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Teachers or Facilitators - what do schools need?


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#16 Richard Drew

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Posted 24 June 2003 - 07:57 PM

But the Key Stage 3 strategy is designed to promote innovative and dynamic teaching techniques - encouraging good practice with things that all good teachers have always done, offering pacy, exciting lessons with clear objectives.

i quite agree.

add to this the increased content flexibility of curriculum 2000, the greater demand for understanding rather than knowledge in GCSE syllabi, the increasing acceptance of the theories of acelerated learning and different learning styles, teaching history through enquiry, and the push for 'thinking skills'.



in all of this the intrinsic key is the notion of the teacher as the 'facilitator of understanding and skills', surely the fundamental role of a teacher. all of this makes it more difficult to have 'facilitators of activity'.

oin the end teachers can only facilitate, the real question is whether we want to facilitate progression in pupils' understanding and skills or whether we want to facilitate pupils' activities.

i'm sure none of us are in any doubt as to which we would rather see.
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#17 Richard Drew

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Posted 24 June 2003 - 08:00 PM

Despite all this, I think John's points about his PGCE experience are very important.  I remember how my wife and I worked all hours during the PGCE to produce immaculate teaching files and accompanying documentation.  The 'pass all' mentality only dawned on me when we'd finished it.

absolutely. all of my 'vey good' assignments and essays counted for nothing at the end of it.

although a quick straw poll tells me that of 18 people who started my PGCE course 5 dropped out and i can think of at least 4 more who have packed it in already. what does this say about PCGE?
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#18 John

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Posted 25 June 2003 - 05:41 AM

I feel I must somewhat aplogise for my last post on the seminar - There are numerous postives that came from my year on the P.G.C.E, and I am still employed in education all be in different part of the world. Yet my it was in many ways my last post is an accurate reflection of the experience I had in Britain.
When I filled in the GTTR teaching form in the summer of 2001 it was because I did wish to impart my love of history to others, try at the very least to find a professional career, and so and so forth.

But - Who actually controls our education in Britain? What posible motivation do they have in devaluing the teaching profession? These are some of the wider arching questions I would like to post to people in this seminar. Personally I would like to know your view John S. Why is our country, as one of the richest nations in the world, finding so difficult to get money to our own education system? Again in response to my last post, I have also seen some excellent lessons in schools, well planned and 'professionally' dilvered. The talent is obviously there already, just waiting to be used.

On the profesional arguement, why should departments continually fill out audits and schemes to constantly monitor the attainment levels of the department and children? Granted in the current mindset of the government's grand plan for education these policies seem coherent, and in keeping with the higher echlons of New Labour's constant pressure of accountability, placed upon all elements of the public sector. Yet professionals in every other sphere of life don't have to answer in such a degrading manner to their employers. Their employers give the professionals respect for their qualifications and skill base. The reason why the governement has to keep tabs on school and assign, in my opinion, meaningless numbers and figures to education's performance isn't to help out teachers, it is give the education minister, whomever it maybe at the time, constant numerical jargon in select commitees and battles in the house.

"....bah....bah...education has improved just look at the figures, last year A-C pass rose by 5.6% across the 11-16 age groups, which compared with last year's increase is a net gain of 3.2%....bah...bah.."

If education is improving tell that to bottom set Year 11, who are about to be propelled into the real world with nothing. Again you all know those Year 11 kids, there the same kids that failed ten years ago, the same kids that failed 20 years ago. I personally don't believe that any are failures, but why are the same kids failing year in year out, if every year the education minister comes out and say "It's getting better..."

How does OFSTED even function? Who are OTSTED inspectors? If they are teachers, why are they not teaching? If they are not teachers, who gives them the right to judge a poor or a good lesson, based on a checklist. Why do schools know when an OFSTED inspection is going to take place? This surely defeats the purpose of an 'inspection.' It is this 'checklist' mentality which is destroying education. A lack of any real clear defined goals in the grand evolution of education which has created all these peusdo-statistical goals.
Why else do have examples of school heads opening exams before the test. So they can massage the results and try and get a higher ranking on the schools tables.

Who really pays good money for someone to sit in a room, formulating a hierrachy of schools, which does not take in socio-ecomonic back grounds or a host of other factors not taken into account in the tables. If we want to talk about labeling stigma to children, what about the stigma to teachers who are working at so called 'failing schools.' Well it is the government pays money to this man to sit in a room in Whitehall collecting meaningless data and labeling people failures. And their response to this data....Pay Related Performance. It sounds to ridiculous to even comprehend somedays.

Edited by John, 25 June 2003 - 06:57 AM.


#19 John Simkin

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Posted 25 June 2003 - 05:33 PM

But - Who actually controls our education in Britain? What posible motivation do they have in devaluing the teaching profession?  These are some of the wider arching questions I would like to post to people in this seminar. Personally I would like to know your view John S. Why is our country, as one of the richest nations in the world, finding so difficult to get money to our own education system? 


How does OFSTED even function?  Who are OTSTED inspectors?  If they are teachers, why are they not teaching?  If they are not teachers, who gives them the right to judge a poor or a good lesson, based on a checklist.

I will attempt to answer the questions you raise. You ask who are the Ofsted inspectors? I have to confess that I am a trained Ofsted inspector. I had no intention of taking up the post but wanted to find out about the politics of the training. The vast majority of the people trained with me were LEA subject advisers. There were a few lay people who were strong supporters of the government’s educational reforms that were taking place in the 1980s. They knew very little about education but I assumed they became Ofsted inspectors and went on to pass judgements on teachers and schools.

The main purpose of the training was to turn the advisers into inspectors. We were constantly told that our role would be to inspect not to advise. In fact, it was stressed several times that we must not engage in discussions with teachers we were inspecting.

All the advisers on the course were unhappy with this approach. However, they were in a difficult position. They had all been told by their LEA’s that they would lose their jobs if they did not qualify as Ofsted inspectors. The LEAs argued that they only way they could afford subject advisers was to become involved in the inspection process. Therefore, the advisers would have to spend a large percentage of their time carrying out Ofsted inspections. Of course, since Ofsted was introduced most history advisers have lost their jobs. There are very few history advisers left. In the last two LEAs that I taught in the LEA only had an humanities inspector. Both of these had never taught history. I have experienced Ofsted inspections in two schools. On both occasions the Ofsted inspector who watched my lessons had never taught a history lesson. They gave me good grades but the process was meaningless and their praise of my teaching was worthless.

John asks what is the government’s motivation in devaluing the teaching profession? I do not believe that it is an objective but I do think it is a consequence of its policy. To understand the motivation of the government we have to go back to reasons behind the educational reforms in the 1980s. No doubt one of the objectives was to raise educational standards. There was also another objective that the Conservative government was quite open about. That was to tackle what they considered to be the left-wing, intellectual establishment, that was running our educational system. This included the academics running PGCE courses, the HMIs and LEA advisers. This was one of the reasons for introducing the Ofsted inspection system and reforming PGCE courses.

At the time the Labour Party defended the educational system we had in Britain and rightly pointed out the flaws in the proposed reforms. However, once New Labour gained power they appeared to discover that Thatcher was right and they were wrong. The reforms introduced by the Conservatives were kept and later they were reinforced by similar measures. Why? Mainly because of their view of the floating voter. The people who had switched from voting Tory to Labour. They became the only people that mattered. There was no way of changing the minds of committed Conservatives and Socialists had no one else to vote for. Their focus groups of floating voters tended to hold views on education similar to the Conservatives. They were hostile to progressive education and felt that standards had been dropping since the 1960s. New Labour’s policies were developed to attract the reader of the Sun and the Daily Mail. In fact, up until very recently, the policy was a great success at gaining votes. For the last seven years Labour’s educational policy has been a great deal more popular than that of the Conservative Party. A poll published in today’s Guardian shows there has been a dramatic shift in this viewpoint. In the last 3 months the percentage claiming that education and schools have improved since 1997 has gone from +2 to –17. However, this is unlikely to see the government change its policies on inspection and league tables. In an attempt to gain the support of Daily Mail and Sun readers they are more likely to go in for some “teacher bashing”.

#20 John

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Posted 28 June 2003 - 01:29 AM

I do whole heartedly agree with you John, that devaluement of the teaching profession has been bi-product of the policies of the Conservative government in the 1980's and 1990's. I think lot of what is rotten about British society is bi-product of the Thatcher years. Across British society we seen this huge movement to a consumer mentality, neo-liberalism at its natural conclusion. Market values in areas of public life which are not naturally suited to accept the rules of free enterprise. The teacher and the teaching profession has undoubtedly become a pawn in this shift.
Teaching is an altruistic occupation and as such draws in candidates to the profession who wish to try excerise their altruistic tendancies, both professional and personal. Yet altruistic values are rarely a postive in a market economy. This has led to inbalence between the people who enter the profession and their motivation for doing so, and the realities that they face when they join the profession. Thatcherite polices have destroyed any notion of altruisism in British society. Quite clearly market forces do not apply to the teaching sector.
In a business environment, arguably, competiton will eventually produce the best price for the best service given optimum market conditions. Yet education is not a service industry. In the process of competiton producing this ideal state of best price for the service, businesses go bankrupt. Could we argue that failing schools are just going 'bankrupt' do to market forces?
They can no longer attract the necessary work force. Their bugets are continually cut, due to lower and lower test results. They can't get the consumers, as less and less parents don't want to send their children to that school. This is the consumer market, Thactherite ideology at its natural conclusion.
Yet even if we could say neo-liberal ideology will one day create this perfect balence between consumerism and service, in the process of obtaining its perfect equlibrium, an X number of businesses have have gone bankrupt. In education this means in 'real time' (a great polictian's piece of jargon) that 10 years, 20 years worth of school leavers have had their education ruined by this ideology.
Generally what will happen is that this perfect state of equilbrium is never achieved and some school leavers will always lose out. This is great for the government of Britain. I truly believe that it is in government's best interest to stop all members of society gaining an education. It becomes a simple challenge to their power.
Imagine if everyone left school with and A in history all fufilling the level 7 national curiculum level descriptor. "Has demonstrated they can detect bias." New Labour would be sunk and Cambell would be out of a job. The media would be sunk and out of job. The Sun and the Daily Mail would go bankrupt to match their mentality.
To try and bring my arguement full circle I think that the greatest weakness of the teaching profession is altruisism. An almost pious devotion to the mentality of teaching. Where teaching comes first, before creating a professional base. The idea that "If I don't work every hour God sends then my children are losing out."

This simply is untrue.

Infact this is a mentality that the government love, they adore this mentality, and they seek it out in altruistic personalities. They seek it out on P.G.C.E interviews, this is the modern face of teaching.
The saddest thing about my year in Britain, is that on my course which was about 20 or so strong, there was a real wealth of talent, highly motivated, energetic individuals. Who at the start of the year were noisy and buzzing with ideas. At the end most if not all were dejected and depressed. I think, with the exception of myself, that these people if correctly trainned could easily rejuvinated numerous history departments. Yet they weren't properly trainned. They like me, were given all the worst jobs to do, the worst groups to teach etc...So much so that I think that half have already quit. We know the statistics.
What the government doesn't want is strong body of teachers, (I don't really know anything about the politics between NUS or the NUWSS) who can challenge this hegmony. The government wants teachers exactly like the ones they are currently producing. People who want to change their careers to teaching, they gamble on the change and then are seemly suck in the new environment. I would bet thet most people who pass the P.G.C.E or the NQT year and then drop out, are people like myself who have no real responsibilities ie. children, morgage etc..
We can structure the P.G.C.E and control numbers of teachers. We can get a fair wage for job. To me it all it means it just dropping the pioty of teaching.
I am a teacher not a facillitator, I am facillitator not a teacher. It means nothing, it using the same consumer, service mentality which has got us into our current position. It also the perpetuates the jargon which is all throughout teaching.

Edited by John, 28 June 2003 - 04:44 AM.


#21 John Simkin

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Posted 14 August 2003 - 10:11 AM

It does not surprise me that the government seeks to reduce the costs of education by increasing the involvement of teaching assistants. The cost of training teachers has been a long-term problem for post-war governments. This has not been helped by the large drop out rate that increases the cost of training per teacher in the classroom. I know when I did my PGCE at Sussex University in 1977-78 a large percentage of the students on the course had no intention of becoming teachers. They were graduates of Sussex and their main concern was to find a way of living in Brighton. Many dropped out during the year but others completed the course and then found other things to do. The course director told me they were aware this was a problem and they did what they could before recruiting graduates for the course. However, as he pointed out, they had to fill their courses and when there was a shortage of applications, they had to accept people who they knew would never become teachers.

Governments do indeed waste of money training people who do not have a strong desire to become teachers. However, at the same time they have to consider the majority of people entering the profession who do want to become teachers. From my experience, the current one-year PGCE course is already too short. I know that in my first couple of years as a classroom teacher I was developing my skills and I suspect that my students suffered as a consequence of the limited training I had received. I could not help thinking back to my training as a printer. My professional body (trade union), insisted I needed a six year apprenticeship before I could be let loose on my own with a printing machine. Yet weeks after starting my PGCE course I was expected to teach students on my own. Can we really be surprised that the general public does not see teaching as a true profession.

Now the government is planning to introduce a scheme where graduates will be put into the classroom after a two week training programme. According to the government website: “Teach First is a unique business-led programme for top graduates. It combines two years paid teaching in challenging London secondary schools with cutting-edge education and management training from highly respected institutions in the UK. Participants receive structured networking and mentoring opportunities with executives from the world’s most prestigious organisations.”

http://www.teachfirst.org.uk/home

One of the attractions of the scheme is that for the first year teachers will be “paid between £17,000 and £20,000, depending on the school. During the second year you will be paid normal NQT salary with Inner London weighting. Currently this is a minimum of £21,000 and may increase.”

It is not clear when these student teachers will find time to look at issues like the history and philosophy of education or the other subjects that teachers need to address before entering the classroom. The message is “don’t think about it, just go in there and do it”. It is a recipe for producing teachers who will not think too deeply about what they are doing. For example, one likely development is a growth in the number of teachers who think that history is not a political subject.

The Teach First website is fascinating. It has an answer and question section. Here is one example.

Question 19: How can I control difficult pupils?
Answer: Our training programme will be customised to meet the needs of the schools in which we are placing Teach First participants. Our participants will receive a high level of support and professional growth throughout the school year from school-based tutors, Teach First coaches, business mentors, other Teach First participants and from our training provider. We are only placing in schools where the headteachers are committed to success, so participants’ concerns will be addressed. Additionally, the Teach First Summer Institute (the two week summer school in Canterbury) includes training designed to help you deal effectively with difficult situations.

Note the use of the term “business mentors”. This is constantly used throughout the website. New Labour obviously thinks the phrase will ring all the right bells with the students. To me it sends shivers down the spine.

No doubt next year the government will report that Teach First was a great success (the press release has probably already been written) and are therefore justified in rapidly expanding the system. Don’t worry folks, in years to come you will be able to boast to those young teachers: “I was one of those teachers who did a PGCE course at university”.




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