From the archive - The status of the teacher

15th April 2011 at 01:00
8 January 1944: Boost salaries and set up institute to achieve parity with doctors and lawyers, says top head

The status of the teaching profession ought to be made equal to that of law or medicine, declared Mr HLO Flecker, headmaster of Christ's Hospital, in his presidential address to the annual general meeting of the Association of Headmasters. He advocated the setting up of an institute of education, an elected council of disciplinary powers, among the means to this end. The meeting was held on Tuesday and Wednesday at the London Council Hall, to which the association was welcomed by the chairman of the London County Council, Mr R Coppock.

Mr Flecker said the number of new teachers required was staggering. He was highly critical of the board's proposed scheme of emergency recruitment and training, saying that if this was the best that could be done, it was difficult to see how the school age could be raised to 15 by 1945. Moreover, it was too academic; the bulk of the training of these new teachers must be done in the schools.

Members of the Association of Headmasters were out-and-out supporters of the Education Bill. To make it effective, high priority in demobilisation should be given to the teachers in the forces. The status of the teachers must be enhanced. Salaries should be raised, relations between teachers and administrators should be defined, and an elected council - an institute of education, with disciplinary powers comparable with the General Medical Council - set up. When surveying the difficulties ahead, it was most improper to talk of "buildings and teachers": the order should be teachers, equipment and buildings.

One of the least satisfactory clauses in the bill was that dealing with the articles of government for schools. It was vital that the public should understand what the schools meant by the independence they claimed. It was for life that they were pleading. "Our schools," said Mr Flecker, "are living organisms, not names on a card index".

Concerning the necessity to decrease the size of the classes in primary schools, Mr Flecker spoke strongly. It would be better, he said, to postpone the raising of the school age in order to get down classes to 25; and even that was too large. Secondary education could no more be built on an understaffed primary system than could the universities on an understaffed secondary system.

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