When I was commissioned to write a French text book for secondary schools, I was somewhat at sea. I was a French teacher by trade and had little experience of anything else. I had worked as a dishwasher in a restaurant in France, a snow-clearance labourer in Germany and a lumberjack in Tennessee, but I certainly had no experience of what it was to be an author.
Writing was hard. The publisher was, quite rightly, exacting. My day job as a French teacher was exhausting and time-consuming. I had three children under the age of six. I started out on a manual typewriter, before upgrading to an Amstrad (essentially a typewriter with a memory; the internet did not exist). I used my advance to invest in a good desk and a comfortable chair, then spent every evening and every weekend researching, drafting, submitting, redrafting and editing. Half way through the process, the outline National Curriculum was developed and it was back to square one.
But I enjoyed it. The challenge was rewarding, the team around me was totally committed to the project and very supportive. And I was proud of the end product once it was published. Which was all important because the author fees were barely enough to cover the endless cups of tea, floppy disks and guilt-driven presents for the family!
And that is why the copyright laws are so important. I don’t really believe in Intellectual Property when it comes to sharing individual ideas and self-created resources in education – it’s all about doing the right thing as well as we can for young people – but I do think that if a writer spends 30-40 hours a week over three years developing a professional publication, it is important that the reader remembers the work that went in to it and makes sure that the author is properly rewarded. Over the years, I have received an occasional letter, with cheque enclosed, detailing the copyright I have earned. Recently, £64.21 from Latvia. A couple of years ago, £51.83 from Sweden. Not life-changing sums, but enough for a meal out and enough to feel appreciated – and reassured that decent people are still doing the right thing.
About the Author
After a long career in secondary schools, Bill spent ten years as a Director at SSAT, leading its work on the academies programmes, engaging with academy leaders, sponsors, providers and operators, identifying and brokering the support to meet their individual and collective needs, including through significant DfE contracts.
While at SSAT Bill was also occupied with government policy initiatives and developments, considering their implications for schools, particularly in the context of curriculum, assessments, qualifications and accountability.
In 2016, Bill took up the position of Chief Executive of the Sixth Form Colleges Association which sets out to represent, promote and support all dedicated 16-19 providers and which is the voice of sixth form education.
Bill has published a French text book and a number of titles about big issues in education. Bill also sits on a number of boards and two Multi Academy Trusts.