Teaching is a hard job – a very hard job. In the never-ending quest to increase GDP and propagate the nation’s culture, teachers swim in a very deep ocean every day; sometimes drowning. The commentators and critics who carp from the shore have absolutely no idea what it’s like to face a class of 27 agitated minds and fidgety bodies at 8.30 in a morning and still be marking at midnight (or having to get up at 5am the next day to finish the job). They can have absolutely no idea how tough and taxing it is to have to hold an adolescent crowd’s attention for hours on end, day after day, month after month, trying to devise new strategies for engaging and inspiring them through concentric circles of enlightenment. Continue reading →
“You haven’t even got a degree, you’ve got the shakes, and you think you’re God’s gift to teaching,” grunts Algy Herries, Headmaster of Bamfylde Boys’ School, in the TV adaptation of RF Delderfield’s First World War novel To Serve Them All My Days. “I take my hat off to you, I really do. You’ve got your work cut out, but there’s nothing like starting with ambition,” he reassures.
I watched this TV series while I was taking my O-levels, and read the book soon afterwards. It is, to my mind, one of greatest novels of the 20th century. The aspiring teacher is Second Lieutenant David Powlett-Jones, a nervy coalminer’s son from South Wales who has been invalided out of the army with shell-shock. His passion is history; his vocation – he eventually discovers – is pedagogy. Continue reading →
As the Socialist Worker alliance of teaching unions continue their disruptive ‘work-to-rule’ policy in schools, I see they are now agitating for further strike action. It has been announced that the comrades will walk out (again) and abandon their students this summer and autumn in protest at Michael Gove’s education reforms. We’re more than acquainted with NUT hyperbole and disinformation when it comes to the Government’s education policy, but I am intrigued by a contentious letter in The Independent on this subject which has been signed by more than 100 academics.
These eminent professors and teachers of education write on behalf of some of the nation’s most prestigious centres of learning. They are seemingly persuaded that the proposed reforms to the National Curriculum will damage education standards because the tedious focus will be on ‘endless lists of spellings, facts and rules’, spiced up with a dirge of ‘rote learning without understanding’. Continue reading →
According to the latest national statistics on School Workforce produced by the Department for Education, a third of teachers of Physics, Geography and German have no qualification higher than an A-level in those subjects. Over the past year, the number of teachers with a relevant post A-level qualification has declined across the board, reaching 55.3 per cent of teachers of Religious Education; 53.1 per cent of teachers of Spanish; and 27.1 per cent of Maths teachers. Around 25 percent of teachers of Chemistry, History and French have no degrees in those subjects, while for English and PE it is around 20 per cent.
Such statistics invariably elicit concerns that our children are not being properly taught, or, at least manifestly not being taught be subject specialists. This leads to the tediously predictable headlines that our teachers are, at best, under-qualified or, at worst, incompetent. And, at a time of recruitment impossibilities in some subjects, there have been calls to restrict schools’ use of non-specialist teachers, with allegations of parents being ‘hoodwinked’ into believing their children’s teachers are experts in their subjects, while all along they know no more than they read in the pages of The Guardian. Continue reading →