13 Oct 2014
DIfficult to know what to blog about today: it could be the teachers' oaf*: Tristram Hunt (the shadow education secretary) wants teachers to swear an oath when they join the profession - after all that's what MPs do, and look how that helps their profession. He also wants to give new teachers a compass** (directing them towards their responsibility "to provide a sense of moral purpose and virtue to young people".)... But tempting though it is to spend a while reflecting on how effective that's likely to be in raising standards to match Singapore's (for that seems to be the intention), we'll leave that to the many teachers on Twitter via #teachersoath.
Instead, let's look at the long awaited big-policy announcement from the new education secretary, Nicky Morgan (announcement being made by Cameron) - actually, a manifesto pledge. Which is, essentially to:
- widen the powers of the eight (very) newly appointed regional commissioners so that, rather than simply overseeing academies and free schools, they will also have the power to academise LA schools
- introduce a new National Teacher Service - 1500 teachers who can be flown in to support failing schools at short notice.
- Should a single, unelected individual have the power to change the status of a school?
- Why is it better to academise this way, rather than the previous method (leaving aside the sponsorship issue)?
- Can just eight commissioners handle all failing schools?
- How large with the organisation need to be that decides where to deploy the NTS teachers, possibly on the same day a school falls into the lowest Ofsted category?
- Who will these teachers be? Why would they want such a job if they are currently successful teachers in their own schools? More pay? Would other teachers trust such people?
- Where does the money come from for all this?
- Is this a reaction to the Trojan Horse affair - an education dept equivalent of sending troops into Iraq after 9/11: send in SAS style teachers to train and support the locals?
Schools already live in fear of Ofsted, or at least in fear of being labelled Requires Improvement, and for most schools that's motivation enough to change. But obviously that's not enough for all schools. So what else could be done to make radical changes in schools that need it? Changing the head and governing body, while removing control from the LA certainly worked (generally) in Labour's sponsored academy approach, though whether the sponsorship angle contributed to this is a moot point. But is a national team of super teachers better than local authority advisors, advanced skills teachers, specialist leaders of education or any of the other strategies for addressing the fact that some teachers simply aren't very good at teaching?
A quick fix approach sounds like an attractive option, but governments need to play a long game, not simply to try to slash the number of failing schools by employing a very small number of people to try to transform an entire culture. Everyone in education has their own ideas about how this needs to happen, but the governments seem intent to carry on trying all of them in turn, rather than taking the time to develop an long term strategy.
After the next election we could be swearing for the education secretary or at the education secretary, so let's hope that by then we have some achievable, believable, realistic, effective, long term strategic policies generated by all the main parties in time for those of who consider education to be something worth voting for to base our voting on.
* I think that should be oath - Ed
** not just geography teachers
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