Don’t denigrate teachers, we need more of them

Sep 9, 2014 by

The education secretary’s own image will plummet if she and her colleagues cannot make sure we have enough school teachers

The new education secretary seems to have got off to a mixed start. First keeping her head down, apart from the odd unexceptional interview and article, then suggesting that teachers have an image problem, then refusing to rule out for-profit schools, and finally getting caught up in a bizarre climbdown over the idea that setting should be compulsory.

I even found myself wondering if this last strange episode was a Goveian plot from beyond the grave, to unsettle the otherwise rather successful dulling down of the educational debate before the general election.

This would be a shame, as Nicky Morgan’s seemingly warm and conciliatory personal style is what we need right now. As the dust has settled on Michael Gove’s demise it seems clearer than ever that you can’t be a true reformer if you don’t carry people with you. Especially if those people are critical to making your reforms work.

The suggestions made by Morgan last week that public confidence in teachers is as low as it is in politicians was unfortunate and factually incorrect. Most opinion polls suggest teachers are among the most trusted professional groups and that is a point worth re-inforcing at every opportunity.

Hard work and outstanding performance generally come from encouragement and support rather than denigration. Any school that systematically talked down its pupils the way ministers belittle teachers would presumably get short shrift from Ofsted. And reviving the idea of teaching as a high-status, valued profession matters more than ever because we could be sleepwalking into a perfect storm when it comes to teacher recruitment.

The post-2008 recession made teaching an attractive postgraduate option at a time when secondary school rolls were declining. But that may no longer be the case as the economy picks up and the first tranche of graduates bearing the weight of full tuition fees emerge into the workforce.

Meanwhile, the government’s “diversification” of routes into teacher training is in full swing. School-based schemes such as Teach First and School Direct are flavour of the month and university-based courses are unloved and out in the cold, even though the latter are generally rated more highly as training by Ofsted.

But changes introduced in the 2011 Education Act mean that, for the first time in more than half a century, no one seems to have overall responsibility for ensuring this mix will guarantee enough teachers in the required subjects in the right places to meet local demand.

via Don’t denigrate teachers, we need more of them | Fiona Millar | Education | The Guardian.

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