Tuesday, February 20, 2007

We're On The Road To Nowhere...

(Sorry, the link has somehow disappeared.) Is anybody really surprised by the fact that two thirds of Comprehensive School teachers don't have degrees in the subject that they teach? Or that thousands of student teachers last year failed basic literacy and numeracy tests that they took as part of their course (and then were allowed to resit as many times as necessary)?

Whilst there are still some brilliant people going into State Education, the average ability of new trainees is in terminal decline, due to the simple fact that teaching is no longer very appealing to Bright Young Things who know exactly how bad Inner City Comprehensives are, and have no desire to have anything to do with them. This only leaves the highly devoted and the absolutely hopeless.

Ever worsening conditions of employment have left us desperate. The only qualification necessary for a job at St Thickchilds is a pulse.

You can get onto a BEd course nowadays with two poor A Levels and a few years later be stood in front of a group of possibly far cleverer kids trying to learn for their own exams. I encountered dozens of 'teachers' throughout my career who had little grasp of the subject they were attempting to teach.

My opinion is that it's the working conditions that are the problem, more so than the pay.

Say you were given a choice. On the one hand, you can have a nice, clean graffiti-free classroom, strict, properly enforced school rules (which would result in a massive decrease in poor behaviour from both children and parents). No more silly forms to fill in, targets to make up and a more sensible curriculum. OR you can have a pay rise. How much would you want before it became more desirable than the first option?

13 comments:

Anonymous said...

For years I have had to listen to our pathetic unions demanding more money and accepting more pointless paperwork. I would take less pay for a lot less paperwork. If we had much less paperwork maybe there would be less stress!!

Anonymous said...

I'd take an Impovement in conditions over pay any day.

muso-tim said...

I posted this exactly one year ago on the TES website:

Going through the experience of appointing an assistant. Looked through the applications today (not many) and was shocked at the state of them.

Gaps in CV's, CV's which included no information about education, qualifications etc, one candidate wrote how pointless music tech was (the job spec specifically mentioned an interest was required), another wrote how she would like to apply for the Music Teacher post at a different school. I could go on - this is the tip of the iceberg.

I spent hours writing that job spec, and only one person seemed even to have read it!

The next problem was the lack of musical qualifications - low grades at A level, few AB grades or equivalent, little writing about musical experience - are there no good musicians going into teaching these days?

Honestly, if I hadn't spoken to a former student who's just graduating from the Royal Northern, I would be seriously down about this. Instead I'm just shocked.

The Cat's Mother said...

I am an English graduate with a 2:1 from one of the country's best universities. I know how to use I and Me, I understand the apostrophe and even reflexive pronouns ! Not such an accomplishment, but one that a lot of people, including fellow English grad seems to be lacking.

I want to teach English ages 11-18 I applied and was accepted for a PGCE 4 years ago. Due to ill health I couldn't take up the place and have worked in the "third sector" since. I've worked with youth projects and taught sex education in Manchester's inner city schools. I'm doing some classroom observation at the end of April and I think and have been told I would be a good teacher. I have relevant experience, a love of books and language as well as a sense of humour and the ability to cope in a crisis.

I still want to teach, but at the same time I'm afraid that I would be making a terrible mistake.
I'm afraid of kids who cannot be controlled. Not just in inner city schools, but in the kind of school I went to, middle class and full of spoiled brats. I'm worried about SMTs who won't support teachers and parents who won't parent. I'm scared that I'll be overwhelmed by paperwork and initiatives. I'd gladly take a lower salary if I knew that I would be able to teach, rather than simply control a rabble who don't want to be there.

I'm reconsidering my future (I'm 26) and would be sad if I did give up on my ambitions to teach. But I question seriously if I'll be able to teach in a system whch really doesn't seem to give two hoots about teachers.

m t said...

as the head of a sizeable state school, can i just echo muso-tim's thoughts? the quality of applicants we are receiving is low and getting lower and many of my good members of staff are taking early retirement or leaving the country to work overseas. the rest have had their morale damaged, in some cases crushed, by the weight of paperwork and the terrible, almost anarchic, attitudes of a significant minority of our pupils. i've had people in my office in tears and there is not a great deal i can do about it (cue cries of 'weak SMT', but it's the truth.)
what this and previous governments have done, and continue to do, to the state system is terrifying and tragic.
this is the result of government by a cabal of lawyers who've never set foot in a poor school and have absolutely no idea what it's like.
i am glad my retirement is not that far away and that my husband is a foreign national - we are emigrating in two years' time, reluctantly.

Sandy said...

How much? Ooh, about forty grand.

Anonymous said...

I'm a Deputy Head and regularly sit in on interviews. Whilst some of the candidates we get are first rate, others are so poor as to be almost beyond belief.

I would certainly agree that overall there has been a significant decline in the last 10 years. Many coming for interview now would not even have got to University in the past.

How can we attract the best graduates when they can easily get jobs elsewhere with far better pay and conditions? We need to be able to offer them a better deal than the ones who are here because their only alternative is a job in a call centre or supermarket.

dearieme said...

Is the link a suggestion that the returning troops from Iraq be sent to sort out the schools? Good idea.

lilyofthefield said...

Here's a suggestion to improve morale: you know those signs you see in every other public building to the effect that verbal abuse and aggression towards staff will result in the Police being called and two burly crack-smokin' security guards escorting you onto the pavement?

One in every school. And the guards of course.

lilyofthefield said...

Sorry to hog the reply list but I really am fuming after today's episode of just how loaded the dice are against you as a teacher: one of our ilk was summarily dismissed today having been found guilty of assaulting a child - the child being a large Y10 boy, and the assault to minor (and on CCTV) as to warrant a stern word from the HT and no more.

The boy had over 50 entries on the Behaviour Database, several for previous assaults on staff. Not only had these assaults etc never been properly acted on, but the BD was inadmissible as evidence because of the Data Protection Act. We will strike over this.

Anonymous said...

cat's mother, as a Head, my advice is to continue with your plans to become a teacher. God knows how much we need graduates who actually know their subject and WANT to teach it!

But my further advice is to get a good degree and then actively seek out private (perhaps state) schools YOU would be prepared to work in. Move house if you have to, but if you want a rewarding career (and teaching can still be rewarding), go for the private system and schools that suit you.

And, be prepared to wait for the right position rather than work in a dump as a stop gap - you will just become cynical and lose your enthusiasm for teaching.

CJ Nerd said...

lilyofthefield: check the wording of the Data Protection Act. IANAL, but I'm fairly sure that 'prevention of crime' is specifically listed in the Act as something that allows data to be disclosed.

Assaulting teachers is still, as far as I know, a crime, and I've a feeling a new law makes it more serious than assaulting the general public.

A good starting point might be to get those refusing to release the information to quote chapter and verse. "Data Protection", along with its siblings "Health & Safety" and "Human Rights", is often quoted by bureaucrats in a woolly manner as a magical phrase, used as an excuse for inaction rather than looking at the law. If you press them on what part of data protection is invlved, you may find their case is shaky.

I understand your frustration, but an industrial tribunal might be a more effective procedure than a strike.

lilyofthefield said...

I didn't explain it very well: the assault was by the teacher. It involved a push that would have moved a net curtain and was intended to move the threatening boy into the scope of the CCTV since he was threatening to deck the teacher. The teacher has never denied that he pushed the boy but the database could not be used AGAINST the boy, if you see what I mean, as evidence of his likely intention to attack.

It is going to appeal atm. It is the disproportionate nature of the punishment - summary dismissal and the stigma of being "a danger to children" - that is the basis of the wrath, plus the total failure of SMT to lift a finger to help.