This morning you are being taught by Mr Smith sponsored by...

Sunday 28th April 2013

I normally restrict my comments and blogs to careers education matters, however, today I am hopping up and down and fuming enough to tread into the arena of education at large. (Though I've managed to slip a bit of a careers ed comment in at the end.)

What has prompted this digression? This site has http://everychildcan.teachfirst.org.uk/sponsor-lesson

Why? My opinion is divided into 2 main points:-

1. Surely state education should be state funded?

ID-10067493Charities have a role to play in education but, in my opinion, should confine themselves to providing resources and activities that can be utilised at the discretion of the trained educator, not training the educators themselves.

In effect we are being asked to pay for the training of teachers by direct charity donation. Not by our taxes. Are we returning to the days of the Victorian philanthropist? If so, why not ask the private schools to contribute? They benefit by employing teachers trained by the state.

2. The method of marketing used diminishes the role of the teacher

A headline generating famous person, albeit in consultation with a Teach First mentor, subliminally conveys the message that anyone with half a brain can stand at the front of a class and teach them. If that is the case why bother training them at all?

The reality of the situation is now many schools now rely on Teach First Staff, who are paid as unqualified instructors, to fulfill the school's commitment to education and class size directives cheaply. This requires the mentoring in school of the trainee, by an experienced member of staff but, if you have say 40% of your staff as Teach First, then you are significantly reducing staffing costs even though you need to put in place an extensive mentoring programme. (At least I hope you have)

I have no real quarrel with Teach First as an idea. Indeed I started off as an instructor back in the early 80s and gained my QTS whilst in the classroom. It's not the easiest route into teaching and I have great respect for those who go down it.

So where are the Government going with their educational strategy? I've got no real idea; it seems to be full of inconsistencies, as this article in the Guardian comments. http://www.guardian.co.uk/teacher-network/teacher-blog/2013/apr/27/michael-gove-policy-inconsistent-hypocrisy

So what is the end result? Your children/grandchildren etc will soon be able to sit in classrooms for more weeks of the year and more hours of the day being supervised by a mixture of unqualified & part qualified staff who are, in turn, being supervised by a few qualified teachers.

I am firmly of the ideal that a school's job is to turn out pupils who can read, write and count effectively and have the skills needed to enter society and employment able to contribute to the world we live in and to be able to support their selves and their families. How are they going to do that without effective teaching and good careers education? The majority of Teach First candidates are newly graduated young people. Will they be in a position to advise their pupils any other way of making it in the world than going to uni and getting a degree? (The majority of young people when surveyed said they would turn to a teacher for careers advice) I concede that a few Teach First candidates are older and have been in business before deciding to move into teaching and that should be encouraged more but as sadly they are still in the minority.

So before you click the
'donate now' button, just ask yourself where will this end? Teachers wearing jackets with the legend 'Mr Smith, proudly sponsored by...' on the back? Surgeons with scrubs saying the same? Or just more burnt out, frustrated teachers unable to cope with the amount of new initiatives thrown at them on a daily basis?

The Victorians were proud of their philanthropy, they had every right to be, but don't forget the thousands who couldn't read and write, didn't have healthcare... Why are we moving back to that situation rather than moving forward into creating a better educated, more community minded workforce that are able to contribute to paying for the systems that we need to maintain Britain's status as a fair and modern society.