Outlawing politicians? Criminalising being a politician? Extraditing politicians? Money? Time? The list is endless. But for me, I want something created.
At the moment, the teaching profession is like a choir. Everyone is concerned with making music, or as we like to call it, education. Yet, some are singing intune. Some are singing out of tune. Some are singing the wrong version. Some are singing the old version. Some are singing a song that they made themself. Some are contemplating giving up singing. In truth, there’s a lot of singing, but it isn’t harmonious. That is the beauty of teaching. That is the problem with teaching. The problem is: when you have a song being sung all over the place, it is ripe for someone to come in with the hope of conducting it. Step forward, Mr Gove. He has come forward with a baton and is making / forcing us to sing to a song that was sung a long time ago. We, as a profession, let this happen. Our lack of consistency allowed this opportunity for someone to step forward and take the reins. Before people go all angry and think I am implying that all teachers are teaching badly – I am not. Far from it. I think the fact that we haven’t got a consistent direction or focus that is the cause of our problems.
We all know the ideologies of the current Government are based on monetary value and wealth. My grandmother worked for British Rail for several years; something I was and am very proud of. My mother works for the NHS and I work for the education system. It all makes me proud that we serve our society. We are about improving things and serving our community. Sadly, British Rail was privatised to make the Government more money. Now, we have a pretty awful state of affairs with the train system, and it looks set to get worse.
Now the ideologies of the Conservatives do not sit naturally with education. Education, at heart, is about improving the individual. However, with the Conservatives, education has become about value for money. We see this in performance related pay. We see this in regional pay brackets. We see this in the disbanding of the PGCE programme – I know I have been a critic of this, but I did not want it destroyed. The focus at the moment is on money. The focus isn’t on improving the individual. In the rhetoric used by them, they refer to standards and improving standards, but in reality it is about getting staff cheap. The recession was the best thing for the Conservatives as it gave a reason for all cuts. We have to do it or we will be in an even worse situation. We have to reduce the benefits given to disabled people or we will be in an even worse situation. The intelligent question is: where are they not making cuts?
That might seem like a big digression, but here is my point: we need a think tank. We need an organisation that is focused on improving education. An organisation that advises staff of how to teach things in the best possible way. An organisation that isn’t politically biased. An organisation that is full of contrasting people that challenge, argue and agree on the best song sheet for us to follow. An independent organisation that is not worried about scoring political votes, securing financial backing from large companies and pleasing old established members of an organisation. Basically, I want an organisation that conducts the teaching profession’s singing, making Mr Gove’s battle for the baton difficult and possibly impossible.
My think tank would be the ones who made the major changes and proposals for teaching moving teaching on. They would be responsible for:
· Subject content
· National strategies
· Spreading best practice
· Improving learning across the country
· Supporting underperforming schools
The Think Tank (now in capitals as I am starting to believe it could be real) would be the buffer that stops all the unnecessary rubbish that politicians force on schools. Oh dear, the newspapers have highlighted a bad thing. I know – let’s force it on to the teachers. They must teach our students how to hold mobile phones correctly. The Think Tank would be the advanced guard. They would stop the crazy ideas that the latest politician has. They would be our defence. Furthermore, it would give schools more of a direction and save people endlessly going to courses searching for the missing nugget that is going to solve all their problems. Schools spend loads of money on the latest text books, endorsed by an exam board, or a couple a hundred of pounds on a one day course that may or may not be useful. The Think Tank would have the ideas and the right direction. They wouldn’t be proscriptive as to the way you teach, but they would be the ‘go to guys /girls’ as to how to improve teaching.
I know that I have my head in the clouds, but a guy has got to dream, hasn’t he? Who would staff this? Teachers and head teachers. I am privileged to share time and conversations with some brilliant teachers and head teachers and through Twitter I have met more. The recent GCSE fiasco has been a call to arms for some and the formation of the ‘Heads’ Round Table’ is the seed for this idea. We need people who have the experience of the classroom mixed with the knowledge of the big picture. Some perfect examples would be Geoff Barton, Zoe Elder, Phil Beadle, David Didau and Lisa Jane Ashes and many more. Often we have too many people who have no experience of teaching telling us what to do. I have been taught something; therefore, I am an expert of teaching. Sadly, this isn’t really true. I have been a patient of a hospital, but I would not have the knowledge or the understanding to offer advice to doctors on how to operate or cure an illness. In fact, I have eaten lasagna several times, but I don’t think I am an expert on cooking them or telling people how to cook them.
Now, my Think Tank would be full of intelligent people who teach. They would know that you need several ways to crack a nut and they wouldn’t be proscriptive as to how things are taught. They would lead the way in ideas, methodology, and resources. You often hear how other countries have an education that is far superior to our own. Yes, they probably do, because it is organised better. Some of my colleagues have more organised classrooms than me because they have a system to organise things. They don’t have a mug with a collection of pens that students leave behind. They have pristine drawers where things are organised and placed in their right place. The pens know their jobs and their place and what to do. Maybe, people could stop all this talk of comparison with other countries, if we had this structure. Yes, it looks greener, but that could be because it looks more organised.
Furthermore, the Think Tank would put a halt to this constant changing of education. Every year there is a major change in the education system. An average child will see several changes in their life of education, yet we never really see the benefits or problems of those changes because something else eclipses it. Before we could see the benefits of the new English exam system, it has been scraped and changed to a terminal exam system. That too, in several years, will be scraped and replaced by something altogether different. The Think Tank would oversee the changes made and analyse the success of them based on data and results. Things wouldn’t be changed on a whim or a passing idea. Things would be changed based on knowledge, experience and based on discussion.
I know I am talking about something that is never going to happen and is quite impossible. In fact, we have something in place that could be our ‘Think Tank’: Ofsted. Ofsted is at the centre of teaching these days. They should, and rarely do, advise teachers what to do. Their current agenda is: you are not doing that right. Maybe, politicians should relinquish their hold on education and give it over to Ofsted. As if politicians are going to release their hold on the education system? It gives them their content for their speeches. What would they have left to talk about? Taxes! We all know that a politician will always try to include the words ‘education’, ‘raise’ and ‘standards’ if they want to get votes, because people ‘think’ it is not as good as it was in their day. However, it is good; it just needs a little reshaping.
Now, all together folks… sing!
Do you hear the people sing? Singing the song of angry men…
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P.S. These thoughts are all my own and, as far as I know, nobody else shares these views.