Socialist Worker

It's politicians, not teachers, who need an MoT

by Nick Grant, NUT executive (pc)
Issue No. 2159

The government’s education white paper, published last week, shows just how out of touch ministers are from the real world of schools. Its ideas are neither new nor workable.

In the paper you will find a “student guarantee” and a “parent guarantee”, but there are few references to people who actually work in schools. Yet neither of these guarantees can be achieved without those who actually do the job.

In what has been dubbed a “five-yearly MoT”, the paper proposes renewable licences for qualified teachers.

“These proposals are nothing short of insulting,” says Christine Blower, general secretary of the NUT union. “The government itself says that teaching is the best it has ever been. To question teachers’ abilities will simply demoralise a profession which is already pushed to the limit.”

After three years of university, a year of teacher training, an induction year that must be passed, and constant performance management thereafter, the government already has in place excessive checks on teacher competence.

It is indeed an insult, and many headteachers will not welcome the intention to give them the power to recommend licence renewal – or not.

Most harmful of all is the implication that our schools are full of thousands of incompetent teachers who cannot be sacked. This is complete nonsense.

And if it were true, schools minister Ed Balls would be saying that after 12 years of a Labour government teachers are still not up to scratch.

The paper also says that schools will be graded using a “report card” system – an idea based on one used in the US. This will be even more arbitrary and misleading than the current league tables.

Finally, the paper encourages schools to work in cooperation. Yet many of the measures that help divide schools, staff and students – including Sats tests and league tables – will remain.

We should demand our own guarantees from Balls. These should include the abolition of Sats and league tables, class sizes limited by law to 24 students per teacher, and the return of the right of our unions to fully negotiate our pay and conditions.

A ‘No MoT for Teachers’ petition has been launched by Ealing NUT. For copies email [email protected]

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Article information

Tue 7 Jul 2009, 18:50 BST
Issue No. 2159
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