About a week ago, I received the tweet below from the BBC. Naturally, I was keen to know what it was about so obviously I replied.
They then DM’d me their details and an outline of Bitesize Daily. Basically, they wanted me to help deliver some of the online lessons which were to commence after the Easter break. This sounded like something I’d be well up for as I have chosen to be ‘just’ a teacher for my entire career. While I have held small TLRs here and there, climbing the ladder has never really appealed to me as the classroom is where my passion lies.
Anyway, so they gave me the breakdown of how the sessions would run. For science, they wanted a ‘Science Expert’- me. (Yes, I have issues with this as a title for any science teacher- or even any scientist for that matter- but as you’ll see, there were far greater things to be pissed off about!) The ‘Science Expert’ would do 9 x 20-minute sessions in total, so 180 minutes of content. These would consist of Q&As where the Expert sits with the presenter who asks questions which the Expert answers. The filming would take place over 3 half-days, over 3 days (if that makes sense?) and for this, I would be paid a total of . . . . wait for it . . . £300.
They said they’d send me the script i.e. the questions, beforehand but they kept talking about how extremely busy they were, working at short notice etc. I requested the script more than once and they’d ring me and tell me they don’t have it yet. It got very annoying very quickly. If I’m essentially going to be observed teaching on TV, I need as much bloody information as possible! I’m sure most of us would.
So then they sent me the schedule for the 3 days of filming. What stood out was that these ‘half-days’ were not exactly half-days. To me at least, a half-day is not 5 hours long. So the £300 I mentioned was for driving from Birmingham to Salford and back- more than once as filming was over 3 days- and for 15hrs of filming plus prep. They did offer to put me up for a couple of nights as the days were staggered. Eventually, they sent me 4 minutes worth of script and it was obvious that what they were asking was actually far in excess of 15 hrs.
Taking the P
After having time to mull it over and talk with some friends experienced in this area, it became obvious that the BBC were – to put it bluntly- taking the piss. £300 for doing what they asked was a mere pittance. And this seems to be a theme in teaching.
Whether it’s because they assume everyone desires fame, or because they are conscious of the innate good will of teachers, companies connected to the education system seem to take advantage. For example, Ed-tech companies who ‘choose’ teachers to take on roles as ‘ambassadors’ with no financial compensation, essentially getting them to promote their products for free. Then there’s the education book publishers who ask teachers to write a book for them, then offer as little as 5% in royalty payments. And of course, there’s BBC Teach who offer no pay whatsoever for a teacher to give up their entire Sunday for filming, only for their interview not to even be used. (Disclaimer: none of the aforementioned involve me).
All about the money?
Don’t get me wrong, much of the above and a teaching career itself is not about the money. As an author myself, I can confidently say that this is not the reason anyone writes books, but I’ll be damned if I’m being pimped for 5% royalty!
A teacher’s professionalism must be respected. Professionals get paid.
I just couldn’t go through with it. I’ll leave you with the email I sent them.
Hope everyone’s enjoying the holiday as best as is reasonably possible.
Omar Akbar- Teacher; Author: The Unofficial Teacher’s Manual: What they don’t teach you in training and Bad School Leadership (and what to do about it)