What does “trust teachers” actually mean?

I see politicians and OFSTED often being implored to trust teachers but I’m not sure what people mean by this.

The government spend an awful lot of money on education so  the existence of some sort of monitoring or inspection regime is inevitable and reasonable. The problem is that saying “trust teachers” sometimes makes us sound to people outside teaching like we object to being inspected/observed on general principle.

Personally I think that OFSTED in its current form is not only pointless it is harmful to good teaching. I think it should be radically reformed but there definitely needs to be some sort of inspection regime and that body must have teeth. There are failing schools out there and any body inspecting schools must have the power to do something about it. The problem is that OFSTED does nothing to support struggling schools. It’s all stick.

I get the feeling that when people say “trust teachers” this is often means “stop talking about failing schools and failing teachers”. The problem with this is that Gove and Hunt wouldn’t be doing their jobs properly if they didn’t have some sort of plan for what should happen when schools or teachers are under-performing. I have no problem with them having and expressing ideas about this. The problem is that their ideas are stupid ideas, not that they are talking about the issue.

I think the amount of time politicians and OFSTED spend talking about failing schools and failing teachers is well out of proportion to the number of under-performing people and schools (as performance is now judged). That isn’t an issue of “trusting teachers”. It’s an issue of perspective and proportion. It’s an issue of politicians using education to chase votes and not trying to make education better.

That’s without talking about the fundamentally flawed way in which performance of teachers and schools are now judged.

I also object to the narrative that it is too difficult to sack incompetent teachers. I object to it on several levels:

  1. It simply isn’t true. I’ve seen incompetent teachers got rid of. I’ve also seen competent teachers put through capability and good rid of. I’ve been put through capability proceedings myself and nearly got the boot. I was lucky, my department were on my side. If they hadn’t been I would definitely have been sacked.
  2. A teacher that is “incompetent” in one school can be fine in another. I’ve seen that a few times.
  3. There isn’t much accountability when SLTs try to get rid of someone. When I was deemed incompetent and I was vindicated completely there was no negative consequence for my accusers. They just moved on to bullying someone else (who they did get rid of)
  4. It’s not very hard to make someone LOOK incompetent. Give them difficult classes and no support. Observations are subjective so you can make and justify whatever rating you want.

The bottom line is if a Headteacher wants to get rid of a teacher (competent or not) they can do so quite easily within a year if they are determined to do so. Obviously if they want to get rid of someone good they have to be unscrupulous and dishonest to do it but let’s not pretend it can’t be done.

I don’t implore politicians and OFSTED to “trust teachers”. I implore them to stop talking shite.


7 thoughts on “What does “trust teachers” actually mean?

  1. Clive Candy

    Totally with you on the narrative about sacking incompetent teachers. It makes my blood every time John Humphrys, Evan Davis (or whoever) quotes the statistic that “in the past 10 years only 5 (or however few) teachers have been struck off the register on the ground of incompetence” and nobody thinks to mention the fact that half the bloody workforce leaves within 3 years of entering the profession (or whatever) and that there’s no need to sack anyone because they walk or are pushed sometime before they ever get to the sacking stage and, no, they are not merely walking into other jobs elsewhere.

    It wouldn’t wind me up quite so much if Humphrys, Davis et al weren’t invariably quoting it at one of the teaching unions’ heads who should put them right but somehow never do!

    Clive Candy

  2. Geraldine Carter

    Thanks for this interesting blog.
    But who will run the inspection regime? Educationalists and ITTs have made a lasting impression on students and are able to run rings around Education Secretaries and Ofsted Chiefs – look at all the problems Michael Wilshaw is experiencing. They can continue to damage students’ education with insouciance and without consequence, it seems.
    At the primary end, a good start would be to insist that all children are literate and numerate before proceeding to secondary education. Rigorous early instruction and a simple check each year would ensure that children aren’t consigned to the scrap heap. However, the irrational and orchestrated kerfuffle over the little 10 minute Phonics Check at the end of Year 1 doesn’t bode well for any solution.

    1. bigkid4 Post author

      Michael Wilshaw is experiencing problems because he keeps saying foolish things that are virtually indefensible and alienating teachers.
      The current inspection regime doesn’t work and he has done nothing to change it for the better. i would argue he has done little besides damaging his credibility as an educator since taking the job.

      Educationalists and ITT are a mixed bag like anything else and they certainly aren’t to blame for all the ills of our education system. There are educationalists who have indisputably made education better. Sadly there are also those that have made it worse.

      It would make sense to me to have current teachers and Senior Leaders do the inspections. The government would cover the supply costs. It could be like jury service.

      The government are insisting that all children are literate, numerate and a lot more besides in the new curriculum. The problem is that the definitions of these things are woolly and flawed. Level 4 is deemed literate or numerate. Level 3 is deemed illiterate or innumerate.

      There’s no point in demanding pupils are literate or numerate without clear definitions of these terms.

      Personally I don’t object to the phonics check but I don’t see much point in it either.

  3. quietadventure

    I think you summed up the whole of the Department for Education / Ofsted / decision makers in a few simple phrases: their ideas are stupid ideas; It’s an issue of perspective and proportion; politicians using education to chase votes.
    And then, finally, you summarise how teachers feel about it all: stop talking shite!
    Very elegantly put.


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