Genes, elites and paychecks

Alex Littleboy discusses the ongoing crisis in education

Teachers are being asked to work longer hours and terms.  Performance-related pay is obscuring the true aims of teaching. The curriculum is slowly becoming more and more restrictive. In a recent report, Poole was reported to be the worst performing council with regards to progress in writing in middle-school pupils. All in all, there is currently a crisis in education.

This is the face of the education system under Education Secretary Michael Gove. His unwillingness to discuss the issue of education with those who practice it every day in favour of blindly applying ideological policy is precisely what led to the strike by the NUT and NASUWT on 17th October. Free schools are being introduced, separate from the national curriculum and the standards that would otherwise be enforced – Pimlico Primary school, a free school in London, is infamous for employing a headteacher that had not yet finished her PGCE.

At a rally on 17th October, members of the NUT spoke out strongly against performance-related pay, which is to be introduced for teachers. One incident that was shared by speakers at the event was that of a student who had sat a GCSE a year early, receiving an A. However, said student was instructed by teachers to stay behind at lunchtimes to bring that grade up to an A*, under threat of detention, as the lower grade would impact that teacher’s pay.

This model of pay simply doesn’t work for education. It simply encourages teachers to push for higher grades at the expense of extracurricular activities and wider learning, which should be a core part of any child’s education. Furthermore, a teacher who works with gifted children is likely to be considered a good teacher, whereas a teacher who works hard to improve the grades of those pupils who do struggle will suffer under performance-related pay.

“Surely the work of education is to allow students and pupils to fulfill their potential, and not simply to define them by grades and academia?”

An adviser to Michael Gove, Dominic Cummings was recently reported to have written a thesis that claimed that teaching was not as relevant a factor in intelligence as genetics. Surely the work of education is to allow students and pupils to fulfill their potential, and not simply to define them by grades and academia? If we begin classing students as being successful or not before we give them the tools and education to make something of themselves, then that is what they will come to believe. Giving students the skills they need to overcome adversity and be successful should be the goal of education for all students, not just the privileged few who have “the right genes” or “the right upbringing.”

It is easy to see how education has reached such a critical moment. The politics of a free-market economy has begun to permeate education. We need to be vigilant, to ensure that no pupil or student is left behind. We can’t allow this refusal to engage with teachers and learn from their experiences to harm our children’s futures.

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