`Bit by bit, education is changing for the better'

20th March 2015 at 00:00
We've placed our trust in teachers, prime minister David Cameron writes, and a College of Teaching will take this one step further

A good education starts with great teaching. It really is as simple as that. You can have all the best facilities and access to a wealth of learning, but without teachers who are enthusiastic, patient, passionate and inspiring, you don't have much.

That's why teachers have been absolutely central to our education reforms. Everything we have done in education - from the work started by former education secretary Michael Gove to the reforms that Nicky Morgan is seeing through - can be summed up in one word: ambition.

We want this to be a country where every single child is given the chance of a decent education; where there are no Jude the Obscures whose talents are crushed by circumstance; where no school is allowed to coast along or settle for second best while narrowing the horizons of the children who learn there.

We have set our sights high - and that has meant asking a lot of teachers, whether that is bedding in the new curriculum or teaching new qualifications. I know it hasn't always been easy or straightforward, and I am profoundly grateful for the work that thousands of teachers have put in to see through our plan on education.

It is thanks to Britain's teachers that encouraging - and in some cases extraordinary - progress has been made. A million more children are learning in good or outstanding schools. The number of pupils taking core academic GCSEs is up by 60 per cent thanks to the English Baccalaureate. Over 100,000 more six-year-olds are able to read. Three-quarters of teachers say behaviour in their schools is good or better than when this government came to office.

And this progress is not just seen in the statistics but felt in countless classrooms. One of my favourite things to do as prime minister is to go to schools in inner cities - ones that suffered for years from "the soft bigotry of low expectations" and which are now thriving.

There is a spirit of achievement in these schools, with children who are excited about learning, amazing classroom displays, discipline in the corridors and teachers who are visibly proud of what is happening. These schools are showing that an excellent education is not just the preserve of leafy suburbs or certain postcodes.

Bit by bit, our education system is changing for the better. This is down to the hard work of teachers - and I would argue that it is also down to a new approach to teaching.

It used to be that teachers were micromanaged and monitored, hemmed in by a system that treated them as operators, not professionals. It left teachers feeling demoralised, over-worked, cogs in a machine. But that's not why people came into the teaching profession. They didn't sign up to fill in forms or act as administrators. Teachers want to teach and inspire. Our whole approach is about trusting them to do so.

It's because we trust teachers and headteachers that we have tackled red tape, streamlined the paperwork laid on schools, and stripped out 21,000 pages of unnecessary guidance - three-quarters of it.

Trust is at the heart of the academy and free-school programmes - allowing great schools to take charge of their own destinies and make their own decisions based on what parents want and pupils need, rather than diktats from central or local government.

And it is trust and respect for teachers that has driven Nicky Morgan to tackle teachers' workloads. Last autumn she launched the Workload Challenge on the TES website. It received more than 44,000 responses - the biggest Department for Education consultation of its kind for a decade - and real changes have been made off the back of it.

So trust is at the heart of our approach to teaching; but one major part of that puzzle has been missing.

Other professions - such as law and medicine - have for years been represented by strong professional bodies, setting and maintaining high standards of professional practice, leading the way in development and research.

But for too long teaching was the Cinderella profession - every bit as deserving as the rest but too rarely seen or treated as the profession it is. We are determined to give teachers all the respect and recognition they deserve.

That's why I'm delighted to announce that we will be working with the Claim Your College consortium in support of its proposal to establish a brand new, teacher-led College of Teaching. Fully independent of government, this body will give teaching the sort of leadership that other professions have enjoyed for decades.

Most importantly, it will be run by teachers, for teachers. We will make a multi-million-pound grant to the new organisation to help it get off the ground, and do whatever else we can to back the college's development. Beyond that, we won't meddle.

This is about giving the profession the autonomy, and the responsibility, that it has long needed - because, quite simply, we see teachers as key allies in this critical drive to make Britain's education system world-class.

We are already well on our way to being a nation in which every child gets a decent education. Pupil by pupil, life chances are being changed. That is why I believe we need to keep on trusting teachers, keep on aiming for excellence and - for the sake of each and every child - see this plan through.

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