Magazine article Times Educational Supplement

The Three Ts of Success: Teachers, Teachers, Teachers

Magazine article Times Educational Supplement

The Three Ts of Success: Teachers, Teachers, Teachers

Article excerpt

At a gathering in London on Tuesday morning, the results of the latest Programme for International Student Assessment (Pisa) rankings were revealed to an excitable audience of educationalists (without, I'm fairly sure, a single practicing school leader or teacher - it was, after all, a weekday in term-time).

It was, journalistically, a little humdrum. No countries rocketed up the rankings, and none had a cataclysmic fall. England's schools' test scores were marginally down, but their league table places were stable in reading and maths and actually jumped slightly in science (see pages 18-21).

If one clear message could be taken away at all, it was the oft-repeated mantra from Pisa frontman Andreas Schleicher that the most successful countries educationally are those that invest the most in teaching.

In support of this line was an arresting graph that upon first inspection appeared to negate it. It suggested that in developed nations, it barely matters how much you invest in an education system: be you big spenders like Luxembourg or spendthrifts like Russia, the results can largely flatline.

But when challenged, Schleicher had a fascinating observation: it matters not how much money is thrown at the sector, but how much actually gets to the classroom to be spent on teachers, professional development and resources. There is a reason, he said, that the US spends big on education but does so badly in Pisa: "Only one out of every two dollars ends up in the classroom."

Pushed, he went further, admitting that not even capital spending on school buildings has much impact.

All of which allows us to neatly segue onto Knowsley, subject to an analysis on pages 12-15.

Scraping along the bottom of the local authority rankings for more than a decade, there's been no shortage of investment in this depressed Merseyside suburb. However, a big chunk of this was the hundreds of millions spent in the New Labour Era of Plenty on shiny new schools, often called "learning plazas" or some such nonsense, which had absolutely no effect. …

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