Friday, 25 October 2013
Teachers - qualified or not?
It was interesting listening to the debate on the TV news programmes yesterday about whether teachers even need to be qualified, particularly on Question Time. Actually it would be more exact to say it was depressing! Of course there are some people who are more natural teachers than others and of course there is always a place for the expert to enhance teaching and learning, particularly in certain areas such as music - sometimes an expert is also a natural teacher and can impart their specific skills and knowledge very well. However, this argument in favour of unqualified teachers appears to be based on a few random successes in the 174 Free Schools (that model adopted from Sweden just at the point the Swedes had decided it really wasn't working), not on the outcomes in 21,000 other state schools. In the debate on Question Time it became clear that, as usual all the panellists were basing their arguments around their own experience and the focus was almost entirely on Secondary education and the 'end game' of passing exams and getting to University. I was reminded of Sir Ken Robinson's first talk on TED when he says how everyone feels they know all about education because, after all, they have been to school themselves! Only Owen Jones mentioned at one point '5 year olds' when he rightly argued that success or failure in school (certainly on the terms being discussed)was more about starting points and socio-economic factors ... nobody else, notably not Liz Truss, Minister for Children, picked up on his points. It would be so refreshing and exciting to hear some politicians and journalists talking intelligently about the vital early years and about the highly qualified and specifically qualified teachers young children, particularly those growing up in socially deprived environments really need. I would refer anyone not convinced to the HighScope research, the findings of James Heckman (economist) and a number of recent reports across countries. Reports from OECD show that those countries most successful in terms of education and children's wellbeing emphasise the early years and the qualifications of those charged with the education and care of the very young.