Sunday, 23 April 2017

Observer letter on solving education`s problems

Grammar schools are not the answer to the problem of "huge geographical disparities"  existing in our unfair education system, as your editorial rightly said (Our schools are failing the poorest pupils. Politicians have no answers, only soundbites,16.04.17). It added that the top priority for education funding should be "attracting and developing the best quality teaching" in deprived areas, like Knowsley, but omitted to mention how this could be done. Certain areas, and some individual schools, could be designated  "Educational Priority Areas"(EPAs). Here, pupil-teacher ratios would be smaller, and pay augmented with significant annual retention bonuses, or deposit-free, low interest mortgages.
       A large majority of my forty-plus year teaching career was spent in Knowsley,and one huge problem I experienced, but which was not highlighted in the editorial, was the quality of leadership. Headteachers in "EPAs" would have to have experienced many years of teaching  in such areas. Too often heads are appointed on the basis of ticking the right boxes with the current jargon, and like many politicians, they provide "soundbites", but lack the necessary experience and ability to inspire and lead. A role for staff representation on the selection panel is a must.
       Ofsted criticism of schools in "EPAs" would be banned; it is pointless labelling schools in deprived areas as "failing", when teachers are working hard, but hindered by administration-overload, weak leadership and under-funding.
       "Meaningful answers" can only be provided by the experts. Lack of trust in teachers explains most of the wrong-headed nonsense spoken by politicians about education. This was epitomised, not  only by Gove`s tenure at the DfE, but by the shadow education secretary only a few years ago suggesting all teachers take an oath to demonstrate their commitment to the profession! 

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