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.