Company cheapies teach teenies

6th October 1995 at 01:00
From time to time an absolute belter of an idea scorches over the horizon and you just have to stand back and watch in breathless admiration.

Some of the best of these have emanated from that pointless quango, the Teacher Training Agency, home of the teaching-is-a-breeze hotline and the very expensive PR campaign to improve the image of teaching.

Even better than these two winning ideas was a proposal from the Teacher Tragicomedy Agency at the end of the summer, neatly headlined in this newspaper as "Company cast-offs to be lured into teaching". Companies would be encouraged, said a TTA spokesman, to offer redundant employees a course of teacher training as part of their redundancy package.

Now hold on a minute, sunshine. Let us hear repeated loud and clear, and at regular intervals, that little phrase "provided they are up to it". There are some absolutely first-rate teachers who have been recruited from industry, among the best in the profession.

However, they were right for the job and usually took the initiative themselves, because they were motivated. There must be no blanket offers to all and sundry.

Perhaps at this very moment the prospect of being sent on a teacher training course is being used as a corporate disciplinary tool.

"Ah come in Jenkins. I'm afraid we've not been very happy with your performance lately."

"I'm sorry Mr Ramsbottom, only it wasn't my fault we had to scrap all those spigots."

"Well it won't do Jenkins. As you know, we're about to be taken over by the Acme Spigot Company, so I was thinking . . ."

"No, not the teacher training course, please Mr Ramsbottom. I promise to improve, honestly. I'll sweep the yard. I'll clean the toilets. But not the teacher training course."

"It's too late Jenkins. You start at Swinesville College of Higher Education next Monday. Here's your first stick of chalk."

"No, please, no Mr Ramsbottom, just one more chance, please . . . Aaaaaaaaargh." Jenkins hurls himself head first out of tenth-floor window, as Mr Ramsbottom tries to hand him a stick of chalk embossed in gold with the words "TTA Redundancy Scheme".

Think of the interdisciplinary themes poor old Jenkins could have brought to the national curriculum. "Spigots across the curriculum", "The history of the spigot" (history), "Pitfalls in spigot manufacture" (technology), "How many spigots make a dozen?" (maths), "Spigot symbolism in the plays of Shakespeare" (English), "L'importance internationale du spigot anglais" (modern languages). What a loss to the profession.

If shunting redundant industrialists into teaching is such a smart move, then why not operate the scheme in the opposite direction? Clapped-out teachers could be offered a package to go into industry. Brilliant. This dredging of the dregs could be done by one of the TTA's twin bodies, the Teacher Draining Agency.

"Next please. Name?" "Mrs Bea Wildered."

"Problem?" "I get terribly confused about marking the register."

"Right. You're responsible for compiling the new privatised railway timetables. Next please. Name?" "Mr IM Knackered."

"Problem?" "Er, I'm hopelessly out of date, I haven't a clue about modern education and I haven't read a book for years."

"Good, good. Here's a list of educational quangos the Government will want to put you on. Next. Name?" "Ivor Goodlife".

"Problem?" "Well, the head says I just want money for old rope, and whenever I open my mouth I keep putting my foot in it."

"Excellent. Just what we're looking for. Water board chairman."

There is another imaginative possibility. According to George Walden MP, writing in the Evening Standard, the Government is currently deciding whether to put in its election manifesto a proposal to lower the school-leaving age. Apparently the right-wingers want to turn the clock back 50 years by kicking 14-year-olds out of school and sending them off into the workplace. This offers the possibility of a really neat solution to the impending teacher shortage. Useless employees come out of the factories to enter schools as teachers, and key stage 4 pupils are sent into them at the age of 14, a bit like blood transfusions. It could become another stunning Government policy. Fire the creeps, hire the cheaps.

"Right, Year 10, pay attention please. My name is Mr Ramsbottom, and I'm the managing director of the Acme Consolidated (1995) Spigot Company. Now today you're going to . . . Year 10, come on, pay attention, for goodness' sake. As I said, today you're all going to be making a lot of spigots."

"Do we have to?" "Sir, Darren Headbanger's nicked my spigot. . ."

"Why us?"...

"I'm not doing it if there's any coursework . . ."

"Please, sir, I've got a sick note, sir . . ."

Good old right-wingers. Just what Britain needs to conquer international markets in the hi-tech world of the 21st century. It sounds like another cracking educational wheeze for the Teacher Straining Agency.

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