Monday, January 18, 2010

Two steps forward, one step back

As I have pointed out a number of times, education is a bug-bear of mine. As such, I have been watching the massively-foreheaded Cameron's plans for this sector with some interest.

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.


googlecat said...

I do think the Cam & Ozzie™ show are quite clueless.

At a cinema near you RealCons Productions brings you, "Dude, What's My Policy".
Cam & Ozzie wake up after heavy partying and decide what to do today. Making it up as they go along, they plan to win the next election and save Britain from the nasty Brownshits.

johnny nunsuch said...

You sound surprised that boy dave can be so stupid.
Given his other pronouncements it was a racing certainty he'd screw this one up - he and the CONservative party are only marginally less useless then the NuLab party and don't get me on Corporal Clegg and the Dim Libs
None of em have got a fucking clue except how to rip off the taxpayer

Shaun Pilkington said...

I know it's the fake most depressing day of the year but really, I do despair?

I mean, what can we few sensible souls actually do? Yes, yes, you say vote LPUK but back in our FPTP oligarchy, hell will freeze over before you come near getting so much as a seat. Lab-Con is a, well, con, in that you get to use one stick to punish the other stick but in the end you get beaten with the stick that's left. So, what to do?

I'm a bit stumped, beyond, like you, expressing disdain at the reality denying, pro-belief weirdo clique that rule us while waiting for them to trigger a societally-disruptive catastrophe that opens a brief revolution (down, you stray Trots at the back! You had your chance!) window that challenges their rule!

Old Codger said...

Why expect Dave to understand anything in the real world. All he knows is school, university and politics.

He is a clone of Tone, but with much poorer Teflon and without the ability to convince most of the people most of the time.

He works from focus groups that, far from having a crystal ball, have very poor vision and cannot discern a trend until it is almost over.

God help us, I pray he can't be worse than Gordon.

Guthrum said...

Yea thats the first time I have heard my 2.2 qualify me for 'smartypants' I am so chuffed !

A few years ago with time on my hands, before being offered an overseas contract, I thought I would see if I could use my politics and history degree to do some teaching as an altenative.

The Education bods ripped my arm off because I had an 'A' Level in Maths and Statistics ! not interested in the History or Politics bit at all, just my bloody A level that I took when I was 18.

The rub was that I would have to be 'trained' as a teacher- this appeared to entail two years training in diversity shit at 2/6 a week.

Fortunately I was headhunted for a real job in Africa, and that was the end of that.

I would like to teach once I have retired (too late then) the best teacher I had was a chap called Clements, who was an eighty year old RE teacher, who had fought in the trenches of WW1

He would have been sacked now for not sticking to the curriculem. He did not teach comparative religion, he taught Morals,Ethics,Decency and Respect mostly from a personal perspective of having the shit shelled out him for eighteen months until he was wounded in early 1918.

He despised organised Religion as for the credulous,simple and power crazed.

As you can tell I still remember what he taught me- now he was a teacher of men, with not a qualification to his name.

Laurence said...

You can't help wondering if, at the end of Boys' Dinner, Cameron didn't line up his prune stones and go "tinker, tinker, tinker, tinker".

Anonymous said...

It is no use expecting Cameron to come up with sensible ideas, he has trouble with daft ideas. Someone above said "he only knows schools, university and politics", agree about the last but I am very dubious about the other two. From what I have seen he just does not understand education in any way. As for his "focus" groups they seem to be more stupid than he is.


Patrick said...

My late Father-in-law was a brilliant mathematician but was crap at explaining it. He described his oldest daughter (a maths teacher) as a lousy mathematician but a brilliant maths teacher. Who would you rather have teach your kids maths? I will still vote for callmeDave though - we have to get rid of the monocular snot gobbler before he causes even more damage

berenike said...

I worked as a temp in the "special admissions" department of the GTCS. Since there were moves afoot to require teachers in private schools to have GTCS registration, we had applications from peeople who'd gone into teaching by "non-standard" routes. I remember the friendly and polite letter, enthusing over the many talents and gifts of one candidate, written by his headmaster, the full and varied CV, the positive references - and the sneers of the other people in the team. Whole potatoes on shoulders, never mind chips. Of course, another problem was that he didn't have the required number of hours of pedagogical training, and was teaching history with a classics degree.

And the pettyfogging requirements - it wasn't entirely the fault of the folk assessing the applications, someone else drew up the requirements, and someone else could make trouble. But was it really necessary to make an Italian girl with an English primary teaching PGCE, produce certified translations of all the course transcripts from the master's she obtained in Italy?

it was rather soul-destroying. Possibly even worse than temping at the education department of the local authority. I moved with relief onto cleaning toilets.

Jesus Christ said...

Dave and Gove have to moderate their policies and use a dog whistle because if they used a fucking great foghorn the lefty cunts at the BBC and their friends at the Lefty Cuntpapers would slag them off even more intensely 24 hours a day on a TV near you. FFS get realpolitik! End of.

peter carter-fuck said...

I agree that funding for LEAs needs to be cut by approximately 100%. I disagree that the money should be spent on schools though. We are broke, and the state needs to spend less. Schools have more than enough money spunked on them as it is. Instead of blackboards, they have interactive electronic display units at £3 grand a pop. Complete waste of money, and don't get me started on giving the little bastards all their own fucking computers.

Anonymous said...

I think there is something to be said for a good education.

My American Girlfriend having read both this article and those of "Miss Snuffleupagus" about the general dumbing down and simplifying of our education system coined a simple phrase which I share :-

"You need to know how the world works in order to save it!"

Pay attention Mr Cameron!

monoi said...

Cameron's introduction to their education manifesto is quite illuminating.

In the 1st part, its all about how the state has gone too far in interfering in people's lives and making a mess of it.

So, in the 2nd part, he proposes more state intervention to sort it out!!

How long did it take them to come up with this crap?

I realise that brown has to be disposed of, not in a humane way if possible, but even the thought of more brown will not make me vote cameroon the buffoon.

Verity said...

Adam, quoting his drab American girlfriend, writes: "You need to know how the world works in order to save it!"

With an exclamation mark!

Who the hell asked her to save the world? As in, what leaders approached her for advice?

What about those of us who don't want to buy the world a Coke and sing in perfect harmoneee? Or weave "peace baskets"?

Those of us facing the reality of the world as it now is, after almost 15 years of communism and political thought fascism in Britain? And trust me, it would have been a whole lot more hazardous had George Bush not been President of the US while Tony Blair was coiling up the rope to his career.

It doesn't bear thinking of.

chris edwards said...

What makes us think Cameron is a tory, UKIP is the new party of the slightly left, good luck to them.

Adam said...

Kiss my drab arse.
Your grammar is fabulous for a ten year old.

Nobody approached her for advice.
We were discussing the general dumbing down and agreeing with DK's take on things.

It's called debate, you know, that thing where people discuss?

I'm English and my "Drab" American Girlfriend can't stand Coke and can't weave for shit although she does cook a mean cheesecake.

Don't sit there taking the piss out of where I choose to use an exclamation mark.
Starting a sentence with "And" immediately disqualifies you from lecturing.

If you had the intellectual intelligence to comprehend it you would have been able to grasp the fact that what she was saying was that we need to be able to read and write in order to understand rather than dumbing down our education system to suite those who cant string a sentence together.

Dont lecture me on the past fifteen years of crap, I know full well how crap it has been.
I am no fan.

As for the reality of the world, I served in the British Army for six years and I work for a Global company so I think I can handle it.

Anonymous said...

Hasn't the voucher system been tried already with nursery schools?

- Parents get vouchers from government to pay for a place at nursery

- Nurseries are private businesses

- Parents can choose to go to any nursery they like (they might have to top up on the voucher though)

- Nurseries can reject any child they like

- Nurseries are not heavily unionised and can employ whomever they like

...but most of them are crap.

So much for the free market.

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