Many years ago when the world was young and I was feeling depressed with my lot I wondered, as I occasionally do, whether I could cut it as a science teacher. I have had some school teaching experience, and teaching undergraduates was the most enjoyable part of my life as a graduate student (far more fun than the actual research). In the cause of such protopedagogical explorations I found the part of the sprawling so-you-wanna-be-a-teacher-innit website devoted to attracting people of mature years into the profession, and, in the interests of … er … science, filling in/out the form and sending it in. Little did I know I’d hit the jackpot, as I was
* someone with not only a degree in science, but a Ph.D. – when fewer than half of all science teachers appear to have science to degree level;
* someone who’d been around in the real world and knocked around a bit – rather than coming straight from college;
brave foolish brave enough to want to teach science in secondary schools.
Cue a deluge of glossy literature and requests for any information of when I could start, I could even train on the job, and so on and so forth in like fashion. This very nice young woman kept on phoning me up to ask if I was still interested, her calls turning by degrees into a kind of desperate pleading, as though she’d agree to have my babies if only I decided to make a change of career. I let her down gently by saying that Mrs Crox would never agree to her plans, but most importantly that despite my interest, financial constraints prevented me from making the leap. The fact is that people in mid-career have children, a mortgage and a pension plan to support, and would need considerably more remuneration than she was prepared to offer, no matter how high-minded the intentions. In other words, if she wanted me that badly, she’d have to pay me what I think I’m worth. I got no more calls after that.
I therefore read the plans of Mr Michael Gove, our Minister in charge of schools, with mixed feelings. Mr Gove plans to wrest the control of education from the left-leaning establishment which, in his view (and mine) has conspired, over the past few decades, to wreck not only the teaching of our children, but the status of schoolteaching as a profession. He plans to teach the teachers more on the job, in schools, taking training away from rarefied university courses. He also plans to
bribe incentivize reward bright students who want to go from college into high-priority subjects such as science with large(ish) cash bursaries.
Well, it’s a start.
In my view such bursaries are sticking plaster over a bedsore. If we really want to get more good teachers into the profession, we should
* sack the (relatively few) bad ones and pay the (very many) good ones at least three times what they earn at present;
* allow good teachers to earn more money by continuing to teach, rather than imposing a career ladder that links higher earnings with a move away from teaching and into management and paperwork (something that all committed teachers hate);
* offer to match the current salaries of mature candidates who want to come into teaching from some other profession.
Yes, predictably, Mr Gove will face the usual dull and dreary leftish trades-unions opposition whatever he does: but this can and should be ignored, given that it is this same leftish philosophy that has demonstrably reduced the standard of teaching over the past half-century or so. In which case it would do him (and us) no harm if his plans were more radical than they are at present. So, be bold, Mr Gove. You’ve nothing to fear – I’m right behind you.