I think one of the major issues, as said, is the poor quality of teachers. I genuinely believe that the following measures would significantly increase standards in the classroom;
- All school expenditure and teacher appointments to be decided by board of Governors. Scrap all LEAs.
- Raise the basic teacher's wage to £32,000
- Head of department to £50,000
- Head Master to £90,000
Re-aligning the pay of teachers with the other "great professions" of law and medicine would rapidly drive up teaching quality. Teaching pay has been neglected for far too long.
The pay increase would be done on one requirement: every teacher would have to re-apply for their job against any outsiders who also wanted to apply. The increase in teachers from the military, business, law, higher education and so on would probably be life changing to vast numbers of pupils. Outsiders would take a TeachFirst style, intensive preparatory course over the summer, before they started teaching.
It is indeed the case that a very sizeable number of all university graduates (but not all) who teach decide to do so because they feel it is an easy way out - they can't do anything else. I think it is awful that (like our politicians du jour) we have vast numbers of career teachers (and career politicians) who have no real world experience. They are also often too politicised and unionised.
The real damage of poor teaching is done to the kids they teach.
I would also want to introduce a tripartite schooling system, which divides off at age 14 (when most kids realise their potential) in to grammar schools, engineering/science/technical colleges and music/theatre/sporting colleges.
You will have a society with strong academics, vast numbers of well trained technicians/IT support staff/engineers/mechanics and performing artists.
Of course the Grauniad ooman rights brigade would disagree with me. I'm so sure it would work though. Thoughts?
As someone who trained as a teacher but didn't finish the course at least in part due to stress, I agree with every word of that.
However, one of the biggest problems we have in schools is with discipline.
We've managed to put kids on an absurdly lofty pedestal, where they can claim their 'human rights' in classrooms over any behaviour, and no disciplinary procedure really works until it's too late.
Think back to your school days and the punishments metered out:
-Being sent out of the class - you can't do this any more as the teacher has a responsibility to keep them in the room.
-Being taken outside by a teacher and shouted at - you can't be left alone with a child, and shouting is heavily discouraged.
-Detention - nowadays has to be approved of in advance by parents. Usually the parents don't, so the kids don't turn up.
-Being sent to do your work in an extraction room - they also have to be booked in advance - see how many kids turn up.
-Lines - deemed 'demoralising' nowadays.
-Confiscating offending property - the kids know you can't lay a finger on them, so they clutch onto it with all their might. If you prise it out of their fingers, it's 'assault' and you'll be in trouble.
You know what? You can't even use sarcasm any more. The only 'punishment' you can meter out is to move a kid to another location within the classroom, which makes the square-root of bugger-all difference.
So, what happens instead is that the teacher stands powerless at the front of the classroom, being taken to the cleaners by the kids in the lower tiers. If you're not academically strong, you'll be in classes like this and you won't be going anywhere.
The only real punishment a school has is exclusion, which has to be agreed with the local authority. These have increased, largely because there are no other effective punishments that can be metered out along the way.
And then there are the lessons. Ludicrously prescriptive due to 'child-centred learning', which deliberately avoids challenging the kids with new and different things. Also, rather than helping kids develop long attention spans, it caters for shorter ones, so no activity within a lesson can realistically last longer than 10 minutes. You have to include a 'starter' and a 'plenary' to make sure the kids know what they're going to learn, then what they have learnt, in every lesson. As a result, no matter how enthusiastic and passionate a teacher is about their subject these days, their lesson is prescribed from the top down for every waking minute. My best teachers were the ones who could effectively deliver a 45-minute lecture, and you'd have such rapt attention you'd never feel the need for other distractions. They would also 'rip up the rule book' and let the lesson flow. Tellingly, when I went back to my old school, all those teachers had retired early. You can't teach the way they did any more, which means that if I was a kid in school today, I wouldn't learn as much.
Then you're expected to deal with all the kids' problems. Cost-slashing under the Mandelson-PR'd banner of 'inclusion', Labour closed several special schools and PRUs, meaning that mainsteam education is expected to accommodate children with severe behavioural difficulties and learning disabilities alongside all the other kids, which slows lessons right down trying to cater for them.
Teachers just can't get on and 'teach', and the blame falls with four things:
-A dearth of responsibility within society in general, where discipline and respect aren't enforced at home and teachers are effectively expected to bring up the kids because the real parents can't be bothered.
-A constant churn of government 'initiatives', constantly changing and meddling with what kids and teachers are meant to be doing. Problem is, an education reform's effect won't truly be seen until the kids involve leave school, but governments always looking for re-election want to point to results NOW. As a result, education reforms overlap and have very little measurable effect. Also, in order to massage pass rates, kids aren't expected to do anything particularly challenging. The 'EBacc', which was proposed and written off as 'elitist', would have merely been a return to the curriculum everyone had to follow when I was at school back in the '90s.
-Teaching unions, who rarely have their own members interests at heart, and are more like far-Left pressure groups. The reason why there were so many strikes over the Tories education reforms recently were absolutely nothing to do with whether or not the reforms were a good thing, and everything to do with the fact they were introduced by the Tories. Labour repeatedly swung wrecking balls into the education system when they were in power, and the unions didn't respond at all, because it was Labour, and everything they do is OK. Also, the average teacher knows very little about politics, so the unions seek to indoctrinate them right from their recruitment. I remember whole seminars where we were told to unquestionably vote Labour as they would 'protect us', and the stifling political correctness that leaches through schools making white working-class boys feel worthless is all union-driven.
-OfStEd, whose criteria for judging the effectiveness of schools is laughable, and whose inspectors rarely if ever have any experience of education at all.
But above all, we really do need to reconfigure our school system around the German tripartite system (something we were originally going to do until the public schools kicked up a fuss on the planning committee as they saw them as a threat to their 'superiority'). At the moment you can only 'succeed' in a British school if you're academically or scientifically minded. Not everyone is, nor does the country need everyone to be, and to force everyone through this particular chip-cutter is farcical. We need scientific/technical and arts/humanities divisions at the very least. That way, the 11-plus (which I'd move up to 13, keeping the kids in more topic-based learning within Middle-schools catering for ages 9-13) wouldn't be seen as condemning half the kids to a life of underachievement, but rather helping them to focus their skills.
At the moment, though, we're on the edge of some serious difficulties. The lack of employment opportunities, the non-degrees, the overprovision of universities, the lack of discipline stretching into adulthood - they're coming back to bite us.
I don't think we've seen the worst of the societal ravages that are a knock-on effect of Labour's education 'reforms'.