It's a depressing exercise, frankly. In some ways, it is almost more depressing than watching Labour's pathetic flailing about. I mean, we know that NuLabour are crap and intellectually bankrupt; we know that those fuckers are more interested in everyone being equally mediocre than allowing bright kids to shine: we expect them to propose stupid ideas and ludicrously illiberal bollocks.
With Cameron, it is rather more of a roller-coaster of emotions—one feels a bit like a manic-depressive who's stopped taking the Prozac. Because, you see, every now and again, the Tories come out with a good piece of rhetoric—such as a voucher system for schools—and then, in the next breath, they wheel out a colossal load of old knackers which makes you realise that they still haven't grasped the fundamentals.
As a case in point, Conservative education policy seems to be inspired by Swedish free schools and the voucher systems that have been tried there (since 1994) and in the US; similarly, the accompanying rhetoric is all about setting schools free, giving Head Teachers more power over their schools and other good things.
On the other hand, the Tories' actual proposals are arse—they are little more than tinkering at the edges.
"Yes, we will free schools," they cry. "But only in really poor areas!"
"Yes, parents and other private entities can start their own schools, but they will not be allowed to be both owner and operator of the schools and make a profit."
"Yes, we will give Head Teachers more control, but we'll maintain the Local Education Authorities."
"Yes, we will free up teachers to educate, but we'll keep the National Curriculum."
It's a hideous mish-mash of crap showing that Cameron doesn't understand the fundamental reasons why the free schools work: it isn't because they are free at the point of use—because they aren't—it is because they are free to set their own entry requirements, free to set their fees, free to discipline children as they wish, free to set differing salaries for their teachers, free to reward work well done as well as to punish those who are useless: in short, they are called "free schools" because they are free to compete in the marketplace of educational attainment.
With every fresh utterance, Cameron shows us ever more clearly that he doesn't understand this at all; he doesn't understand that it is the state provision of schooling that skews priorities so badly.
Cameron needs to abolish the LEAs—they take about one third of the entire schools budget and deliver... what? No one seems to know. They certainly do not add value to a child's education—remove them and free up the money for the schools.
Then comes the abolition of the National Pay Deal for teachers. It is insane that a teacher in the wilds of Yorkshire can command the same salary as a teacher in vastly more expensive areas. For the same reason, automatic pay rises based on length of service must be abolished. These measures would also allow Head Teachers to pay good teachers more money, thus providing incentives to be... well, a good teacher—and attract better calibre people into the profession.
Having done that, Cameron should introduce a voucher system and remove of catchment areas—this will allow parents to elect to get children into the school of their choice. In terms of pure electoral strategy, this would prove popular amongst the working class who cannot afford to buy large houses in nice neighbourhoods simply to get their child into the local Good School's catchment area.
The next crucial step is to allow schools to make a profit, and to be operated by anyone. There may need to be safeguards in place to stop rapacious property developers, etc., e.g. any school so transferred must be operated as a school.
Finally, the National Curriculum should be abolished—or, at the very least, slimmed down to include reading, writing and basic arithmetic only. (This would provide the impetus to start making inroads into the abolition of Examination Authorities—but we'll leave that particular topic for another post...)
All of these would free the provision of education from the dead hand of the state, and of the unions; schools would be forced to compete against each other for pupils, and they would be able to teach as they saw fit.
So, in summary, David Cameron and His Merry Men need to make schools more free and more responsive to the market. So, does today's announcement about better teaching—reproduced, and for some inexplicable reason, praised by Iain Dale—do that?
No, of course it fucking doesn't.
Nope, what David Cameron wants to do is to make it more difficult for people to get into teaching. Worse, he wants to base the suitability of potential teachers on the basis of how many pieces of paper they have to their names.
The result will be an even greater shortage of teachers than there currently is, and thus it will be even harder to sack bad teachers because there will be no one to replace them with, you fucking moron.
And besides, just as having ten billion A*s does not make you a good doctor, nor does having a 2:1 make you a good teacher. It's about more than academic prowess, for crying out loud.
Perhaps, at this point, I should hand over to the lovely Bella who—being a teacher—has some insights that the Massively-Foreheaded Cunt™ might care to take on board.
Anyway. This is all just to reiterate my point: restricting teacher training to people with good degrees will simply worsen the teacher shortage, because most academically successful people (‘best brains’) don’t want to become teachers. It’s an unattractive profession to people who value creativity, resourcefulness, and freedom to innovate. And even if the best brains did become teachers, there’s no guarantee they’d be good. Many academically gifted people have trouble communicating the subject of their expertise at a level that is accessible to schoolchildren anyway; and probably the core skill involved in teaching is being able to synthesise patiently, to simplify complex ideas, to keep what you’re saying on a level kids can understand and in a way they can tune into.
Finally, I will say this. I teach Latin. I am not an expert in the subject, nor do I have a degree in it, nor do I have the faintest clue where my American university degree would fall on the degree-class scale used in the UK. I do not have a teaching qualification. And yet every time I apply for a teaching position, the school falls all over itself to hire me and to pay me well above the going rate for my services. I can’t be the only teacher like that. David Cameron’s plans will, by and large, make it harder for people like me to get teaching jobs. And for what? So that a bunch of smarty-pants graduates with 2:2s or better can have a ‘high-prestige’ career.
Camerhoon, school is not about teachers. It’s about children. And anyone who wants to teach, and can demonstrate that they do it well, should be encouraged to do so, whether they have fancy papers to qualify them or not, and whether they have the biggest brain in Britain or just a mediocre brain that happens to be full of passion and love of learning and dedication to showing kids how amazing the world they live in is.
Quite—it's really worth reading the whole of the wife's post. And this is an attitude that I am sure that Miss Snuffleupagus would also embrace (memo to Cameron: she too is a teacher, and she too cares about the children. Perhaps you should try treading her blog, you fucking Hoon).
What gets my goat about this is that Cameron has pinched my line: I had a good education and, knowing what a good education looks like—as well as the benefits that it brings—I would like to ensure that everyone gets that chance.
Unfortunately, my fat-headed fellow OE and party leader completely misses the point—again. Call Me Dave keeps banging on about making teaching "unashamedly elitist": no, you fuckwit—we need to make education unashamedly elitist. What matters is the quality of the education, the quality of the children coming out—not the quality of the teachers going in.
And having a First in Biochemistry does not necessarily make you a good teacher. Look, you idiot, you even admit that yourself!
Everyone remembers a teacher that made a difference – who through sheer force of personality and infectious enthusiasm sparked an interest, instilled a love of learning and set a life on its course. And the evidence backs that up.
Yes! Do you see? Do you see, Dave? Those teachers made a difference "through sheer force of personality and infectious enthusiasm", not because they had a fucking 2:1 in Gobshite Studies.
For fuck's sake, you are a product of the private school system—a system which, unlike the state one, does not insist that teachers have any kind of teaching qualification: don't you think that there might be some sort of a link there?
Yes, there are other issues—private schools can set teachers' salaries, can set their fees, can (to a large extent) control their own curriculum, and a myriad other things—but encouraging those who want to teach, rather than merely taking those who can think of nothing better to do, is a big reason for the success of the private sector.
The steps that I laid out above would go a good long way towards ensuring that every child in this country can get, at the very least, a decent education—if not an excellent one.
All that your measures will achieve is a colossal shortage of teachers and more highly qualified cohorts of crap.