Soundbite Policies

24 Jun

There have been some pie in the sky education policies floated over the past few years but this, from yesterday’s Telegraph, has to be up there with the worst.

I can only assume that either this is a spoof or a Minister flying the kite, for a policy that they never expect to come into being, just to generate some headlines?

According to the plans David Cameron is considering the idea of getting pensioners to come out of retirement to retrain as teachers.  I suppose given the Westminster Government’s drive towards unqualified teachers in the classroom we should at least be thankful that they want them to be trained.  Then again this will be fast-tracked training.  No doubt a diploma in teaching gained with the legitimacy of becoming an internet Lord via Ebay.

The Government, through their pay and pensions changes, are forcing teachers to have to work until 65/66/67+  The sad fact is most will get nowhere near that age.  They will be far too physically and mentally exhausted to do so.  We are seeing far too many individuals burn out with worryingly high levels of stress related mental health problems in the profession.  More and more young teachers are leaving after only a few years as they are driven out of a career they got into for all the right reasons by all the wrong ones.  Workload, lack of respect and accountability regimes based on challenge but no support.

The idea that a retired pensioner can undertake fast-track training and seamlessly slip into the role of a teacher is nothing short of ludicrous.  To fast track any individual into teaching is a huge ask given the pressures and unique skills it demands of its workforce.  To expect someone who has spent their entire working life in a different environment and who has come to the end of their professional career to take it on is nothing short of idiotic.

The very first years in teaching are very often the most difficult.  They are the years that pressure is potentially at its highest, undertaking a brand new challenge, while working towards full NQT status.  Workloads are at a maximum.  Are we really saying we feel it is possible for a pensioner to come in brand new and take that on having never taught before?

Don’t get me wrong.  I am not aiming to be ageist.  I am sure there will be a select, and small, group that can teach at that age, although I am not sure if there will be any who can do so without having previous classroom experience.  I have seen inspiring teachers of such an age myself.  However, these are few and far between.  Ask any teacher if they believe they can cope with the mental and physical aspects of teaching into their early sixties, let alone late sixties, and I would be surprised if many have confidence that they could.

Clearly this is a policy that have been dreamt up by someone who has had no teaching experience themselves.  We can but be thankful that education is devolved and this will not be happening here in Wales!


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