Friday, 1 April 2011

Teachers and teaching!

Let's get stuck into teaching shall we?
Those lazy, layabout moaning teachers, they get every Christmas, Easter and six weeks every summer - and they finish at 3 every day, that's not work!  A popular argument that gets trotted out every time a teacher makes a sensible comment about their working conditions.

So before I reveal my revolutionary vision of the future I want you to think about this;
1. You are where you are because somebody taught you
2. If you had worked harder in school, you probably would have achieved more in life
3. Nobody forced you to not pay attention at school
4. Without teachers, we would all be working at Macdonalds.
5. In twenty or thirty years time, your pension will be determined by the education that we provide for our children today.
6. In ten years time, the economy will be run by people who are in education now.
7. 70% of education happens at home!

So, we owe a lot to teachers and we should value them and their services more than we do currently.
Not every teacher is amazing and not every child will be capable of going to OxBridge but we are capable of being better than we currently are.
We can do a few things quite simply if we choose to but they will cost and we need to see that cost as an investment - not a sunken cost.  We could pay teachers more, We could employ more teachers to bring every class size down to 20, we could train teachers better both initially and ongoing, we could invest in technology to upgrade our teaching workplaces or we could stop all of that and cut back on all of the above to save money to prop up banks!

My vision of the future for education varies greatly from most politicians, which might not be a bad thing.
At the primary stage, it is vital that we have smaller class sizes to allow teachers to spend more time with each child. That personal time with a teacher is a very significant part of the childs development and is a springboard for the childs learning. Right up to the age of seven children are willing learners and will take as much information as we can throw at them. Unfortunately, schools do not have enough time to give individual attention. I would ensure that every primary class had a maximum of fifteen children in it and that every child had at least ten minutes of individual time every day.
I would also give schools much greater powers to force parents to attend the school. I don't just mean to come in and see the teacher, I mean to actually sit in a class with their child and observe the childs behaviour. The priority should be given to behaviour and ability to learn in the early years so that the information that is given to them, goes in and sticks. If the parent has to sit in the classroom (which will be very humiliating for some - tough), they should understand the effects that their child has on others. I would give Police powers to pull parents out of their workplace if parents refuse to comply. this will mean an impact on their income (it would be unpaid), their colleagues, their boss as well as their personal standing. I would allow employers to ask if the parent had to attend school for their childs discipline as part of the recruitment process.
I believe that everyone needs to see the first years of education as the most important of a childs life and give it the profile that it needs to flourish.
If we support schools in the way they deserve, then there is no reason why schools cannot still provide the extra education such as music, plays and sports. However, these should be built on children wanting and capable of being taught.

If more people reach the Secondary phase of their education with a basic understanding of the expectations of them, then teaching will actually become easier and the outcome better.
I would again allow schools to bring parents into class and ensure that discipline is the primary value that all pupils have.
But there is a bigger change that needs to take place and that revolves around technology.
I would ensure that all classrooms are fitted with CCTV cameras with parents being able to access that CCTV remotely, so they can see what is happening in lessons. If a child comes home and says, 'This happened today - the evidence should be there either way.
I would develop a system of 'remote teaching' using high speed Internet access and video conferencing so that pupils could receive their education closer to home and they can receive more top quality instruction. When I choose my A Level subjects, I actually wanted to do five, but as some overlapped and we could only select three, I had to forgo a two of my choices.  If those lessons were then delivered remotely, it would be much easier to slot those subjects into a rota.
This would also mean that teachers could specialise more e.g. if six schools each only had one language teacher, teaching different languages - all six could still offer six language options without great upheaval. You could also move between levels easier, so if you were going up a level, you could sit in on a couple of remote lessons first to see if they are right for you. Lessons could also be recorded and re-viewed at home with parents if children come across a problem.

My biggest change would be in the provision of 'non core' subjects such as hairdressing and survival skills. These lessons would need to be provided out of school hours - either on a weekend or an evening and attendance would be as a reward for discipline and hard work through the day i.e. if you misbehave or fail to hand in work, you don't get to do the practical subjects. This would require a big adjustment from schools in terms of timings and coverage but I think it would be worth the change.
There are some schools where 'life subjects' are seen as the soft option for children and teachers a like. it suits both parties, where teachers get rid of misbehaving children and those children get to do more fun things as a reward for misbehaving.
It is only by being disciplined and mature, that people will be prepared for work when they leave.

My final change would be to remove control of the education system from political control and genuinely give it back to teachers. In the same way that we trust the control of the banking system to the BoE, then we should trust education to the specialists that actually do the job (at the very least we should keep Michael Gove as far away from it as possible). I don't think that education should be a political game that we can mess around with, it is far too important to keep tinkering with.

In the same way as my NHS boards would have 5, 10 and 20 year targets, as defined by the general public, my School boards would operate in a similar way. This would set out overall objectives and standards with priorities and desires as well.

It might seem like a lot of change but education is always worth it - you just need to ask yourself this, 'If I was in school now, what would I like to do differently?' Thats where I started and look what I got.

No comments: