Finally, it’s good to see opposition to Gove’s madness being promulgated by, well, the Opposition. It is, of course, difficult for the Labour Party to talk meaningfully about things like academies and they seem to have given up counter-arguing when their record in office is trashed, so I understand why new opposition spokesman, Tristram Hunt, has focused rather narrowly on the unqualified teacher issue, albeit this has been around for well over a year (it was announced at the end of the school year 2012, always a good time for governments to reveal unpopular policies, doubly so that year as the Olympics festivities were just kicking off). Still, better late than never and this is likely to be a policy that will resonate with people who will think it mad that their children should be taught by unqualified staff.
This has made me acutely aware how vigilant we have to be about almost everything. Who would have thought a few years back that we’d be having a public debate about this? It was back in the late seventies that teaching was made a graduate profession and not long ago that there seemed to be cross-party agreement that teachers should acquire a second degree. This is the case in some Nordic countries, you know, those ones that do better than us in OECD tables!
I was never convinced, actually. My experience has been that some of the best teachers I’ve come across haven’t necessarily been top class academically and those with doctorates and the like haven’t always been brilliant teachers. It’s the sort of equivalence politicians like to make when they are trying to convince the public they’re serious about ‘standards’. But it’s definitely the case that everyone should go through a proper training course. It’s probably true that the full four-year BEd. route taken by primary teachers is better than the PGCE one followed by secondary teachers and I’m not entirely convinced about the ‘on the job’ schemes like Teach First and the old GTP (though I can think of at least one excellent example of the latter). However, as I said, who would have guessed this would have to be defended?
Hunt has also been trying to ‘mix it’ with Gove over the narrowness of the proposed new English Language GCSE and it is very amusing to see a role reversal, with Gove trying to micky take over Hunt’s public school education, posing as the champion of the oppressed masses!