Schools Week published an excellent article this week by Jane Manzone on the subject of Teacher Training.
Key points for me include the historical perspective Manzone provides. The neoliberal narrative that drives education requires an acceptance that what happened in the past requires condemnation and reform. There is another narrative that is rarely articulated which is that state education played a vital role in supporting communities through the trauma of deindustrialisation (Harry Burns’ work on health on the Clyde is very persuasive on the reality of this trauma – it’s isn’t deep fried mars bars that account for high mortality rates in Scotland). It wasn’t politicians or bankers who worked to make sense of the changes for young people living through the 70s. Across the country, teachers in state education worked to support pupils and families. Far from being celebrated, the work of these teachers is denigrated in the neoliberal narrative with phrases such as “bog-standard”; “failed”; “liberal experimentation”. These phrases have been repeated so often that they are now accepted without question.
Manzone’s article shows how not only is the work of teachers in the past dismissed but the theoretical developments captured and drawn from key texts have been devalued and sidelined. Teacher training is now school-based because politicians see teaching as a simple craft that requires apprenticeship rather than reflection. As well as removing a defining professional feature of teaching, this policy also requires experienced technicians to train the apprentices. In the small detail of this week’s National Audit Office report on teacher training is reference to statistics showing the large numbers of experienced teachers leaving the profession. This creates a siginificant problem with more teachers needing to be trained in schools where, because of the negative narrative driving change, there are insufficient staff to do the training. The prospect is of trainees not being trained but simply being put in front of classes to make up the shortfall.
Reform is creating a false narrative of failure feeding a culture that drives away experienced staff and fails to attract sufficient recruits. Those driving reform are genuinely convinced that the market is a better way to organise education. The problem for them is that market approaches have no track record of improving education so it is a policy based on ideological faith rather than evidence (now where have I heard that before?)