What's it like in your classroom?

10th March 2006 at 00:00
Are Bill Smith and his principal teacher colleagues right that secondary education is a "shambles" (page four)? There is a strong argument in their defence. After all, the national education debate - remember that? - helped spawn the current curriculum review and its attempt to find solutions to the disjointed, overloaded and narrowly subject-focused secondary curriculum. But this means yet more reform, more tinkering and probably more dissatisfaction from experienced staff whose grounding is largely in specific subject teaching.

Their lingering complaints, epitomised by the rounds of dissatisfaction at union spring conferences, have been festering since the Higher Still programme was introduced. The grand plan for coherent courses and assessment at different levels was never going to go entirely smoothly, and principal teachers have been at the sharp end of the changes. Now they feel undermined and unloved amid the clamour for faculty management.

But how bad is it? Do we believe universities when they say they have for many years been forced to carry out remedial work in first year because of students' weaknesses? Or is it that the nature of the student cohort has changed?

"Shambles" is putting it too strongly and condemns the positive work of many in the profession and the graft of students. But it is timely for at least part of the classroom workforce to state their case publicly and forcibly. We are happy to open our pages to any debate.

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