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Pedagogues, Minister, not posties

An open letter to Hugh Henry, Minister for Education

Dear Hugh, The ultimate criterion of the recently instituted chartered teacher programme expects that chartered teachers "articulate a personal, independent and critical stance in relation to contrasting perspectives on educational issues, policies and developments". Well, here we go.

It was with a growing sense of despair and alarm that I read your article on "teachers for excellence" in The TESS (December 8) and the review that you have commenced on the chartered teacher programme (December 1).

Regarding the former, you conclude by stating that we need to be clear about what has to be done "to ensure that we have Teachers for Excellence to deliver A Curriculum for Excellence". Well, let us be clear: teachers don't "deliver" a curriculum. We're not posties who deliver packages.

Who is advising you? Do they not read The TESS? On these very pages, Walter Humes wrote that "teachers have been affected by the... emphasis on consumerism, efficiency and output. This has... led to the proliferation of 'guidelines' and 'standards'... (which) lead to the deskilling and deprofessionalisation of teachers... they have become technicians, only concerned with 'how' questions and discouraged from asking 'why' questions"

(August 26, 2005).

A Curriculum for Excellence is in danger of becoming just another set of guidelines. You are seeking our support on "how" we can best implement these. What if we ask "why"? What if we have a different vision? If you truly believe that teachers are "the people who understand teaching and learning better than anyone else", then should you not listen to us?

Let us first tackle the "how" question. ACfE proposes four outcomes: successful learners, confident individuals, responsible citizens and effective contributors. There are many means by which to achieve this. Does ACfE have the structure to support such a variety of pedagogies?

And what of the "why" question? The authors of ACfE say they want to develop "values, understanding and capabilities". The obvious questions are: whose values and which capabilities?

What of the chartered teachers? Appar-ently, directors of education want more control over who becomes a chartered teacher and headteachers believe they should have "a more explicit leadership role".

This is a throwback to the past. McCrone was supposed to herald a new dawn of collegiality - what is collegial about telling teachers they can't seek to become chartered without local authority approval and about directing chartered teachers to undertake specific leadership duties?

Instead of imposing a solution, ask us "what are your problems?" Then, together, we seek our solutions. Minister, trust the teachers and ignore the voices who seek to direct and control. They are not the voices of the classroom.

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