Magazine article Times Educational Supplement

A Licence to Lay Blame

Magazine article Times Educational Supplement

A Licence to Lay Blame

Article excerpt

An open letter to Tristram Hunt,

shadow education secretary:

You have made it clear that you will revive the idea floated during the last Labour government of regular "relicensing" of teachers. Shamefully, you are lining up behind education secretary for England Michael Gove's agenda of blaming teachers for the problems of education and society more generally. The root causes of these problems lie in cuts, underfunding and poverty. As a historian you should know that there is a clear correlation between social deprivation and educational performance.

If you took the time to talk to teachers, you might realise that the real issue that needs to be addressed is not the myth of "underperformance" but the fact that huge numbers of excellent teachers are leaving the profession because of the impossible demands we face. Instead, you are joining the blame game. Under Mr Gove's performance-related pay legislation, the threat is that we won't be awarded a pay rise. Under Mr Hunt, the threat will be that we won't even keep our jobs.

In Britain, politicians of all stripes have embraced the ethos of the US model of education over the past two decades. They support the privatisation of education in the form of academies and free schools, they share the same mania for testing and all choose to ignore the fact that class and poverty are fundamental factors in shaping attainment.

Professor Diane Ravitch, a historian of education and former US assistant secretary of education, explained in a 2010 article for The Wall Street Journal why she was opposed to blaming teachers for the problems of America's education system: "The current emphasis on accountability has created a punitive atmosphere in the schools. …

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