David Blackburn

At last, a “brazenly elitist” approach to teacher recruitment

At last, a “brazenly elitist” approach to teacher recruitment
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The next target for the Tories’ policy blitz is teacher recruitment. Cameron will pledge a “brazenly elitist” system with considerable incentives to lure top graduates from law firms and banks and into state school classrooms.

What will this entail? Well, holders of degrees of less than a 2:2 will not receive funding for teacher training. Maths and science graduates with firsts or 2:1s from the 25 top universities will have their student loans paid off if they go into teaching; repayment will be staggered to encourage teachers to remain in the profession. The Tories will scrap graduate teaching programmes and replace them with on the job training, modelled on the hugely successful Teach First scheme.

Although continuing to accept graduates with 2:2s hardly smacks of the brazen elitism so reviled by Gordon Brown, talented graduates and dissatisfied bankers and lawyers may be persuaded to bring their talents and expertise to the state sector. Maths and science teachers are in short supply, so paying their debts is a sensible extension of the government’s £3,000 golden handshake. Teach First suggests that on the job training is perhaps more effective than an academic course and the practice should be extended. But above all, these policies restore the status of teaching among the professions; if realised, the savage truism that ‘those who can’t teach’ would no longer apply, and that can only improve standards and raise morale, which is apparently very low in inner city schools.

UPDATE: You can’t take it away from Ed Balls, he never dithers. Straight out of the blocks, Balls labelled the Tory teacher recruitment policy an “airbrushed re-announcement of existing policies”. Teach first and golden handshakes were introduced by the government and they are successful initiatives - why not extend them across the system whilst being increasingly selective?

Balls then made another little foray into the territory of class war: (these policies) “will do nothing to convince parents on modest and middle incomes, who already face a Tory squeeze, that the Conservatives are on their side.” That’s right; the class war has opened a new front in middle England. But there is nothing airbrushed or re-hashed about the Tories’ connecting the retention of excellent teachers and improving class discipline, something that has escaped Labour’s notice. Cameron is on the side of teachers and therefore by extension hard working families who want the best for their children. His speech contains this statement:

‘It’s time we tilted the scales back into the favour of teachers. That’s what we will do. We’re going to say to our teachers, if you want to search for and confiscate any item you think is dangerous or disruptive- you can. If you want to remove violent children from the classroom – you can. And if you want protection from false allegations of abuse that wreck lives and wreck careers – we’ll make sure you have it.

We will also give our schools the final say over expulsion. No ifs, no buts. With a new Conservative Government, there’ll be no doubt where the authority lies in our schools. Not with the troublemakers. Not with the pupils. One hundred percent with the teachers.’

UPDATE2: Iain Martin raises the excellent point that this policy would necessitate larger class sizes. Very possibly, but as Iain notes large classes taught by brilliant teachers are, in probability, preferable to small classes taught by poor teachers.

UPDATE3: Ha, ha, ha. It turns out that Cameron's Maths Czar, thinking man's crumpet Carol Vorderman, obtained a third. Just goes to show that Finals do not live up to their name. That said, I still think it's right that taxpayers should not fund people with third class degrees through teacher training.