This week’s guest post is from Gareth Lewis, author of This Education Blog, read the opinion of an expert with a wealth of experience in the field of education.
Nicky Morgan announced two things this week which have made me think long and hard. One of these is that tougher tests would be introduced into primary schools. The second is that there will be 'elite teachers' who will be encouraged into schools with weak results to help improve teaching and learning, largely in schools from inner city and coastal areas. In response to this I would like to add a few points.
Firstly and concerning tougher tests in primary schools, I am becoming increasingly concerned that testing is perceived as the right way to improve the outcomes for young children. For me, primary education is about encouraging the learner to explore education and their own learning, to develop skills and to learn how to learn so that they can achieve better grades in their next step of education. I don't have a problem with assessing their progress at relevant times but why make it tougher? This comes at a time when it is reported that more and more young children are complaining of stress and due to this the well-being of children is becoming a major concern. So why does current educational policy continue to drive the learners even harder? What are we actually trying to achieve? Could it be that young people are being used to make some political point at the expense of their well-being? I hope not!
Secondly, what about a band of 'elite teachers' being sent into schools to help that school become better. I have to admit that its sounds like a good idea. Really good teachers being encouraged to work at struggling schools for at least 3 years. Surely that has to help the staff? I hope so! A health warning about this idea is that those teachers don't just have to be good teachers, they have to have a proven ability to lead other teachers to become better and in a collegiate way. By this I mean to improve teaching by being supportive and having an open and constructive dialogue about aspects of teaching. By challenging and encouraging teachers to be better at their craft. By having empathy to different teachers and what will work to make them become better. I say this because these are some of the skills a good leader has, and it will be required in the first instance as teachers who are already working on the back foot may not welcome the 'elite' at first. They must have the ability to coach others because if they are only going to be around for 3 years they will need to ensure succession planning. It’s not enough to just be a good teacher in this situation. The 'elite' teachers need to bring something else to the table and embed quality teaching and to build future success long after they may have moved on.
This discussion about teachers finally brings me onto the Ebacc. 90% of young people have to complete this suite of qualifications for their GCSE's. Already Head Teachers are struggling to fill vacancies in these subjects to keep up with this requirement. As a thought therefore, I hope that there are enough 'elite' teachers in these subjects to be able to go to the schools who have poor results?