Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Layer 134 Education, Brown and Harman: Back to the Grindstone.

“Since the recession began, applications to train for teaching have shot up.”
BBC News Radio 4.


So this is now a clear case of potential teacher supply outstripping demand. And what does a stupid government do in this situation? Well, a truly stupid government, as represented by Jim Knight, creates an incentive for supply to go up even higher by saying it’s going to compress PGCE training courses from an already ludicrous 12 months to - wait for it - 6 months. That’s SIX months to learn about and become skilled in the arts and sciences of being a teacher.

What the government should be doing, of course, is fast-tracking redundant bankers with their fat kiss-offs into work experience as Teaching Assistants, to give them a substantial first-hand insight into why the majority of them SHOULD NOT, and CANNOT, become teachers.

That would serve two purposes. First, to disabuse them of what it’s actually like to be a teacher, and save them the time and expense of training to be a teacher. Secondly, to rid them of the idea that they have the intellectual, emotional and spiritual resources to be a teacher.

The very few who survived this sort of apprenticeship to a practicing classroom teacher for at least 6 months, before even embarking on training, would then

* be absolutely certain that they have the qualities of sensitivity, empathy, intuition, intellect, instinct, humility, emotional intelligence and resilience that you need to be a good teacher.
* be clear that they can function effectively in a professional setting as a member of a team of professionals, which of course you don’t necessarily need to do as a self-serving banker.
* be clear about the sort of self-discipline and self-sacrifice it takes to be a good teacher.

Having had such a workplace experience, any sensible applicant for teacher training would then demand that basic training should be effective and thorough, and conducted by highly skilled and experienced practitioners in both the college and their placement schools for a minimum of two years.


There’s talk about the government introducing a Masters degree in Teaching & Learning. The incredible thing is that we apparently don’t already have them. How can that be?

Could it be anything to do with the idiotic world of academia where subject specialisation is all, and “Teaching & Learning” is a bit . . . . . generalist? A bit like Primary teachers - regarded as the poor relations, generalists, etc. When what they are in terms of their professionalism is actually a specialist in child development and pedagogy.

No-one can actually teach a young child who has limited language and literacy without understanding what makes a child tick and how to motivate them to want to learn. Or at least that’s what Primary teachers used to be able to do before NuLabour got its hands on education and turned teachers into operatives in results factories, “delivering national strategies” and teaching to tests.

In Finland, the world’s best educational system has not only an all-graduate profession, it has an all-post graduate profession, with every teacher being trained to Masters level in pedagogy within 5 years of starting teaching.

As a teachers’ Union spokesman said on the radio - it’s completely mad to let semi-trained people loose on teaching children when they haven’t even begun to properly understand the basics of child development and pedagogy, let alone know how to organise up to 30 children within a small space so that each and every one of them has his and her specific educational and personal needs met, all day every day.

Let alone be able to offer them a daily experience of school that fosters a love of learning for its own sake, and allows every child to develop high levels of intellectual, social, emotional and spiritual intelligence.

Even experienced teachers find it difficult to do that - principally because these days they’re no longer trained in such skills. They’re fast-tracked into “delivering” literacy and numeracy strategies and “the curriculum”. In other words, preparing the children for tests and exams.

But of course this is what people like Jim Knight imagine teachers should be doing. Any old banker can surely be trained to stand in front of a class and fill children with imperial gallons of facts. Within six months. Can’t they?

That’s right, Jim lad. Hammer them with grammar, “wow words”, “connectives”(?), number facts, bits of science, history and the rest, plus some training on test techniques, and Gordon’s your uncle.


Here’s an excellent article, published on the Guardian website yesterday.


I can’t imagine Anthony Seldon wanting any semi-trained ex-bankers working in his school. Can’t imagine the fee-paying parents wanting them either. Maybe they’ll be fine for the inner-city schools. Eh, Jim?



Returning to Oxzen’s recent comments on Brown and Harriet Harman, I notice Jackie Ashley wrote some very important comments in yesterday’s paper, under the strapline,

Harman and Darling are the PM's most constant allies. He should let them speak out, rather than slap them down.

This is another sad indictment on Brown, who’s still failing to realise it’s time to admit what the rest of us already know about NuLabour’s complicity with the City and ‘globalisation’ this past decade, and understand that he’s now operating in a totally new epoch that requires totally different approaches to politics and economics.

(Harriet Harman) seems to be fighting her cause in cabinet, taking a more anti-City line than some other ministers, and refusing to have her equalities legislation nudged aside by Mandelson . . . Under great personal attack, she's got her head down and is plugging on regardless. You don't have to regard her as some kind of political titan to think this is cause for mild praise rather than contempt.

Personally I think it’s cause for enormous praise - both what Harriet said about the bankers not being allowed to keep their booty, and the fact that she’s still fighting for her equalities legislation, especially if Mandelson is against it - which he would be, wouldn’t he?

Unless people feel politicians, like the rest of the world, have been shocked into rethinking their assumptions, how can they feel confidence in future decisions? This is not about weakness. You can't base a new politics on denial.

The Tories, with all their hedge-fund chums and banking backers, are still far too smug in their finger pointing, but even their language is now altering. Labour, take note.

If (Brown) was able to admit that he had been too credulous about the banks but had learned some painful lessons, he would actually now be in a stronger position, far better able to get a hearing.

If he was able to see Harman and Darling as loyal people with minds of their own, rather than as potential renegades who need to be slapped down, then he would also be in a better place, and his administration would seem more coherent. Why pick fights with friends?

The mood of the country has changed, anyway. People want something different in truly dangerous, recessionary times. They want politicians to be less tribal, franker and more open about what went wrong. It's a time for rallying round, not for finding new divisions.

It's not quite true that everyone failed to see the expanding golden bubble for what it was. A few did. But millions were mesmerised and the consequences are going to be horrible. At this hard moment, there is no place for false pride. We are in it together. The prime minister must be less proud. He has, frankly, less to be proud about.

There were a couple of good comments on CIF after this:

From guardianreeda (on Mandelson, and someone‘s suggestion that he could take over as PM if Brown resigned)

For a completely unelected, completely unelectable multiply disgraced multi-million pound trousering liar to end up running the country courtesy of Labour is indeed a fitting way to draw this desperately disappointing period in our history to a close.

From ardennespate (on someone’s comment that Brown’s successor should fire Mandelson immediately)

... from a large cannon, off the highest turret of the Tower of London, in the general direction of Elephant and Castle. Without a crash helmet.



Meanwhile, Dr Rowan Williams, Archbishop of Canterbury, is getting involved. Quite right too. This whole economic and financial crisis is, in the end, about spiritual intelligence, ethics and morality, equality and purpose.

Archbishop delivers attack on impact of globalisation.
Time for everyone to look at own lifestyles, he says.

Blaming the greed of individual bankers for the financial crisis was too easy and people should instead be asking profound questions about how poorly regulated economies obsessed with ever-growing consumer choice have skewed the judgments of entire countries, the Archbishop of Canterbury has said.

Focusing on the greed of bankers had made people lose sight of the fact that "governments committed to deregulation and to the encouragement of speculation and high personal borrowing were elected repeatedly in Britain and the United States for a crucial couple of decades", he said. "Add to that the fact of warnings of some of the risks of poor (or no) regulation, and we are left with the question of what it was that skewed the judgment of a whole society as well as of financial professionals."

The archbishop . . . attacked "opportunistic" offshoring and outsourcing by large international companies. "The present situation favours economic agreements that give little or no leverage to workers and that have minimal reference to social, environmental or even local legal concerns.

"Learning how to use governmental antitrust legislation to break up the virtually monopolistic powers of large multinationals that have become cuckoos in the nest of a national economy would also be an essential part of a strategy designed to stop the slide from opportunistic outsourcing towards protectionism and monitoring or policing the chaotic flow of capital across boundaries," he said.

Plenty of good sense and things to chew on there. Excellent.



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