Assistants are no replacement for teachers

Tes Editorial

I am sure that this will be one of many letters you will receive on the subject of teachers in the classroom and the role of the educator.

I have been involved in initial teacher training for about five years as a mentor in schools and as a lecturer in universities. As well as the high level of relevant subject specialist knowledge needed in all sectors of education is the graduate level of study in educational psychology, pedagogy, education theory, behaviour management, assessment and classroom management - to mention a few of the skills that qualified teacher status endows.

Research on classroom assistants indicates that under the direction of a skilled classroom teacher they enhance the educational opportunities in the classroom, and that they are a well-skilled and highly motivated group - certainly not the "mum's army" of the John Major era.

Having said this they are no replacement for the teacher and, as your columnist Mike Kent points out (Friday, November 23), a few lines of legislation will not make them so.

Making something legal does not make it just. I am concerned about the professionalism of teachers. Colleagues across Europe are appalled when I discuss the prescriptive curriculum, the "tickbox" mentality of ITT (note the change here from IT education to IT training), the testing regime and the approach to threshold.

I fear that the current legislation, which will focus even more power in the hands of the Education Secretary is just one more step in the de-professionalisation of the teaching profession.

It is no wonder that so many are leaving and, despite the increase in recruitment, that there is still a shortage. It is also no wonder that so many leave within three years as the enthusiasm and hope - the "I'm going to change the world" attitude - that I see in my students is killed off by the grinding machine of government education policy.

Paul Hopkins, lecturer in education, Open University, Milton Keynes p.g.hopkins@open.ac.uk

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