Peter Hoskin

Gove gets covering fire

Gove gets covering fire
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Good teaching matters; that’s something we don't need to be taught. But how much does it matter? What are its measurable benefits? Today’s education select committee report collects some striking, if pre-existing, research into just those very questions, and it is worth reading for that reason. There is, for example, the IPPR’s suggestion that ‘having an “excellent” teacher compared with a “bad” one can mean an increase of more than one GCSE grade per pupil per subject.’ Or there’s the American study which found that the best teachers can ‘generate about $250,000 or more of additional earnings for their students over their lives in a single classroom of about 28 students.’ Sure, these figures have some uncertainty attached to them — but they capture a very real effect nonetheless.

And they also underpin the committee’s main recommendation, which is for the government to ‘develop proposals for a pay system which rewards those teachers who add the greatest value to pupil performance.’ This, as it happens, is something that Michael Gove has planned for some time, so no doubt he’ll appreciate the support. The committee may be Tory-led, but a bit of cross-party covering fire makes a change from stories about all the obstacles arrayed before the Education Secretary.

Not that the obstacles are absent in this case, of course. Devising a watertight system of performance-related pay won’t be easy, given that it will need to disentangle the natural aptitude of pupils from the ‘value’ conferred upon them by their teachers. And then there are the unions, always the unions. When Gove proposed this sort of thing back in February, the NUT and others immediately hit back, trying to cast doubt on its workability and objectivity. Expect this one to simmer along all the way to the next election, if not beyond.