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:
- 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.
- A teacher that is “incompetent” in one school can be fine in another. I’ve seen that a few times.
- 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)
- 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.