Teachers 'drowned' by wave of change;News;News amp; Opinion

12th November 1999 at 00:00
David Henderson reports from last weekend's EIS education conference in Edinburgh

THE push to raise standards and centralised prescription of the curriculum are impeding moves towards a new professionalism among teachers, Sally Brown, professor of education at Stirling University, told the Educational Institute of Scotland's biannual education conference. Teachers were "drowning" in extra burdens.

"Policy-makers appear to fail to look at the teacher's role as a whole and to prefer to take each new element in isolation and simply add it on. Teachers have little sense that officials understand how things are in classrooms and how the changes are to be implemented," Professor Brown said.

"It seems that in so far as they are simply the operatives carrying out the instructions of others teachers are neither treated as the traditional professional nor are they allowed to adopt the role of the new professional."

Addressing delegates at Moray House Institute in Edinburgh, Professor Brown challenged the Government's focus on improving and extending teachers' skills as the key issue for schools.

She stated: "The old rational curriculum planning model of specifying objectives, designing appropriate activities and evaluating outcomes is in full force, although with rather different terminology of planning and targets. The prescription is unmistakable. Unlike the rhetoric of the new community schools, this is certainly not a strategy designed to promote the new professionalism."

She urged ministers to start from where teachers are, rather than where they would like them to be. Classrooms were a complex place full of "delay, denial, interruption and social distraction". Teachers had to cope with unpredictability, immediacy and a plurality of demands. They had to focus on immediate rather than long-term goals.

It was no surprise that there was a "disjunction" between policy-makers, researchers and classroom teachers. Curriculum planning, which had been around for 40 years, did not reflect classroom practice.

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