Oh my Gove!

Oh Gove. My “love” for thee is undying. First we had Free Schools, then we had scrapping of Educational Maintenance Allowance (EMA) and now we have your recent batch of ideas thought up on the back of a napkin.

For anyone who’s missed out on Michael Gove’s latest session of Bingo policy development then you’re in for a treat. It seems Gove has fallen for the East Asian model of relentless and soul-crushing work, work and yes you’ve guessed it, even more work, to raise standards not only in children but in teachers as well. Want to have your wage raised as a teacher? Then why not ruthlessly push your class to achieve higher arbitrary defined levels of learning and exam results with ‘lovely’ teacher performance related pay. But surely this can only improve standards you may say? Well, no. As someone who was training to be a Primary School Teacher, the job’s really not about the money. Evaluating performance in teaching is incredibly difficult, especially when presented with crude exams. There’s also next to no evidence that such reforms would increase standards.

If not performance related pay then why not extend the school hours and cut the holidays? After all, all those pesky ‘leftie teachers’ are only in 9-3, have ‘gold-plated’ pensions and have a luxurious 13 weeks off each year. Surely we need to increase the school hours and cut the holidays? Once again, nope. Though I doubt anyone would’ve bought it, but teachers certainly don’t work a 9-3 job. Come my second School Experience I was expected to teach 60% of lessons and find and put together the resources for each individual lesson. I was expected to produce an individual lesson plan for each lesson, provide a week plan for each topic and a medium term plan for each topic. I was then expected to evaluate each individual lesson and evaluate each week on placement. I would often be in school for 10-11 hours a day. You really expect a fully fledged teacher who already teaches 90% of the time to increase their working hours and retain productivity?

All this doesn’t even take into account the effect these changes will have on the children themselves. The OECD average for the number days spent in school over a year is 187, England currently has 190 compared to 244 in Indonesia, 220 in South Korea and 201 in Japan. However, the figures are far more interesting when taking into account the actual average number of hours per year of total compulsory instruction time. The OECD average is 774 with England at 893 hours but in contrast to Japan with 735 hours, South Korea has 612 and Indonesia has 464 hours. So no Gove, if East Asian education systems are successful, it’s not because of longer hours and fewer holidays, it’s because of fewer hours and higher quality teaching.

If you’re going to insist on longer hours and shorter holidays, you’re just going to alienate more children who are already fed up with the school system. Gove’s ideas are not based on evidence or any form of critical thought, and here on Things Can Only Get Better, we’re really fed up with political bullsh*t.


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