Tories plan to make teaching 'elitist' profession

18 Jan 2010

The Conservatives' election manifesto will aim to make teaching 'an unashamedly elitist profession', according to Shadow Schools Secretary, Michael Gove.

 Speaking on the Today programme on BBC Radio 4, Mr Gove said a Conservative government would make it 'difficult to become a teacher', with no one with a degree class below a Lower Second (2:2) able to get state funding to  join the profession. 

 In a speech today the Tory leader, David Cameron, will announce that only students from an elite group of top universities will be eligible for a scheme to write-off their student debts if they train to teach. This will apply to tecahers with a 2:1 or better in science or maths from 'a good university'.

The idea of drawing up a list of 'good universities' was ridiculed by Professor Les Ebdon, Chair of the Million+ group of newer univeritsies. He said it showed 'amazing ignorance' of what happens in post-1992 univerities and of the quality assurance scheme that monitors standards in higher education.

Mr Gove said the aim was to emulate countries like Finland and South Korea where entry to the teaching profession is restricted to only the best graduates. 

The announcement raises a number of questions: 

1. Are graduates with the best academic degrees necessarily the best teachers - or are there other skills that are equally important?

2. If teachers continue to earn far less than doctors, dentists, and lawyers, will these changes alone really raise the prestige of the profession?

3. Although in an economic recession recruitment to teaching is relatively easy, will these higher barriers work when recruitment is harder?

4. Isn't the key to a prestige profession a degree of autonomy? Will the Tories stop telling teachers how to teach history, science or reading? 


User Comments

Mark Berthelemy - 20 Jan 2010

Making teaching an elitist profession

I agree that it should be hard to become and continue as a teacher. But using the artificial measure of the level of a degree would be counter-productive. Many good teachers are those who understand how hard it is to learn sometimes. Just because you've got a pass or a third class degree doesn't mean you can't teach children.

Instead, teaching should require the same level of measurable continuous professional development as required by the other professions. CPD that is focussed equally on the subject being taught and on the practice and theory of teaching and learning.

By making CPD a condition of continued registration (just as is the case with accountants, doctors and lawyers), we would:

a) improve teaching and learning
b) increase the status of teaching as a profession

To be honest, I can't see how, given our current expectations of school organisation and teaching methods it will be possible to increase pay levels to match the other professions. There are too many teachers to pay everyone at those levels, and not enough political willingness to make the required investment.

Perhaps, if teaching is to be an elitist profession, learning should also be an elitist activity - only available to those who demonstrate commitment to it? Now that really would be a challenge to get across to the public...

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