Monday, January 18, 2010

Cameron's Right On Teachers

There isn't a single parent or pupil reading this that doesn't rate the quality of teaching as one of the single most important factors in the quality of our education system; in fact, most might rate it as the most important factor. An inspirational teacher makes the world of difference.

David Cameron today launched the Conservatives Draft Education Manifesto and the central plank of this excellent document is just that - quality teaching.

The most important part of this is the acceptance that we need to get rid of poor performing staff. The quality of teacher training, but also the support provided in school, is vital here - but at the end of the day, the teaching profession is still a vocation but a tough one at that. Some people will not cope with life in the classroom, like others do not cope with the court room, mechanics garage or press room. So the Conservatives will tackle poor teaching with more speed - good idea, after all those children do not get that time back, their education moves on. Nobody ever says to a kid, "OK, to be honest that teacher wasn't very good, so do you fancy doing year 8 again with a better one?".

Now, if we are going to do more to get rid of bad teachers we have to do more to replace them with good ones; exceptional, "elitist" you might say. I would, however, say that Mr Cameron and Shadow Schools Secretary Michael Gove are only part of the way to explaining how we do this.

We do want only those with high quality qualifications to be teachers; but we need to understand what is stopping them from applying at the moment. This is not meant to be an exhuastive list, nor is it based on anything other than my thoughts, but we need to be ready to tackle:

1. Poor behaviour and the lack of methods to tackle this
2. The culture of targets and inspections
3. False alegations and the impact of them
4. Lack of support from some parents
5. Constant government reform
6. Wages & Conditions

I am sure in time these will, one by one, be addressed fully.

However to be frank this is the best and most important education documents in a very long time and it deserves to be welcomed; it certainly was from people of all politics in my staffroom.

UPDATE: I understand Labour have slammed the proposals and the Unions have gone mad because they say sacking bad teachers may lead to a temporary rise in class sizes whilst the new teachers are trained up. I would urge Labour and the Unions to try that arguement with parents on the doorsteps or in the playground - the parents I know, including myself, would rather have a great teacher with more kids than a bad one with fewer.

UPDATE 2: Speaking to a friend who is "in" teacher training he has said that this could be done with no impact on class sizes at all - good to hear - as long as the incentives to teach are right and the Teach Now programme is implemeted properly. Great to see the party really thinking this stuff through - excellent eye on detail of policy.


Rosie said...

How do you define a bad teacher though? Is it the opinions of the pupils, parents or other teachers?

When we were at Douay we had an absolutely horrendous teacher, everyone hated her because we were failing our GCSEs - not because we didn't liker her. When people actually complained about her we had a lecture on bullying.

I agree with this policy though, I don't think I would have made it through sixth form (granted I barely did) without some of the amazing teachers who taught us in those two years.

Antony said...

There are various ways of judging a bad teacher; certainly not always via the parents or pupils although their views need to be taken into account. Over a period peer assessment, formal observations and work tracking are most effective.

lynsey said...

A great teacher with more kids! No thank you, life can be hard enough in a classroom without class sizes getting bigger. With shortage subjects who fail to recruit even enough staff to cover lessons, this idea will make it even worse thus ensuring recruitment of quality staff even harder.

Anonymous said...

Get a grip. Just cos wavey-davey says it, you don't have to slavishly agree. Critical and independent thought is what I aim for in my classroom.

I'm already observed and judged by teachers on my SMT that can't teach for toffee and police each other. Same old backslapping rubbish. And then we're observed by the failed teachers, or worse - the never were teachers, of OFSTED. Different subjects have massively different workloads, making comparisons between subjects redundant. And we can't even get near a full complement of half-competent staff as it is, even with all the holidays and good pay we get. And did I mention the stupid workload that I can't even make a dent in, and if I tried, it would kill me.

I'd rather see the bar lifted to upper 2:1 degrees. And then see how many people you have left... Anyway, seeing as results are increasing year on year, what's the problem? I'm all for performance-related pay though. I'd be quids in.

Anonymous said...

As a serving teacher who is constantly covering for the lazy arse colleagues who can't be bothered I welcome this 100% - Cam needs to sack the bad ones, reward good teachers and ignore the teaching unions completely.

Ex-Labour voting teacher

Anonymous said...

A piece of paper does not make the teacher, just as spending days on end in the library does not make the academic.
At a time where outside experience is being more and more sought after in the classroom, Mr Cameron wants to further isolate the world of education, falsely believing that academic achievement or anything you actually learn in university has any relevance in the school environment.
Inspiration is not found in the task of jumping through educational hoops and certainly doesn't help you guide an inner city classroom through their long (often frustrating) education.

MJ Ray said...

Being elitist about degree levels is completely backwards and seems doomed to fail if the research is right. Would Cameron Dare the Most Revolutionary Teaching Reform of All?

RoseCloke said...

I realise this is a month late, but the big elephant in the room is pay. Students with a 2:1 or above are not encouraged to go into teaching. At Durham we get twice-weekly emails from the careers service. 90% of the content is about investment banking or law firms.

There are too many teachers for the State ever to be able to pay them a competitive wage (the same is true of all vital state services) and the message - especially with increased debt - is to go for the money.

I welcome the idea of getting rid of bad teachers, but maybe you just need extensions of two of Labour's current policies: subsidising degrees for those who teach and having limited-term graduate teachers picked from the best universities/courses. Those who get the bug would surely stay on.