Superteachers will degrade a noble art;Letter

20th March 1998 at 00:00
Michael Griffiths must have a restricted circle or restricted notions of excellence if everyone he knows who "reaches a certain level" wants to go into management ("Superteachers, super pay ... and super problems?", TES, March 6).

Our schools are staffed with thousands of unsung, miserably rewarded classroom heroines and heroes whose expertise has given the magic spark to hundreds, perhaps thousands, of students to pursue better lives.

Those who have sacrificed daily classroom creativity live with the sadness that their managerial influence, while promoting them in economic terms, is always indirect.

And do, say, doctors spend their careers trying to win "promotion" to the administration of NHS trusts? Does your high-street solicitor dream of being a "Nobel-laureate" solicitor? Teaching is a noble art in itself, not pre-management training.

Surely Spencer Brown, the history teacher from Sandown high school on the Isle of Wight quoted in the same issue, expresses a more deep-rooted professional belief in stating: "We see ourselves as equal and find anything that says otherwise hard to handle."

The award of super-teacher status to a tiny minority would literally de-grade the rest of the profession even further. On the practical level, no DIY assistant would suggest using a very small lever for raising a large mass.

If every entrant to the profession were able to advance to the old scale Estep 14, (say pound;30,000), as in some independent boys' schools, subject after step 9 to evidence of further study, successful initiatives, capacity for wider responsibilities, we would:

* provide a career motivation to learn, adapt and develop after the first nine years (instead of 31 missionary or disillusioned years on a maximum of pound;21,000!);

* build up genuine teams of equal professionals, with the older ones doing a fair share of administrative, planning and other common tasks;

* abolish the largely grace and favour system of posts of "responsibility";

* reduce teachers' dependency on the good or "super'' examples of practice that happen to be in temporary favour;

* provide a cross-union basis for the evolution of a teaching council to protect both professional ethics and conditions of work in the light of both current research and effective practice;

* steadily move the whole profession to a place in the economic and social scale that gained teachers more respect;

* attract a greater proportion of able and inventive graduates, ones capable of going beyond the current Ofsted teaching-by-numbers solution;

* make educational management more of an alternative career, with required qualifications.

The unrealistic burdens on heads and deputies would be reduced to their key functions of organising, planning and providing for the efficient operation of the school, including relationships with the local community. They would have the relief of knowing that the classroom teachers were all fully and independently responsible for their programmes to the ministry, supported, ideally, by national teams of advisers and trainers drawn partly from universities.

We could even envisage most teachers being active in subject associations and similar groups if headteachers were no longer obliged to require staff to "reasonably" attend a relentless series of meetings absurdly reinventing thousands of local wheels for what is supposed to be a single national vehicle for delivering excellence to all, irrespective of school or locality.

I do not see how the raising of the profession, and thus the nation's standards, can be achieved except by equalising upwards, as other countries have done.

If Mr Blunkett and his colleagues balk at the long-term cost, we will know that "education, education, education" was the cry of hollow men (and women).

ANTHONY SHORT. Head of English. The Sele School. Welwyn Road, Hertford

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