Call me Mr Forgettable

19th December 2003 at 00:00
Half the teachers in TES survey have no idea who current Education Secretary is. Biddy Passmore reports

Charles Clarke should not sit down to a feast of turkey and plum pudding next week. Instead, a slimming diet of humble pie with anonymous sauce is prescribed.

A survey of 500 primary and secondary teachers carried out for The TES has found that less than half (47 per cent) of those in England could name the Education Secretary. An equal number simply did not know who held the post, while 6 per cent named someone else. Touchingly, a couple of souls thought Estelle Morris was still in the job.

While nearly two-thirds of those over 50 could name Mr Clarke, only one in five under 30 could. His Welsh counterpart fared better. Jane Davidson was named by three in five Welsh teachers. But Wales is smaller and so was the sample.

Other leading figures in English education fared even worse than Mr Clarke.

Only one in nine teachers in England (11 per cent) could name the chief inspector of schools, David Bell, despite his high profile - and the fact that he is not Chris Woodhead. (Alas, 3 per cent thought he was.) Just 5 per cent could name the new chairman of the General Teaching Council for England (GTCE), John Beattie. And half of teachers say the council is a waste of time.

The telephone survey, conducted by FDS International Ltd earlier this month, covered 500 teachers in state schools in England and Wales, equally divided between primary and secondary.

Asked to rate people on the seven-point Office for Standards in Education scale from "excellent" to "very poor", the Education Secretary was rated "good "to "excellent" by only 17 per cent, while 33 per cent thought him "unsatisfactory" to "very poor". A further 33 per cent thought him merely "satisfactory".

The schools chief inspector fared even worse. Nearly half (48 per cent) thought him "less than satisfactory", while a quarter rated him "satisfactory".

But what does "satisfactory" mean, Mr Bell? According to new guidance to inspectors, "teaching that is generally satisfactory with little that is better merits a judgment of unsatisfactory owing to the lack of aspiration". So Mr Bell and Mr Clarke should go straight into special measures.

We did not ask teachers to name the Prime Minister (some things are best left undiscovered). But we did ask how they rated Tony Blair, only to find that nearly half (48 per cent) thought him "unsatisfactory" to "very poor".

On the performance of educational bodies, a picture of "central bad, local good" emerges. Teachers were especially scathing about the GTCE and Ofsted. Half thought Ofsted "unsatisfactory" to "very poor", and 47 per cent thought the same of the GTCE. But only 12 per cent thought the GTCE "good" to "excellent", giving it the lowest approval rating of any educational organisation.

The Department for Education and Skills fared relatively well (65 per cent saying "satisfactory or better") and so did the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority, with more than two in five teachers rating it "good" to "excellent".

Even more popular were local education authorities, considered "good" to "excellent" by nearly half (46 per cent) of teachers and "satisfactory" by most of the rest.

Overall favourites were unions, with 60 per cent of teachers rating their union "good or better". The vote of confidence in the Association of Teachers and Lecturers was striking: nearly three-quarters of 77 ATL members polled thought it provided a "good" to "excellent" service and none deemed it worse than "unsatisfactory".

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