8 November 2011
Voice has criticised plans to offer higher levels of bursaries to teachers with first-class degrees in certain subjects.
“You don’t have to have a first to be an excellent teacher. There are many excellent teachers out there with thirds and plenty of people with firsts who are brilliant academically but would be hopeless at passing on that knowledge to children or inspiring them to take interest in a subject.
“It’s the aptitude to be a teacher that is important here, along with a desire and ability to work with children.
“It would be wrong to exclude some potentially excellent and inspiring teachers on the basis of their degree classification.
“If degree classifications are so important, why are the free schools allowed to employ unqualified teachers? What is the logic of requiring some teachers to be qualified while allowing others to teach without qualifications?
“The proposals to offer different levels of bursaries according to class of degree and subject specialism are biased, devalue arts and humanities subject specialists and could kill off subjects such as music and RE.
“If the overall aim is to enhance quality, then the same incentive should be offered to all who meet the necessary standards.
“It is important to get the balance right with employing more specialist teachers in primary schools.
“Primary teachers are expected to be specialist in the full range of National Curriculum subjects and this isn’t possible for most people. Many schools already make good use of specialist skills in subjects such as ICT, art, music or PE either to teach across the school or to act as internal advisers and leaders. While science and maths are important, they are not the only subjects that require specialist knowledge.
“The Cambridge Primary Review actually recommended more specialists because of greater subject specialisms at primary level. However, primary school subject specialists do have to teach other subjects too. There is no reason why they should be paid or incentivised more than other teachers. They might add value to a school but so do other more generalist teachers.
“There is also a danger of over-specialising and over-qualifying at too early an age, both for pupils and teachers. I would be surprised if large numbers of first class graduates in science and maths would want to teach primary pupils.
“A different sort of rigour is required from the intellectual and academic rigour required to obtain a first class degree. For such a teacher to remain stimulated and engaged with the pupils they would have to have a considerable aptitude and desire to teach young pupils.
“Having too many specialists would change the nature of primary schools. It is important that young children feel safe and secure at school with teachers that know them well as individuals. There is an important social component and child protection component to primary schools and this could be in danger were too many specialists to be employed.”
“Thank you Mr. Gove for telling me I’m not clever enough to be a teacher. My third class degree in Physics seems to mean I’m just too thick. Never mind the 77% of my GCSE students who got an A* or an A last summer or the 48 students who opted for A level Physics.”
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