25 Nov 10

The Importance of Teaching so why kick teachers and the TDA?

The Schools White Paper is entitled The Importance of Teaching but it is tempting to write The Importance of Being Earnest instead, although, given his views on a "traditional" curriculum, Mr Gove would clearly not subscribe to the notion "it is absurd to have a hard and fast rule about what one should read and what one shouldn't. More than half of modern culture depends on what one shouldn't read"! Doing a Lady T rather than a Lady B and giving the teaching profession a good hand-bagging, rather than exclaiming surprise at the contents of a handbag, is more his style, and that of much of the media, it seems!

To quote from The Importance of Teaching: "In the highest performing countries, teachers and teaching are held in the highest esteem. Rightly so, because all the evidence shows that good teachers make a profound difference. Studies in the United States have shown that an individual pupil taught for three consecutive years by a teacher in the top ten per cent of performance can make as much as two years more progress than a pupil taught for the same period by a teacher in the bottom ten per cent of performance."

This, however, seems to have been overlooked by much of the media in favour of hostile headlines such as "Gove declares war on failure in our schools" and "Ban bad teachers before they start".

Also overlooked seems to be the latest victim of the DfE's penchant for quango-culling, which raises a big question about the future of the professional development of teachers and its possible politicisation through direct departmental control: "Subject to legislation, the key functions of the Training and Development Agency (TDA) will transfer to the Department for Education, where they will be exercised by an executive agency that is directly accountable to Ministers."

Ministers will also take control of barring teachers: "After we abolish the GTCE in the forthcoming Education Bill we will put new arrangements in place for the regulation of the teaching profession and for dealing with professional misconduct and incompetence. The Department will have the powers, where necessary, to bar teachers from the profession. There will be a simple list of those who have been barred which employers and the public will be able to access, and the disciplinary process will be simplified further by reducing the current range of sanctions to a ruling that a teacher will either be barred or not."

The tabloid-inspired "war" against the teaching profession (everything has to be a 'war' these days 'war on terror', 'war on teachers'..) also includes, according to The Independent, "measures to make it easier for schools to get rid of poor teachers in the wake of yesterday's report from Ofsted, the education standards watchdog, saying too much teaching was 'dull and uninspiring'."

Is there a scientific measure of 'dull' and 'uninspiring'? Surely that is just a subjective value judgment or do the inspectors of Ofsted (remember "not fit for purpose"?) have a tick-list for teaching based on some scientific formula: 'inspiring', 'exiting', 'really interesting' 'interesting', 'dull', uninspiring', 'totally tedious', 'soporific', ' the paint drying on the walls is more interesting'?

Back to the White Paper: "The current regulations on teacher competence are complex, lengthy and fragmented . "We will shorten and simplify them and the 'capability' procedures for managing poor performance. This will enable heads to deal more swiftly, effectively and fairly with underperforming members of staff."

According to The Independent: "There has to be room for someone to put an arm around your shoulder and say: 'You're a fantastic person, Michael, but teaching is not for you,' Mr Gove added."

This is really worrying. It seems to be an open invitation for headteachers to bully people out of their jobs.

There must be proper processes in place for supporting incompetent teachers and for supporting underperforming teachers but the two are very different. Can any of us say we have never 'underperformed' at any stage in our careers? Personal circumstances, illness and so forth can distract us or impair our performance but that is very different to 'incompetence'. 'Dealing' "more swiftly, effectively" could lead to hasty procedures and decisions, unfair dismissals, and the summary end to careers. Teachers will live in fear of the head teacher's arm on their shoulder.

Is this the influence of Katharine Birbalsingh's assertion to the Commons Select Committee that teachers should constantly be in fear of their jobs in order to perform well? That is not how teachers or any other employees should be motivated to perform well and few people would want to work for her or Headmaster Gove if that is their management style.

Perhaps the same system should be applied to Government High School. Following a report from Ofpol, the boss could have a 'friendly word' with ministers, putting an arm around their shoulders and saying: "You're a fantastic person, Michael", but "the BSF fiasco, awarding that contract to your friends at the New Schools Network so quickly, not meeting your targets, sorry milestones, on the number of academies and not wearing safety glasses in the school science lab during the experiment with Bunsen burners not a good example to set to the students Health & Safety were furious " and "Nick Cleggie you're a nice guy, but those things you said in your CV about tuition fees, they weren't quite true were they?" and "Sarah, everyone likes you, but remember at your interview you said that the idea of free schools was a 'shambles . just a gimmick'.." "being a minister ..". "Where's the details of that recruitment agency, Perfect Teachers R Us, www.clonesincorporated.com/perfecteachers-r-us/personalities-tested.html,?

Education Bill


Michael Morpurgo urges respect for teachers: "teaching is a noble profession" http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/education-12465407

Three cheers for the new Teachers' Laureate!

Mr. Morpurgo, ex Laureate,
Said our attitudes were out of date
More 'respect' we should show,
'Teaching's noble', you know,
Three cheers for the new Teachers' Laureate!

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