensely happy; but at the other end of the data there are teachers struggling and we need to all help them. You might be one of them. If you are, I want you to know we are here for you and we are here to help you. I believe that we can have teachers working a ‘normal’ week - 40 hours or so - more productively; having more fun and delivering a better education to our children. We need your help. We don’t know it all; but Matt has assembled a team that has the passion and goodwill that you have; and we’re ready for a few red weeks to help make the change. Because we want you to be fit2teach.