Where true professionalism really lies

1st June 2007 at 01:00
I smiled as I read the headlines that private-school teachers are to work in state schools. This assumes teachers in the private sector are superior to their state-school colleagues. There is no evidence to support such a belief.

I am fortunate to have taught in three independents and three maintained schools. I transferred from being a deputy head in a private school to a state school at the start of this academic year. I can affirm that teaching standards in all three state schools have been far more effective than those in the three private schools. In my last private school, I was asked by the principal, "Is there anything that we do that is up-to-date?" I had to explain there wasn't.

State schools have robust systems to monitor and evaluate teaching and learning. The data gathered is used to consider how the quality of teaching can be developed. Teachers are encouraged constantly to seek improvement in their methods and consider the latest research. In private schools I have worked in, discussion of teaching methods has been frowned upon, lesson observations feared and discouraged, and there is the mistaken belief that teaching cannot be improved.

Teaching in the maintained sector continually improves as colleagues know that the best way to manage pupils' behaviour is to teach lessons that inspire even the most challenging pupils.

Independent-school teachers do not regularly face this challenge. As a result, there is rarely the catalyst to improve. Many teachers in the private sector would accept that they would not have the techniques or skills to survive in many comprehensives, let alone teach effectively. On the whole, state-school teachers are extremely committed professionals.

They are constantly exploring how their performance can be improved. If anything, most independent schools would benefit from borrowing state-school teachers.

Paul Ainsworth Waddington, Lincoln

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