Non-job of the week
Nov 2012 21

Councils wasting our money isn’t anything new, but they do keep finding new and imaginative ways of doing so. And they don’t come more imaginative than this new role at Northgate High School in Suffolk: they are looking for a team of “Proof Readers and Copy Editors” who will be paid £14.02 per hour to correct spelling and grammatical errors in the pupils’ school reports written by the teachers.

Here’s the (non-)job description in full:

“Working 15 – 20 days a year. The school reports to parents on a regular basis about how well their child is progressing at school. We are looking to recruit a team to check and amend the electronic reports to ensure that they are well written and complete before being released to parents. The work needs to be completed within a tight timetable at different times throughout the year. If you can be flexible when you work and have a high level of skill in written English, including spelling, grammar and punctuation, are scrupulous about detailed work and have the good judgement to gauge which changes are appropriate, please download full details.”

First and foremost, this is an exceptional waste of taxpayers’ money. It is totally unnecessary: schools have been sending home reports since time immemorial without the need for Proof Readers as Northgate High School seeks.

It is, of course, incredibly insulting. The very existence of the role suggests that the teachers are unable to display the same skills that they are employed to teach the children

And if teachers are unable to use proper grammar and the correct spelling, does it not beg the question as to whether they should be teachers in the first place?

  • questioner

    This is breathtaking. The sad reality is that some teachers will have difficulty with spelling, punctuation and grammar. This needs addressing, for obvious reasons. Paying outsiders to proof the teachers’ comments isn’t the way to deal with the problem.

  • Valiantscorpio

    I suppose this situation was inevitable due to the number of migrant and ethnic minority teachers in the education system. I would have thought that any electronically produced document would have the facillity of a spelling and grammar checker, but then should they not all pass a written English examination before employment? This situation is disgraceful.

  • Mik

    Will they also need a separate team of proof-readers to check the work of the first team of proof readers? Maybe this should be done by a ………teacher.

  • Jennings

    This advertisement does not surprise me as I have suspected that the purpose of education is to dumb-down society. As someone who never advanced beyond the primary level of education, learning only the three Rs, proof-reading of both teachers and lecturers would be my delight. As someone who recently assisted a single mother through her degree, her Honours, and more lately her Masters, I was appalled at both the ignorance and arrogance of university lecturers. Academe is unquestionably the hotbed of snobbery in society which is the only purpose it serves but, then, I am only an outsider looking in.

  • Harry Royle

    I totally disagree. You are blaming today’s teachers for being poor at spelling, grammar and punctuation. Yet they are poor simply because they were not taught those skills, because their own teachers had not been taught those skillls. And those teachers in turn were not taught as children because in the ’60s there was a view that too much “correction” of spelling errors, etc. would dishearten a child.
    So, rather than castigating the current teachers, why not praise them for realising that here is a problem which needs addressing and attempting to solve it. Whilst I realise that more training for the teachers is just as important, as I understood it this will be part of the job description for the “proof-readers” currently being recruited.

    • blingmun

      This is not an initiative by teachers. As the article makes clear it was the barmy council that dreamt up this crazy waste of money. Clicking on the link reveals that the advert is courtesy of Suffolk County Council.

      Can we assume from your comprehension skills that are you an English teacher?

  • The Meissen Bison

    If you give me £14.02 I’ll teach you the correct usage of “to beg the question”.

  • Taylor

    Yet schools pay only minimum wage to exam invigilators

  • Literate Libertarian

    May I be the first to point out that it’s ‘proofreaders’ and not any hyphenated or two-word variant? This is sad indictment of falling literacy standards and a dreadful waste of taxpayers’ money.

  • Fiona

    Reports from my daughter’s school include:
    a pleasure to listen too [sic]
    The correction (incorrectly applied) to the sentence
    The Queen is august to August. And the teacher stating aught was not a real word. Daughter is changing schools!

  • Ted

    Sad also that nobody taught the writer of this article what ‘begs the question’ really means.

  • The Fallen Angel

    So what Northgate High School are doing is actually employing people to check that no errors etc have occurred whilst teachers laboriously writing reports.

    This then frees up teachers to spend time marking, planning lessons and heaven forbid actually doing something which is directly BENEFICIAL to the learning of the pupils instead of dealing with an admin type task.
    Might seem to be a waste of money but there is a fairly rational reason actually….

  • Jill

    Well, teachers needing checking aside, I copy-edit and proofread for a living and I charge £20 per hour (or rather, per word equivalent) – so at least they’re not paying top dollar!

  • hereward

    My wife works in an Academy and is well versed in Latin and English grammar . Most of the teachers have poor grammar and spelling right up to the deputy head ! The wrong usage of the written word by the teaching staff is common . For example ; your for you’re ! I fully understand why Ipswich want a proof reader . Teachers are no longer up to the task of good grammar or spelling . The dumbing down of education with the Comprehensive system of schooling has a lot to do with it maybe ?

  • Deanoman

    What exactly are the school supervisors paid for or can’t they spell either ??

  • Deanoman

    For this shambolic state of affairs blame Labour, the NUT, the NASUWT, the teaching universities who trot out this trendy dogma when teaching teachers & parents for putting up with this c*** for years. Go get em Goveee !! Annnd I am a teacher so there !!!

  • MacGuffin

    You have used ‘beg the question’ incorrectly.

  • Gold Bug

    The state manages to degrade and debase everything it touches from health care to the currency. It’s had it’s paws on education for decades and we know have a teaching profession where lefty political correctness outweighs ability by a huge amount. My son is rarely pushed in his ability to learn, never particularly interested in the lessons and consistently learns more from me and the internet than he ever does at school. Just in case anyone assumes he’s dim I’d just say he could read Kipling before his fourth birthday.
    This country is gripped by an assumption that the state must run everything. Why? They are a group that has obtained a coercive monopoly on our lives and proceed to ruin everything. Get politicians out of our lives and it’s quality would soar.

  • Alan Douglas

    I’m guessing that the teachers are quite young and came through the same dumbed-down teaching that they are now dispensing to their pupils. DON’T correct spelling mistakes, DON’T fix grammar, etc etc.

  • Steve Palmer

    The ability to communicate clearly and accurately in writing is a fundamental requirement to make progress in life and work. Any teacher so lacking in literacy as to be unable to set out a correctly written simple summary of a child’s progress to a parent should have no place working in any school. They should be suspended without pay and required to undergo rigorous and thorough English language tuition at their own expense until able to meet a suitably stretching standard. Until then their poorly spelt and grammatically incorrect reports should be distributed to parents as written so all can see the calibre of teachers employed and parents can make their feelings known to the governors of that school in no uncertain terms.

  • Andrew Smith

    School reports and internal disciplinary records are open to challenge in the courts. For example, if pupil is excluded or injures or is injured by another pupil or if their exam grades are not up to the parents’ hopes or expectations.

    If the teachers, whether through ignorance, carelessness or lack of time, write these reports in a shoddy manner, the schools could end up with orders to retain disruptive pupils or to pay damages for alleged misfortunes of the pupils.

    Maybe the £140 per hour could better be spent on better educating the next generation of teachers?

  • blingmun

    The school report is not all about the pupil. It is also an opportunity for parents to assess the person educating their child. Does the teacher know my child or is she talking in generalities? Is the person teaching my child English capable of stringing together a coherent sentence? A teacher with poor spelling and grammar would also need a proof reader to help mark all that homework. The council would do better to employ the proof readers as teachers!

    A council that spends tax payers’ money proof reading school reports is more interested in putting a gloss on the job it is doing than in educating children.

    • Dan

      How many pupils do you teach a week?

  • VacantPossession


    So the reports written by teachers require spelling & grammar checks before they go out to parents?


    Wouldn’t it make better sense and be cheaper to sack the teachers teaching our children who can’t spell and/or make effective use of grammar?

  • A teacher

    Why this is a good idea.

    As a subject teacher used to write around 170 reports, 3 times a year. They are not “simple summaries”. One tries to encapsulate an entire term in around 4 sentences, including suggestions for improvement. One has to do this in a way which cannot possibly be construed as offensive, and people are very sensitive these days. On average, I would make about 6 mistakes. This would usually be 3 errors left from redrafting (such as a double full stop), one grammar point that the Headmistress thought wrong and the OED said was OK, and 2 spelling mistakes. Then, with my tutor hat on, I’d proof-read 100-ish reports from other teachers. The proof-reader (£14 ph) would take over from me (approx £40 ph), so I can get on with departmental planning. Eminently sensible business decision, and I’d been advocating it for years.

    Or, if you like, I could have cut-and-pasted pre-checked sentences, which is what a lot of teachers do these days to avoid the aggro. Of course this tells the parents very little.

    When I was a pupil, reports were frequently one-liners. “More basic care required” or “His work lacks depth” is much less likely to be mis-spelled than that which teachers are currently expected to produce.

  • A teacher

    Spot the accidental-but-proves-the-point mistake.

  • Goranista

    Nothing from our regular responder Blarg on this subject – I wonder why.