“Oi Gordon – if teaching is so easy, you spend a day in my classroom” is the simple challenge laid down to Gordon Brown in response to the latest ill-considered idea from the UK “government” that people changing careers to teaching can be fully trained and qualified in six months.
That is six months compared to the usual year that it takes to train a teacher.
Let’s look at the reality of the situation. The suggestion seems to be that because a lot of bankers have found themselves unemployed (some through redundancy, some perhaps through incompetence) their skills might be put to good use in schools teaching maths.
I know someone who teaches maths quite well. In a real world school, not a grammar or private school. So we had a chat. And let me tell you there’s a world of difference between what politicians with little education experience think schools are like and what they are really like.
Let’s dispel a few ideas for you.
Firstly, the idea that a teacher’s starting salary is anything near the £30,000 figure that I’ve seen mentioned in some places. It is more like £20,000. It’s like those IT training company adverts which claim the average IT salary is £37,000 a year. That claim is, in my 12 years or so experience, utter garbage.
Secondly, the idea that classrooms are full of kids who are willing to learn and engage positively with their teacher, whom they respect and admire. Not on the evidence I’ve seen. When I was at school a sarcastic comment got a detention which, if you didn’t attend led to a suspension. No hanging around. That’s not how things work these days. Kids wh0 misbehave are “referred”. A predetermined number of referrals lead to a temporary “exclusion” and only after a number of such “exclusions” are continual offenders “permanently excluded” (what I used to know as expelled).
I have never gone a week without referring somebody. Last week I referred 12, so far this week I have referred 4. I was threatened with physical abuse yesterday, today someone used an unacceptable racial insult.
I do not believe that teachers work in a safe environment. They are not allowed to defend themselves from physical attack, any claims students make against them are taken as gospel truth while a teacher’s word has to be backed up with other witnesses, preferably staff. They are subjected to physical and verbal abuse, treated with the kind of contempt that you and I would find deeply offensive and unacceptable and work longer hours than many, including the media, know.
I have written previous entries about education. That entry and this one show the real world of teaching. Teachers work damned hard to get qualified. These proposals belittle that training and experience. Yet these proposals could lead to more people with no educational experience becoming school heads.
Let’s turn that around. Come on Gordon, how about giving me 6 months of training and then letting me be Prime Minister?
No? This is the equivalent of what you are proposing here.
If politicians think Prime Minister’s Questions is hard going with insults then are they in for a shock if they ever get left to teach a real world classroom. Much as I’d love to see a few bankers get a nice karmic return in the form of 30 kids telling them they are useless and incompetent in very offensive language, that tempting vision shouldn’t detract from the fact that this proposal is poorly thought through and shows, yet again, that this “government” is living in its own cloud cuckoo land.
So come on Gordon, if you think teaching is so easy then get your office to respond to the Facebook group or drop me an e-mail (click the Planet Jamie link on the right hand side and you’ll see my contact details) and we’ll arrange for you to spend a day in a real world classroom. Just you and a few maths lessons. No security guards, just the same provision that every other teacher has.
Have you got the cojones for that?