As if any more reasons were needed not to vote Labour at the next general election, another prime example has come forward in the shape of Ed Balls. His latest idea, the 5 yearly teaching MOT is another pie in the sky, half-witted theory from someone who has no teaching experience at all. Mr Balls is an economist. Another theory man.
Let’s look at the school environment for a moment. When I was at school teachers were respected. Some were liked, some disliked but all respected. The head teacher was respected and the ultimate arbiter of justice. Not so any more. Now teachers go into school every day fearing for their safety. Hardly a day goes by when a secondary teacher doesn’t get threatened, verbally abused, their parentage questioned or their safety threatened. Things have changed.
Has the education system been reinforced to protect teachers and ensure discipline? No. Now pupils have more rights than teachers. I would never have even raised an eyebrow to my head teacher . Now one head teacher I am aware of is too scared of his pupils to take any kind of action when one calls him “a lanky c**t” straight to his face. This is the reality of education today: teachers can’t even defend themselves from physcial attack.
Tell me Mr Balls, have you ever had a thug stand over you and threaten to put you in hospital? Have you ever had a thug hold a blade to your face and threaten to slit your throat or disfigure you?
When a school does say “enough is enough” and enforces a strict code of conduct after informing parents, there are complaints from those parents to the newspapers! Correct me if I’m wrong here, but surely one attends school to be educated, not behave like a lunatic thug? There are rules in place in society, clubs and workplaces so school rules really should come as no surprise.
The “New Labour generation” isn’t about doing the right thing, proper respect for oneself and others and taking responsibility for one’s actions. It is about “I want this now, I want it on my terms and if you don’t give it to me I will bully and threaten you.”
Tell me Mr Balls, how much front line teaching experience do you have?
Certification is, in theory, a sensible idea. Consider the reality: teachers spend a year being trained where they receive daily supervision. Teachers spend a probationary year where they receive daily supervision. Like any workplace they are subject to regular line manager appraisals and occasional supervisions. Add into that OFSTED (my thoughts on OFSTED could fill a book. Suffice to say that there is a new line to the phrase “Those who can do, those who can’t teach” which goes “Those who can’t teach become OFSTED inspectors”)
The head teacher of the school is going to be responsible for delivering these observations. The head teacher is already supposed to be responsible for implementing policies, managing budgets, enforcing discipline in the school and perhaps teaching some lessons. This brings to mind more questions:
- How are they expected to fit this additional workload into their existing workload?
- What of those heads Mr Balls wants to bring in who have no teaching experience? How can their judgement be trusted if they do not have that vital experience?
- Is the license renewal dependent on one supervision? What if the teacher doesn’t see eye to eye with the head teacher but is still a competent teacher?
- What appeals process will there be? It needs to be independent and transparent
- Talking of budgets, where will the funding come from to ensure that CPD is ongoing?
- Will teachers be given protected time to devote to their CPD?
- Who sets the requirements for this license?
That last question is a serious one. Teaching, like management, has its fads and fashions. Chopping, changing and interference in curriculums helps nobody. And don’t even get me started on National Challenge.
The guarantee of personalised tuition for all pupils who have fallen behind in English or maths is a great soundbyte but does it bear detailed scrutiny? I’m not sure it does unless you are prepared to increase staffing levels and provision to cater for those who fall into this group. Again I highlight the lack of discipline and therefore commitment on the part of some pupils. Some pupils genuinely struggle. Others do not, are more interested in larking about and disrupting the lesson. If I had £1 for every time I’d heard “there’s no doubting they’re intelligent but he/she isn’t prepared to pay attention and do the work” then I could fly to Los Angeles.
Head teachers’ leader, John Dunford, said: “We expect our doctors to be up to date when they treat us. It is reasonable for the public to expect teachers to be up to date when they teach their children.”
Does my GP or my dentist get compulsory assessments to confirm they are up to scratch? I think not. I have yet to see multiple certificates of competence from the last twenty years of testing posted on the walls of my local GP and dental surgeries. Correct me if I am wrong Mr Dunford, but does the education curriculum suddenly change because of a new discovery or development? As far as I am aware, math is math and hasn’t changed that much over the last few years. Teaching fads and ideas for the teaching may have changed but the basic principles are still the same.
Then of course there’s the implementation of this. What of all the teachers currently in post? Are they all to be tested en masse?
In conclusion Mr Balls, your latest idea may be well intentioned but is deeply flawed. Once you have given schools and teachers back the authority to enforce discipline and made it clear to parents that they have a responsibility to teach their children to respect schools and teachers then you can start looking at ideas for certification and CPD. Your interference and failure to provide a decent educational system is driving decent teachers away because they are disillusioned. That’s not the fault of the pupils, that is your fault.
I’ll make a deal with you Mr Balls – get in touch with me and let’s organise a couple of sessions where you teach a class. I’ll sit in the corner and film it. If you’re going to get involved with teaching it’s only fair that you have recent real life experience.
Are you up for it?