Spirit and imagination as vital as a top degree

19th September 1997 at 01:00
If the Teacher Training Agency is really planning to insist that graduates will not be permitted to train as teachers unless they have "at least" a 2:1 degree, it has demonstrated beyond doubt what little it knows about the true nature of classroom teaching.

A teacher is a person who has both a love of his or her subject and an enthusiasm for conveying that love to boys and girls. But experience proves beyond question that many of the most inspiring and dedicated and successful teachers have not been mere academics: they have all been able to offer other skills and interests to their pupils.

To tie aspiring teachers to mere academic achievement, rather than to be able to recognise their interests in sport, drama, chess, music, community service and so on, is to denigrate people of widely ranging sympathies and devalue their possible contribution to our schools.

The misguided proposal reported will, I predict, have three outcomes: it will drive excellent candidates away (people who would be good teachers, not just good academics); it will cause an unimaginable recruitment crisis and will drive down the quality of teaching, where interpersonal and expository skills are needed above all others.

Many will recall the good "gentlemen's degree" of 2:2 (sorry to seem genderist!) which implied someone of sound academic abilities, who had made good use of the opportunities offered at university to participate in sport, music, the union, drama, expeditions and other forms of social life, and whose outlook was wide-ranging and generally mature.

If I were offered a 2:1 candidate with no other interests and a 2:2 candidate (or even a third) with skills and enthusiasms that could invigorate and inspire my pupils, I think it most likely that the latter would have a significant edge, because I am seeking to give my pupils understanding, imagination and spirit, as well as academic stimulation.

I urge the TTA to draw back from the precipice towards which it is blindly striding, and to seek in its own leadership people who understand the classroom and know what it takes to be a good teacher.

Or perhaps the TTA can remind me which university supplied Christ with his 2:1?

IAN SMALL

Headmaster Bootham School York

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