Boardroom to classroom in six months? No way

1st May 2009 at 01:00

Recently, I read something that made me almost choke on my coffee. It was regarding this hare-brained idea to fast-track high-flying bankers into teaching after just six months.

The newspaper article went something like this: "Ministers claim the fast-track scheme is needed because the financial downturn has resulted in a deluge of applications from corporate high-flyers interested in moving to a more secure career in teaching." So chuffing what!

The PM and his boys and girls have come up with another tin-pot idea: these corporate high-flyers who contributed to the financial meltdown need jobs, so our crumbling country should just open the door to education. Are they having a laugh?

When will they realise that teaching is not an easy job that people do because there is nothing else, or until they can find a better job with more cash and less stress? Teaching is a vocation. Admittedly, some people are more drawn to teaching and better suited to it than others, but hopeless cases are soon found out and got rid of.

There is no way these high-flying corporate people will become good teachers in just six months. Make them train for three or four years - the time it takes BEd students. The Government insults the profession when it says these people can be fast-tracked into teaching.

Why don't they fast-track these high-flyers into medicine? Six months to become a GP, perhaps? Or to train as a policeman, so we can have more bobbies on our streets. And how on earth did the Government come up with six months? Why not seven or eight?

I became a teacher by completing a degree, then going down the PGCE route - and I thought that was rushed. The entire PGCE year was one of survival: we were all chucked in at the deep end and just had to get on with the whirlwind of assignments and work placements that were thrown at us.

My placements were brilliant. The mentors knew what they were doing, and I know that, if it weren't for their guidance and support, I would have crashed and failed the most important parts of the PGCE. You could do all the assignments on time and rush all the theoretical study, but if you cocked it up in front of the class, that was it: you'd fail.

On reflection, I'm happy that I completed the PGCE in a year, but I feel I hardly learnt a thing - there simply wasn't enough time.

Of course, passing the PGCE doesn't mean you are a teacher; there is the induction year to follow. I can see now why you reach qualified teacher status only after successfully completing this year - it weeds out the hopeless cases.

Christine Blower, acting general secretary of the NUT teachers' union, commented: "Teaching is not a profession that can be picked up at the drop of a hat. There needs to be time for reflection and the capacity to undertake in-depth, theoretical study."

Six months is simply not enough. So when will the rest of the country and Gordon Brown realise that teaching and education are the only things that can save the "Great" in Britain.

Doctors and the police are professions that react to people's problems, often patching them up after they've made uneducated decisions. This is why we should be pumping more money into education. Everyone knows this; it's no secret. It's why the police work so closely with schools, why the fire service visits schools to educate children about the dangers of fire, and why nurses even come to primary schools to teach sex education.

Yet, teaching is not taken seriously. I firmly believe that the importance of education and its image in our society have to change. In fairness, inroads have been made through initiatives and enthusiastic people trying to create a culture of lifelong learning, but this is still seen in our society as secondary to the speedy attainment of fame and wealth.

Education has to stand out as the way forward, and teaching must be given the profile it deserves. But this means our Government needs to grab hold of handfuls of this emergency cash it seems to have hidden under the country's collective mattress and throw it at schools - primary schools, to be precise. Invest more money in recruiting teachers so that class sizes will become smaller, resulting in a better education for our young people.

Teaching is one of the most important vocations in society. By letting corporate high-flyers slip into the job through the back door after six months, the Government shows it has zero respect for the profession. If these high-flyers wanted a more secure job, they should have gone into teaching in the first place and not been so greedy and gone after big bonuses in the City. Now, just because they are jobless and penniless, the Government is trying to push them into teaching. And who will suffer in the long run? I'm afraid it will be next generation.

This whole crazy scheme leads me to believe there should be a six-month fast-track scheme to become an MP. What a chuffing joke!

Rob Jefferies Teacher at Blaencaerau Junior School, Caerau, near Maesteg, and a children's author.

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