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    The Education Officer: is this your dream job?

    Education officers, learning managers... whatever you want to call them, we think they're fabulous. Here's why.

    When I was offered a job as Education Officer for my local county museum I thought I'd died and gone to Heaven. I'd been teaching for twelve years but was ready for a change and as I still wanted to work with children (the best thing about teaching) and had always had a passion for history, this role was perfect for me.

    I was used to working ridiculously long hours and feeling stressed most of the time, so I was looking forward to having a bit more 'me' time once I started my new job. How naive I was! From the moment I set foot in the museum on my first day, my feet didn't touch the floor. My workload was massive. not just developing and delivering the museum's learning programme but getting up to speed on local history, being involved in community projects and events, setting up a branch of the Young Archaeologists Club, marketing the museum to schools, running weekend sleepovers and holiday activities for children...the list goes on. Within a few months I was exhausted and disillusioned because I had taken a big salary cut but was working a 50 hour week. 

    Don't get me wrong, the job was wonderful in many ways! I loved delivering the school sessions and developing the learning programme. More than anything, I loved being immersed in the local history and being able to learn about and handle artefacts that were thousands of years old. It was, in fact, my perfect job. Yet after a year I returned to teaching, completely disillusioned and disappointed.

    My story isn't unusual.  I meet many education officers through the School Visits Network and I am always impressed by their knowledge, passion, dedication ... but also their huge workload and very poor salaries! They do such an vital job, teaching children about local heritage, traditions, environments, organisations and people and providing essential opportunities for children to learn in real and inspiring contexts. But leading a school session exhausting. You have to be knowledgable, organised, welcoming, firm, smiley, kind and good-humoured. You have to keep smiling when your school party arrives 30 minutes late and you have to squeeze 2 hours learning into 90 minutes. You have to keep your cool when the school staff show absolutely no interest in what you're doing and are more interested in eating a pre-packed salad during the session. And you have to clear up the squashed grapes and spilt juice that appear after every single 'snack time'. When the school have left, you have to tidy up then dash back to your office to answer the 30 emails that have arrived that morning, send out an evaluation form, take load more bookings, prepare for the next session and then, if you're lucky, grab a cup of tea while promising to attend the staff meeting scheduled that afternoon. 

    So I'd like to draw attention to the plight of the Education Officer. Even though they are an essential part of any organisation that wants to connect with their local community, they are vulnerable. Budgets are being cut and, unbelievably, funding is being withdrawn from 'education', even though school visits generate a good income and often lead to return visits with the children's families. 

    So next time you're on a school trip, take a moment to appreciate the people leading the trip and all the hard work they've put in to make your school welcome. Say thank you - it will mean a lot - and recommend the trip to your colleagues, as the more schools that visit local organisations and places, the more invaluable their education teams will become. 







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    School Visits Network provides resources, training, news and support to organisations, businesses and individuals who offer learning opportunities, helping them to collaborate, network, share good practice and keep up to date to ensure high quality learning experiences.

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