What to do with all those armchair educationalists?

Every non-teacher is suddenly an expert on what's best for schools. Let's put them to the test, says Michael Tidd – how about The Great British Teach-Off?
6th November 2020, 12:45pm


What to do with all those armchair educationalists?

Multiple People's Hands Raised, With Speech Bubbles Above Each Of Them

How delightful for schools to be singled out by the prime minister to remain open, while everything else closes. 

It's not so much the decision, but the fallout that causes the grief: everyone has an opinion, and seems to think that we need to hear it. Social media abounds with every pundit and armchair critic telling schools what we should and shouldn't do.

The problem, of course, is the age-old one: everyone went to school, so everyone thinks they could be a teacher. Perhaps they're right? But I certainly think we should have an opportunity to find out - and what better way to do that at this time of year than a TV show where someone gets voted off every week? 

Coronavirus: The Great British Teach-Off

The Great British Teach-Off should be a roaring success, with thousands of applicants. 

We can have Sir Michael Wilshaw as the non-nonsense, stern-looking know-it-all, to be quick with the criticism, Paul Hollywood-style, and then Mrs McCluskey, of Grange Hill fame, to take on the role of the gentler partner with a sharp edge. 

Accompanying them, we need two comic sorts, to comment on what's going on, and maybe lend a shoulder to cry on. I'd suggest Greg Davies in the first instance - if only because he has an understanding of the role, having previously described his own teaching experience as "a living hell"

Alongside him, we need someone who knows nothing about teaching at all. While I hear the cries calling for Mr Gove, I just don't think he's got the face for television. We need someone with reality show experience: perhaps Donald Trump might be available soon?

Then it's just the tasks to come up with. Here are my suggestions for the first episode.

The signature teach

For the signature teach, the judges would like the amateur teachers to produce 24 perfectly rounded pupils, with excellent knowledge of phase five phonics

Each amateur teacher will be given a random selection of five-year-old pupils to begin their work, and can use any strategy of their choosing to ensure that each pupil is a competent reader. 

The judges will be looking for a beaming finish, excellent use of alien words, and crisply pronounced phonemes. And, of course, there should be no soggy bottoms.

Technical challenge

For this task, the judges will ask for just a single lesson: the amateur teachers must simply teach a Year 5 class how to use a standard protractor. 

All the equipment they need will be provided beneath the traditional gingham towel: two slightly different sorts of protractor, including at least one where the lines have been scratched off over time; a class set of pencils - mostly quite blunt; and an interactive whiteboard screen, in desperate need of recalibration.

For future weeks, tasks will include teaching children to tell the time, to mix colours other than brown, and to change for PE without ending the lesson with an unclaimed pair of trousers.

The showstopper

This is the chance for the amateur educators to show off their style and pizazz. Of course, the watchwords of this round will be "making the learning fun" - as every commoner knows, this is the simple trick of teaching. 

Contestants will be provided with topics such as rocks and soil, subjunctive clauses or dividing fractions, and all they have to do is provide a whizzbang lesson ready to entertain and educate 30 pupils. Simple.

Twelve weeks of competition and the grand final leads to a prize for the best amateur teacher of the lot: a handmade card with their name misspelled, from a star pupil.

Michael Tidd is headteacher at East Preston Junior School in West Sussex. He tweets @MichaelT1979

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