During the Blair government, Labour politician, Stephen Byers, had a clear idea of what the primary focus should be for the education system “it is standards, not structure”, yet was ignored by his party. A further 18 years on, under Conservative Party leadership with David Cameron at the helm, focus remains on changing school’s structures, not standards. But is this working?
Alex Beard, a member of Teach for All, a global organisation campaigning against inequality in education, insists “politicians have got it all wrong”. Mr Beard believes that politicians should be focusing on the quality of teaching in the classroom instead of wasting time on new school structures such as academies, free schools and university technical colleges. According to Mr Beard the government are focusing on headline grabbing changes “such as curriculum reform and alterations to the exam system- important issues, but each with very little effect where it counts: the quality of pupil learning”.
This view is also backed by John Hattie, an academic from New Zealand, who believes that to improve the education system, reformers should be concentrating on the differences within schools – not the differences between them.
Research carried out by John Hattie assessed the performance of 250 million pupils, has shown that the standard of teaching accounts for 40% of pupils education outcomes. Hattie also found that pupils being taught by a ‘bad teacher’ could learn only half a year worth of material, compared to pupils being taught by an ‘outstanding teacher’ are able to learn up to 1 and a half years’ worth of material in the same space of time.
This piece of research has led to suggestions that children should also be allowed to choose which classroom they wish to be a part of, in essence allowing them to choose who will teach them. Mr Beard, thinks it will mean that “every teacher will be pressed to be on the top of their game” in order to have pupils to teach. But can children be trusted to make such vital choices at such a young age and surely this will just create some kind of bizarre teacher popularity contest?! Chris Keates, general secretary of the NASUWT, believes “it’s not appropriate to place pupils in situations where they may not be able to appreciate fully for which they have no accountability and that could carry serious consequences if not undertaken effectively”.
Surely the answer is more investment in training for teachers, more coaching on what makes an ‘outstanding’ lesson and further encouragement and skill sharing. Positive training and development for teachers to improve standards should surely be the way forwards?
Should the government be focusing on the quality of teachers, not building new free schools or academies? Should children be able to choose who teaches them as Alex Beard states or is this just a ridiculous idea? What do you think? Have your say…