Sunday, 16 December 2012

The Best Way to Lose the Best

As Alistair Campbell commented on the radio, Mr Gove indeed has been a disaster, but then what recent education secretary hasn’t been?  None of them can handle the idea of leaving education to teachers; none of them can resist an initiative or two. And there may have been some good initiatives amongst the dross, but they are buried, buried deep inside the leagues tables, SATS, EBACs, Section 28 [my personal favourite], Ofsted and academies!

Payment by results! The question is, what’s the intention? To reward the best, to encourage the best, to dissuade the hopeless from applying to become teachers?  Or what? To demoralise, and keep teachers in their place?

Some of us are natural born teachers, and then we go on courses to become more expert and more informed. And generally we hardly go into this stressful, yet oh so very rewarding profession for the money.

But when the government introduced the idea of the “threshold”, I refused to put in for it. I wrote a letter to my head saying that I didn’t need financial inducements to teach to my best, and thus for several years, along with quite a few NUT members I languished with my overdraft while my colleagues went out to restaurants, and even on holiday.

The problem with the idea of payment by results is twofold:

1.     How do you measure the results, how can you compare teaching a child with a particular IQ, particular home circumstances, additional needs, or health, with another. Do you let all teachers have a go at the same set of kids so you can compare them? [Joke!] What allowances would you make for marriage, divorce, or illness with your teachers? Can you fairly compare teachers of five years with teachers of ten? What allowance can be made and measured for personality clicks and clashes? How to measure team work?

2.     What if a teacher conscientiously teaches to the best of their ability, but actually they are the Tim Henmans of the teaching world, and not the Andrew Murrays. Should they not all be allowed to teach, because inevitably some people will be better? Do they still not need to buy a house, get married, afford two children?

Occasionally I come across people in teaching who are totally unsuited to the job. Their fault for applying, or the employers for appointing them?  Whatever, there are mechanisms to get rid.

Payment by result would be an insult to our intelligence, and remove the main reason why ,any naturally talented teachers enter the profession. So Mr Gove, bring it on, and go down in history as the Bear of Little Brain who finished off the British Education System. 

Here's a picture of my daughter, Daisy [with her pal], getting her first-class honours degree. She comes from three generations of teachers. I have told her not to worry about the family tradition or her aptitude. And, in fact, she gave up being an HLTA after ten years at her high chool when it became an academy. 

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