Getting the right people to become teachers

by David Ashworth Freelance Education Consultant.

Reproduced from the Teaching Music website by kind permission of David Ashworth.
Many of you will have seen a recent news item on the BBC website Conservatives promise to make teaching 'elitist'

David Cameron says "We want to make it the noble profession"

No problem there – but then he goes on to say the Conservatives are promising to make teaching "brazenly elitist" by improving the quality of graduates entering the profession in England.  AND that there would be no financial help with training for those who failed to get at least a second-class university degree.

Now alarm bells start ringing. We all know of useless teachers with good degrees and many wonderful teachers who do not have any sort of degree. At a time when we are successfully implementing more flexible routes into music teaching, this is not what we want to hear.

It seems to me that Cameron et al have skimmed through the McKinsey report and not properly absorbed its important messages.

Yes, we do want to consider teachers as members of an elite — but an elite defined as  a select group of people with outstanding personal abilities, specialized training or experience, or other distinctive attributes which  render them especially fit to teach.  The level of degree qualification can only be a crude measure in this instance.

The McKinsey report is well worth reading. A longish but straightforward report with some clear key messages. And it does not shy away from presenting searching questions for those in the profession. They say teachers need to:

be aware of their own weaknesses ( being aware of what they do and the mindset underlying it)
gain a real understanding of specific best practices
be motivated to make the necessary changes

Effective teachers will posses a certain set of characteristics including a high overall level of literacy and numeracy, strong interpersonal and communications skills, a willingness to learn and the motivation to teach.

Absolutely – but there is more to this than a degree qualification. By all means let’s quality control those coming into teaching – but can we use more appropriate measures?

As Estelle Morris says, " If politicians really want to exercise influence in the classroom, they have to develop a much better understanding of the process of achieving change."

David was the Lead Consultant on Music and ICT for the National Association of Music Educators and now works for them as Project Leader on . He is also a Regional Subject adviser for the New Key Stage 3 National Curriculum for Music.