One of the ploys the politicians have used against the teaching profession during the past few years has been to accuse them of being wild lunatics, espousing way-out ideologies and employing crackpot teaching methods. The notion is utterly laughable to anyone who has been into a single school, but in the politicians' How To Slag Off Teachers manual, it is firmly ensconced as tactic Number One.
There is much sport to be had portraying these people as gung-ho tearaways, pedagogical ramraiders, joyriding through the school yard in their souped-up 1974 Hillman Imps, ungratefully squandering their half per cent salary increase on silly Marxist tracts.
The truth is far removed. Her Majesty's Inspectorate's report on teaching reading concluded that 3 per cent of teachers used only phonics, and 5 per cent exclusively the so-called "real books" approach. "Most teachers and most pupils in most schools work hard," read the press release on another HMI report.
Unfortunately, many people do not have the chance to read such reports. Repeat the big lie often enough and it seeps into public consciousness. Individual teachers do not have the time, resource or access to the mass media to refute the untruths. The prevailing view among parents is, "our children's school is fine, but from what I hear it must be hell elsewhere".
The public has been told by politicians that teachers are undermining the nation's curriculum (I thought they were the ones teaching it), that protests about tests for 14-year olds are being masterminded by a group of dangerous revolutionaries (presumably this includes those well-known urban guerrillas, the heads of independent schools), and that teacher trainers are wild trendies (the ones I know are more like Doris Day than Che Guevara).