You don’t have to have a first to be an excellent teacher

8 Nov

8 November 2011

Voice has criticised plans to offer higher levels of bursaries to teachers with first-class degrees in certain subjects.

Commenting on reports of the Government’s teacher training plans, [the then] General Secretary Philip Parkin said:

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.”

Commenting on degree classifications in November 2010, former Voice National Chairman Andrew Broadhurst said:

“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.”

Do let us know your thoughts

Further information:

Voice’s official response to DfE consultation Training our next generation of outstanding teachers (July 2011)

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5 Responses to “You don’t have to have a first to be an excellent teacher”

  1. Joyce Watts 09. Nov, 2011 at 12:22 pm #

    All trainee teachers must show that they can handle disruptive/trouble-making pupils or they will not be employed etc. We, in the profession, know that this will come with confidence and experience which takes time as they settle into the job. So, they will spend more time in school whilst training and yes, this may help.

    Mr Gove has not mentioned what will be done with those who fall by the wayside or the cost to the training programme. He probably hasn’t thought that far ahead.

    However, in my experience of the younger NQTs facing their first class as ‘The Teacher’ is a daunting experience for most. In secondary schools they are not much older that their students and become an easy target for the less reputable.

    Mr G talks of giving them the sack if they do not cope – isn’t there something in the structure which says that the first option is to give help to anyone who has problems, or has that been done away with? He has said nothing about the teachers already in situe who cannot cope.

    I do agree with the, ‘now old fashioned’ start to the lesson – all my students had to stand and be quiet before I would speak to them – this created a calming effect, a respect for each other and what we were about to do. This was our school procedure when I first started to teach.

    All my students were told at the first lesson, what to expect from me and what I expected from them, and on this particular point it was that the length of time they kept me waiting would be added to the end of lesson. ( The result was to be last in the tuck shop line or the lunch line.)

    Motto – few rules rigorously applied breed respect. Perhaps Mr G would like me to tell him of more of my ‘tricks of the trade’. They worked, I had no problems. My reputation as the ‘old bat’ bothered me not and my naughties were the first to give me Christmas cards and, I also received cards thanking me for all I had done for them on my retirement. They had grown up by then, of course.

    I support all that was said in the blog, especially about quality of degree making the best teachers. This is just not true. Teaching comes from within and not everybody has the ability to impart their knowledge to young people. The need to understand young people is paramount.

    I had no qualifications at all when I sat the London University entrance exam, I was doing four O levels at a local college, and I did have people who believed in me including the principle of the college I had applied to. I taught mostly Maths and I sat maths O level at the same as my first students.

    I was not the only one who took that route. The key – I did understand children and young people through ‘hands on’ experience.

  2. Andrew Broadhurst 11. Nov, 2011 at 8:57 am #

    I stand by everything I said back then, though the 48 students opting for Physics last year was beaten by the 60 who opted to do it this year!

    • Ankit 20. Apr, 2012 at 6:55 am #

      How do you feel about a very shy, introverted student attempting to get the same sort of information from a teacher as an open and outgoing one? I myself am not a very good speaker, and am very introverted to say the least. In fact, I have some major social phobias which have led me to skipping classes altogether for fear of being called on. For some people this makes sense if you are unprepared, but I typically am up on all my work to the best of my abilities.

      Do you agree with how school systems function with normal test procedures? I find studying specifically for a test is rather self-defeating to actually learning something. If everything not on the test is thrown aside, and a person is really only studying for a good grade, then nothing is really be learned (and more importantly, retained).

    • Zule 20. Apr, 2012 at 6:55 am #

      I’m not sure if there’s a school-based team (consisting of the teacher, school counsellor, vice principal etc) but I’d meet with them and discuss the issue and how best to approach the issue. Perhaps the child needs to spend some time with the school counsellor. Also, maybe have a meeting with the parents and the child. Let the child know that you have their best interest at heart and that you want the child to be their best self. Together with the child, create a contract with consequences. If they do this, they get ___ but if they don’t do it, they have something taken away like computer/tv time. But the parents also need to have some responsibility/consequences as well. By creating a contract together with the child, their input/negotion should encourage them to follow it. Sounds airy-fairy but it just might help.

  3. See 20. Apr, 2012 at 8:32 pm #

    It should be nuocmedted in school records and as another commenter suggested, special needs just might be a better fit for that child. One of the problems facing educators are these particular instances. Who should get the attention? Every child deserves an equal amount of attention from the teacher, and every now and again its cool if one child needs additional attention on a specific matter. But when that teacher has to continuously provide extra attention to the same child over and over again, that child should be a teaching environment where they can get more one on one attention from a teacher. And a regular classroom is not it.

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