Standards or structure?

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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…

2 thoughts on “Standards or structure?

  1. I have recently finishes OTT and received QTS in England. I have done supply teaching for a few months now and prior to that I did voluntary observations to make sure I know what is expected of a teacher in England. From an “outsider’s” point of view I think the teachers are well qualified and prepared to teach but the problems start with the young people’s attitude towards learning. Unwillingness to learn and the teacher having to deal with behavior management instead of actually teaching the subject are bigger problems. In a regular comprehensive school some students just don’t seem to care. Should the students be made to take more responsibility for their actions? Should parents take more interest in their children’s education and behavior? As I have only seen the situation from a teacher’s point of view I don’t have a solution to offer but perhaps it’s not only the schools and teachers that need reforming but the general attitude towards education. Could the students perhaps be shown what is needed and expected on the job market to put their ideas of how important education is into better perspective? Should parents be held more accountable for their children’s actions just as teachers are held accountable for their students results?

  2. Why does anyone think that standards have not been part of the destructive mechanism of political bullying of teachers over the past 20 years. Teachers are forced to jump through increasingly ridiculous hoops masquerading as standards.
    As for the notion of allowing kids to choose their teacher. This is not equality, it is nastiness. The BGT generation will see an array of teaching styles and select a dog that balances balls on its head to teach PE. What drivel. Oh! but they are proper scientists so it must be true!
    Teaching needs to become a desirable career, not a vicious witch hunt where people are leaving after only a short time. Ideological manipulation of schools, Invented and enforced by non teachers, is the main problem for education in the UK.

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