Partly Cloudy

Partly Cloudy

max temp: 16°C

min temp: 11°C

Search

Geoff Barton: Whatever politicians decide, we can still make a difference in the classroom

PUBLISHED: 11:43 19 February 2016 | UPDATED: 11:43 19 February 2016

Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt. Photo: PA Wire/Neil Hall

Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt. Photo: PA Wire/Neil Hall

Whenever I watch Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt on the news, I wonder who advises him to wear that NHS lapel badge that he always so proudly brandishes. He wears it with the smugness of a two-time winner of a Blue Peter badge.

Did some fresh-faced political adviser suggest that it would give him credibility with the public? Are we expected to look at the politician, note the badge, and subliminally reassure ourselves that the National Health Service is safe in his hands?

Or is it designed as a two-fingered gesture to the junior doctors to suggest that Mr Hunt, more than them, cares about Britain’s patients?

Whoever made the decision, it’s a symbol of how calculating our political system can seem. The badge is there as a symbol of some kind. It’s just that its actual meaning depends on who we are and what we are looking for. We tend to see what we want to see.

The appearance of the Health Secretary leads to a bigger political question. What are secretaries of state actually for? It is, when you think of it, an odd system. We place in charge of the big departments of government – health, defence, prisons – people who in general have had no experience of running such things. Indeed, often they have had no experience of running anything.

It’s why we have people overseeing education who have never marked a set of exercise books, planned a lesson, or earned their credentials doing a wet break duty on November.

And yet they make decisions about the kinds of qualifications young people should sit, the curriculum they should follow, even the set-texts they might study.

That still strikes me as remarkable.

The counter-argument is presumably that without these ‘outsiders’ at the helm, then health, defence, education and suchlike would be left to the mercy of the professions. We teachers, in other words, would make all our decisions based on overweening self-interest rather than the needs of our students and parents.

So it is we have Nicky Morgan as Education Secretary. She is a lawyer by background. Nick Gibb – once a chartered accountant – is Schools Minister.

Between them they wield a fair amount of clout over what happens in our schools. It’s probably, in truth, less clout than they imagine, because the reality of any school classroom is that it’s the teacher who makes the decisions.

Politicians can mandate a curriculum, introduce performance-related pay, and tinker endlessly with league tables and other performance measures. But ultimately what matters most is what any teacher on any given day with any class chooses to teach. It’s the people on the ground who matter – the teacher and their pupils.

And there’s still a surprising amount of freedom and creativity in every classroom.

Which is why I wish that our political leaders would see their role a bit more broadly. I wish they would see that the most important job they could perform is to talk up rather than talk down our education system. I wish they would see beyond the short-term parochial obsession with their own fleeting reforms and instead celebrate what matters most: getting more great graduates to choose to become teachers.

This, ultimately, is all that matters.

Teaching remains a noble, inspiring, rewarding profession. The truth is we need more great teachers, and we need them now.

The greatest sense of mission our political leaders should have is helping us to achieve that end, rather than firing off soundbites and polishing up more whacky wheezes.

Getting more great teachers into all our schools – now that would be a political legacy worthy of a badge.

0 comments

Welcome , please leave your message below.

Optional - JPG files only
Optional - MP3 files only
Optional - 3GP, AVI, MOV, MPG or WMV files
Comments

Please log in to leave a comment and share your views with other East Anglian Daily Times visitors.

We enable people to post comments with the aim of encouraging open debate.

Only people who register and sign up to our terms and conditions can post comments. These terms and conditions explain our house rules and legal guidelines.

Comments are not edited by East Anglian Daily Times staff prior to publication but may be automatically filtered.

If you have a complaint about a comment please contact us by clicking on the Report This Comment button next to the comment.

Not a member yet?

Register to create your own unique East Anglian Daily Times account for free.

Signing up is free, quick and easy and offers you the chance to add comments, personalise the site with local information picked just for you, and more.

Sign up now

Parents and teachers have hit out at Ofsted after a report downgraded their “brilliant” village primary school to ‘inadequate’.

More than £42m will be spent on new buildings and vehicles for the region’s ambulance service, after bosses voted to press ahead with two new schemes.

A bigamist’s second ‘wife’ has pledged to stand by him after he admitted ‘marrying’ her without divorcing his first wife.

Suffolk’s internationally renowned concert venue has pledged to scrap controversial carpark proposals if they cannot be achieved without harming the site’s natural beauty.

Health commissioners have given the go ahead for a £9.5million super-surgery in Ipswich – with more expected to follow.

Firefighters were called to a campervan blaze in Eye this afternoon.

Nick Clegg has claimed there will be an “industrial scale blame game” if Brexit “curdles and goes belly up”.

Most read

Great Days Out

cover

Click here to view
the Great Days Out
supplement

View

Eating Out in the Broads

cover

Click here to view
the Eating Out
supplement

View

Visit the Broads

cover

Click here to view
the Visit the Broads
supplement

View

Most commented

HOT JOBS

Show Job Lists

Newsletter Sign Up

Sign up to the following newsletters:

Sign up to receive our regular email newsletter
MyDate24 MyPhotos24