Why wave away benefits of experience

22nd August 2008 at 01:00

Michael Barber's "formula for great teaching", knowledge + thought + confidence (TES, August 8) is as sound as ever. Unfortunately the governments he advises ignore it. Knowledge of the flaws in previous centrally imposed systems of teaching and learning, go right back to the Victorian era. Payment by results, menacing inspections, rigid standards and teaching manuals are impatiently dismissed. In the atmosphere of permanent revolution that has gripped Whitehall over the last quarter century, questioning based on experience is condemned as "cynicism". And when things go wrong, with no apparent reflection on its mistakes, the education department moves on to the next initiative. The confidence of both teachers and learners drains away in the face of the insistent message that their results aren't good enough, satisfactory means poor, what they've been doing must change now - or else.

It is easy for advocates of ever more urgent educational innovation to wave away the concerns of experienced professionals and put their faith in undoubted "talent and vibrancy of newly qualified teachers".

But the dropout rate in the first few years of teaching should encourage pause for what Sir Michael Barber advocates: thought.

Andrew Connell, Appleby, Cumbria.

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