British ex Prime Minister Tony Blair once emphasised a crucial part of his political manifesto in a speech; “education, education, education.” So good he named it thrice. But twenty years on little has been achieved. Plenty of educational initiatives have been and gone taking a Kings ransom with them. Teachers have introduced change, reinforced it, refreshed it then watch it replaced by another scheme. But perhaps the greatest shock emerges with Mr Blair’s confession that he wished he had done more to remove teachers who were not up to the job.
The subject remains a thorny issue. Its recent resurrection by Michael Gove has teacher unions already kicking up dust saying his plans to remove failing teachers will be strongly opposed. Christine Blower, General Secretary of the National Union of Teachers, prefers that errant teachers should be given help and retrained as a prerequisite before any potential for the sack. A positive stance providing the resource is available to help. How many new teachers are tossed into the fray with little or no immediate support because none is available. But the problem also lies with some time served teachers. It was this group that gave Tony Blair the greatest regret; that he failed to raise the standards in schools.
The downside of all this change and recrimination is the number of children that have subsequently had a damaged education. Even Michael Gove’s present enthusiasm is tempered by the fact he proposes poor teachers should be removed after a term rather than a year. Still a long time to provide a class of children with substandard teaching.