Tuesday, 29 October 2013

Overrated heads

Both the NASUWT and the ATL teaching unions did well to dismiss the latest efforts of Clegg to cash in on the universal unpopularity of Goveism , and the description of his ridiculous "Champions League" proposal for headteachers as "eye-catching froth" is spot-on. (Morning Star, 25/10/13) His desperation is becoming more obvious with every announcement he makes.
However, there is a danger that politicians` propaganda on education is beginning to have an effect, with an important and worrying consequence; this country is in danger of becoming obsessed with the belief that good results in our schools can only be achieved by the appointment of what Nick Clegg calls "oustanding headteachers" and "ambitious deputies". It`s accompanied by the other dubious idea that such people must get "substantial pay rises", as we all know that teachers, like nurses and social workers, only joined the profession for monetary reward, and will only make a real effort for their pupils if the financial inducement is sufficient!  
    Good leadership is, of course, essential in all schools, especially as the head has overall responsibility for discipline, but it is the work done in the classroom which determines academic improvement and the examination results. Hunt`s recent support for Performance Related Pay was, therefore, all the more disappointing as it revealed that Labour has started to believe the Tory criticism of state education.  When will politicians start to understand that it is blatantly unfair to reward the head for a school`s improvement, when he or she is already generously paid, two or three times more at least, than the classroom teacher, and when the actual learning of the "improved students" takes place under the auspices of many different people, some not even teachers? Should an A-level teacher with ten A* pupils be rewarded extra, when someone else was the reason for the students` determination to succeed, another teacher of the same subject was the "inspiration" lower down the school, or that the student`s real improvement in reading and understanding resulted from work done in the primary school?
Channel 4`s  "Educating Yorkshire" received justified praise for its portrayal of the life-changing influence teachers have, but it only concentrated on, presumably with viewing figures in mind, the more difficult children, and ignored what also happens in comprehensive schools with good GCSE results like Thornhill`s: showing children handing in homework, writing essays in silent classrooms, analysing and challenging sources, evaluating data, speaking a foreign language etc would have proved that such things are not the preserve of private schools. It would also reveal, yet again, how Gove`s policies are not based on factual evidence, and historian, Tristram Hunt, should really know better than to support anything this ideologically-driven Education Department proposes.
Miliband needs to "do a Clegg", over-ruling his subordinates, and come out with an educational policy which is fair to both teachers and students; after the last four years of , it`s the least they deserve.

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