Lies my teacher training taught me

Olympic euphoria has subsided, normality has resumed. This sent my mind wandering back to a highly significant news story buried just before the Olympics. A teaching qualification is no longer necessary to teach in academies, which make up the majority of English secondary schools.

For those not involved in education, the reason for this reform may seem hard to decipher. The DfE spokesman says that their intention is to allow schools to hire ‘great’ professionals such as linguists, engineers and computer scientists, even though they do not hold Qualified Teacher Status (QTS). Critics in the teaching unions have claimed it is cost cutting dressed up as innovation.

As usual, the unions are way off the mark, but I have a hunch that the DfE are not telling the whole story either. Previous education ministers from both the Labour and the Conservative parties have had their reforms stymied by the vested interests of the enormous education establishment, dubbed ‘the Blob’ by former Chief Inspector of Schools Chris Woodhead. The Blob is a holy trinity, consisting of Local Authorities, teaching unions and university education departments. Although separate, all three parts of the trinity are dedicated to upholding the progressive orthodoxy of ‘child-centred’ learning. Thus, any education secretary who decides to push schools towards good discipline, rigour and academic excellence will run up against the sheer weight of this bloated leviathan which uses its unwieldy mass to suffocate any sort of controversial reform.

Although they are not ready to admit it, I suspect that the DfE’s real reason for taking away the mandatory status of QTS in Academies is to undermine the influence held by one part of the Blob, the teacher training providers. Practical, vocational training is essential for preparing a teacher for the classroom. I would never deny this. Unfortunately, practical, vocational training is the exact opposite of what the majority of PGCE courses provide.

The PGCE training that I received was a one sided indoctrination in the progressive ideology of ‘child-centred’ learning. At all turns during teacher training I was instructed that lessons should be relevant and fun, and ideas such as discipline, rigour and hard work never got a mention. Once I arrived in the classroom, the ‘training’ I had been given turned out to be worse than useless. In order to get my pupils to actually learn, I had to quickly forget everything I had been taught in teacher training. My lessons would have to be disciplined, teacher led and content heavy. However, university education departments stuffed with liberal pseudo-academics would never accept this, as it contradicts the child-centre ideology upon which they base their careers.

Despite the profound bias found in teacher training towards progressive education, its supporters defend teaching qualifications as serious professional requirements. Chris Keates of the NASUWT made the common argument in response to Gove’s reforms that the public should be “equally horrified” by an unqualified teacher, as they would be by an unqualified doctor or lawyer.

This hoary old canard is misguided on two points. Firstly, although some sort of preparatory training is necessary for teaching, it is nowhere near the six years of training that a doctor requires. Six weeks would probably be sufficient before a teacher starts learning on the job. Secondly, the training one does require for teaching is worryingly open to misplaced progressive dogmas. If doctors were instructed during their medical training that patient self esteem is more powerful than antibiotics, or that memorising Grey’s Anatomy is not really that important when you can look it up on Wikipedia, it would be on a par with the misplaced nonsense found in teacher training.

My suspicion is that the real intention behind Gove’s reform is to weaken the influence of teacher training providers. This in turn could help weaken the progressive education dogmas that cause so many state educated pupils to underachieve. If this really is Gove’s intention, it should be celebrated by every right-minded teacher who opposes the orthodoxies of groups work, card sorts and junk modelling. To show support for this measure, I am going to spend the next few months writing blog posts which catalogue the nonsense promoted during my PGCE: ‘Lies my teacher training taught me’.

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~ by goodbyemisterhunter on August 14, 2012.

4 Responses to “Lies my teacher training taught me”

  1. While my experience of a PGCE is not dissimilar to yours, it seems to me a long, long time ago that the universities were responsible for progressive dogmas at secondary level. The baton has long since been handed on to bloated teams of SMT and middle managers who aspire to be SMT. The thing about being indoctrinated on a PGCE course was that you could forget about it once you were in a school. Now it’s part of performance management, career progression, OFSTED and INSET. Whereas the university lecturer with daft ideas could be left behind, the assistant head with responsibility for teaching and learning (making you wonder what the other members of SMT are responsible for) is a continuing threat. Plans to hand more powers to headteachers to select the inexperienced can only make it worse.

  2. You are certainly right that universities are no longer the sole promoters of progressive dogma. However, I have a suspicion that those bloated SMTs who have also taken on the orthodoxies of child-centred learning will be less likely to employ the ‘untrained’, as they generally are in favour of what teachers learn during teacher training. Without wanting to be too optimistic, I hope that this change will be used best by those academies and free schools who are looking to offer a more traditional type of education. Such schools will benefit from employing ‘untrained’ teachers, from the independent sector, from abroad or from other professions like the armed forces. I understand what you have written in your blog about the benefits that teacher training qualifications have in ensuring that teachers have made a commitment to the job, but looking at how high the attrition rates are for NQTs (half quit within five years) I’m not sure whether a PGCE does actually have this effect. Perhaps if you sidestep months of being told that you are a facilitator not a teacher, skills are more important than knowledge, and misbehaviour is your fault, your chances of lasting the course will be higher.

  3. Interesting blogs. Hard to believe some of the stories you tell – though I do believe them, of course. The tragedy of posts like yours and Old Andrew’s is that the notion of education as a progressive force becomes harder to hold because of the stupidities put forward in the name of ‘progressive education’. It is completely unoriginal to say so, but education – pretty much all education apart from rank indoctrination – in inherently progressive and we should not forget that.

  4. No offense Gmh but aren’t you just another appropriately pretty-faced , photogenic academic who gets airtime for appearance rather than substance? I’d have thought you’d be right behind the superficial society, culture, government and policies that give your condescension a voice to go with that pretty mouth of yours. Ultimately education is never going to conform to a cookie cutter model as long as more than one category of person enters it, in the same way that banking, medicine, politics and the civil service will never change because the same category of degenerates (I.e. useless people) do enter them.

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