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Those who want to, teach

"Morning minister. How was your weekend?"

"Morning Edward. Very busy as usual. Yours?"

"Well, funnily enough, I've done a lot of thinking in the past couple of days. I'm afraid I'm finding this office job a little dull, so I thought I might go into primary school teaching. You know, the chance to make a difference. An opportunity to give something back."

"You surprise me, Edward. I can't say I'd want to be cooped up in a classroom trying to control the little buggers. Far easier to sit here in comfort and compile lots of reports and documents and statistics and things for teachers to do."

"I know, minister. But I just think teaching young people would be a fascinating job. Trouble is, I know you have to do a lot of intensive training. Apparently it's a pretty steep learning curve."

"Not these days. You just need a bit of charisma and an interest in something or other. Anyone can be a teacher. We've always thought so, and now we're proving it."

"You mean I won't need an intensive training course?"

"Not if you want to teach in an academy, no. You won't need qualified teacher status. And we want all schools to be academies, don't we, so it's quite a carrot. We just want inspiring people to go into schools. Talented historians, chefs and celebrities who want to work with children. I'm sure you'll remember Jamie's Dream School."

"But that was all a bit of a flop, wasn't it?"

"Didn't see the programme, Edward. Far too busy thinking up new rules and regulations for schools."

"But surely part of the pleasure of training to be a teacher is learning about the great educators of the past, having lively debates about education, discussing classroom techniques, learning how to construct a good lesson ..."

"Knowing a bit about Plato won't help you work a whiteboard, Edward. It's all dispensable. Philosophical waffle, most of it. Good teachers are born, not made."

"Then why did we have a national college for headteachers? Wasn't that to help prospective heads learn about management and leading?"

"Not an idea I supported, Edward. There's a school of thought that seems to think experience at the classroom coalface is necessary for managing a school. Can't think why. Headship is all about tracking results, gathering data, making sure your teachers aren't skiving and getting ready for an inspection."

"But if I don't have the benefit of learning from experienced practitioners, won't I make a muck of it when I get in the classroom?"

"First few years, probably. A few cohorts of children might suffer. But what's a few child casualties in the grander scheme of things?"

"But the curriculum ... I don't know anything about it. Surely I'll need a lot of lectures? Especially as this department seems to change the primary curriculum so often."

"Easy, Edward. Just a bit of reading, that's all. You don't need to think for yourself, because we've planned it all for you. If you go into infant teaching, or nursery, easier still. As long as you know what sand and water are you'll be fine."

"Perhaps I'll become a surgeon instead. Although that'll take years of training."

"Not any more. We're thinking of changing that. So long as you've got a bedside manner and a sharp knife."

Mike Kent is a retired primary school headteacher. Email:

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