This article was originally written for the Subrosa blog and appears here with permission.
The continuous political tinkering with the education system carries on a pace. There are good reasons for this of course, the current system no longer delivers the quality of output which employers require. Of course it may also be the case that the constant tinkering makes the problem worse. Change is expensive, constant change even more so
The latest major change being considered is that of teachers’ employment. The McCormac Review, carried out for the Scottish Government, has just been produced and interested and involved parties are beginning to consider the contents. I’m not going to go through the contents and the responses since it’s a large document, which covers many topics. Instead of the political machinations lets try a bit of free thinking alternatives.
Let’s cut to the chase shall we? Discuss and develop the following –
- Remove all incompetent, mediocre and ineffective teachers on an on going basis to protect the education system and it’s customers (parents and pupils/students). The fact that they are employed by Local Authorities should not mean they have a job for life, they should have a job as long as they are competent and fulfil the criteria required to appropriately educate the pupils/students in their care.
- Stop training teachers in numbers, which almost guarantee they will take a very long time to find jobs. The present system is wasteful of people and money; it is not the number of teachers being trained that is important it is the quality of the teacher trained.
- Make it much, much, much easier for teachers to retire earlier than the government retirement age. Teachers have valuable experience and skills which must be exploited for pupils/students sake, however teachers who are no longer as enthusiastic or feel they have contributed as much as they can should be provided with an option to retire without financial penalty at a time of their choosing.
- Contractually require retiring teachers to mentor four new teachers per year for at least two/three years following retirement. Providing best practice support and advice to new teachers based on years of success should help new teachers become more effective more quickly.
- Ensure that teachers teach by removing all admin and providing support for planning and reporting aimed at maximising teacher to pupil/student time. This could also be a benefit in trying to ensure that all pupils receive teacher time rather than just the top and bottom groups in each class.
- Provide a teacher career path, which is financially rewarding and provides seniority levels for good teachers throughout their career. This would ensure teachers had aims for their own improvement based on delivering continuous improvements in pupil/student progress and results.
- Employ teachers who have the skills and talents to engage pupils/students rather than academics. Academic brilliance does not necessarily ensure good teaching skills; all teachers should know and be passionate about their subject beyond curriculum requirements.
- Do not promote teachers away from teaching; becoming an administrator/manager requires a different skillset. However, do not employ administrators/managers who are not driven to support teachers and education and the delivery of the best outcomes for pupils/students/parents/teachers and the wider school community.
- Reduce the number of Council Education Department Staff to the absolute minimum and divert all savings to teaching. Teaching has to be about teacher – pupil/student face to face time, everything else is secondary and the system of support should be lean and appropriate.
- Remove, or substantially reduce, the time and money wasted in adhering to regulatory preparation, adherence and reporting. Risk Assessments for outings for example should be carried out by administrators and made available to all schools. Health and safety etc. should be paired back to reflect reasonableness.
- Rethink the school year and develop a model, which is more flexible, does not set aside specific blocks of time for holidays and reflects our societal needs. It’s absurd that holidays are still based on archaic agricultural needs and religious celebrations and have start and finish times which are neither flexible nor reflect parents’ holiday flexibility. The main winners of the present system are the holiday companies who exploit and profit from this situation.
- Take politics, religion and fads out of the curriculum of schools, colleges and universities. Large blocks of time should not be set aside to teach pupils/students politically, religious or fashionably motivated non-subjects which detract from job related subjects.
- Subjects being taught should be prioritised on the basis of job market needs. These should be supplemented by external people being brought in to work, in partnership, with Teachers to deliver knowledge on the world of work. These people should be from a wide range of market activities, the arts, entertainment etc. etc…
- An internal market should be created in which all schools, colleges and universities can share teaching resources and expertise. This would dramatically reduce “re-inventing the wheel” which currently takes place on a huge scale. This would allow resources to be developed and sold to other educational establishments and would also encourage teachers to share more widely whilst, at the same time, their schools and themselves would benefit financially.
- Stability within Scottish Education should be pursued with vigour to allow consolidation and a longer-term development to take place at a pace which is sensible but which genuinely restores Scottish education to the higher end of world good education league tables. The reduction in continuous change would reduce costs and provide more time to teachers to actually teach.
As a country we already recognise the basic need for good education and a skilled and knowledgeable population and workforce. The Scottish Enlightenment was achieved on the back of a major drive to educate as many people as possible and to also encourage debate and opinion throughout Scotland (although some areas did not take part).
The SNP have broken one mould, here is an opportunity for them to break another. Think out of the box. Leave the Westminster way of doing things, way way behind. I won’t be holding my breath however.