Teacher Talk

Rushma Patel, 26, is the acting head of the technology faculty at Ashmole School in Barnet, and a member of the NUT. Barnet has been hit badly by the school-budget crisis, and Ashmole is one of eight secondary schools in the borough that are refusing to make teachers redundant
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How is the funding crisis affecting you?

My colleagues at Ashmole and I are very committed but with this crisis and all the government targets we have to meet everyone feels under acute pressure. For example the faculty heads have had their budgets cut dramatically. But they are still managing to deliver the curriculum effectively. In my subjects we've had to review our lesson plans to make sure that we are able to finance ourselves over the year, so that the effect on students is minimised. My faculty covers graphics, electronics, product design, textiles and food, which use a lot of consumables. In product design, for example, we have to buy lots of woods, metals and plastics and we're having to rethink what we buy. We might have to get pupils to make smaller versions of things such as wooden bookends and plastic pens. We are also looking at the possibility of recyling materials. It's difficult, but we have to do it to make sure we have money for other things such as photocopying. We are keeping that to a minimum, too. Where possible, we are writing things on the board for the pupils to copy instead of producing handouts.

Do you think that standards are getting lower in tests and exams?

I can only comment on my subject, in which I think they are being maintained. I teach graphics, and the latest GCSE exam (from Edexcel) was at least as challenging as previous ones.

How are you managing financially as a young teacher in London?

I have progressed up the pay scale quite quickly so I'm reasonably happy, but I think that the vast majority of young teachers should be getting paid more for what they do. And London weighting isn't really enough for teachers - it should be the same as it is for the police and for nurses. I've only been able to buy a house because my dad has lent me some money. Also, when you take a position of responsibility you have to think about the way you dress and you need quite a lot of smart clothes, and that's expensive. But I really love teaching - when I get up in the mornings I look forward to going to work.

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