Michael Gove is announcing tougher tests for trainee teachers today, with calculators banned from maths assessments, and the pass mark in tests for English and Maths being raised to the equivalent of GCSE grade B (which still doesn’t sound that taxing), along with a new test in verbal, numerical and abstract reasoning. The Education Secretary says the changes ‘will mean that parents can be confident that we have the best teachers coming into our classrooms. Above all, it will help ensure we raise standards in our schools and close the attainment gap between the rich and poor’. It’s part of the government’s drive to demonstrate that it is, in David Cameron’s words, spreading privilege.
Raising the quality of teachers going into schools doesn’t sound like something an opposition could disagree with. Which is why Labour has managed to send out this rather amusing and awkward response to the announcement from Kevin Brennan:
‘Labour supports efforts to raise the quality but also the status of teachers, but other measures are needed. We need more high-flying applicants, and Labour has set out plans through our New Deal for Teachers to expand schemes like Teach First, improve training and on-the-job development and incentivise bright graduates to teach in less well-off communities.
‘However, the Government continues to insult teachers and damage morale with its extreme policies and out-of-touch rhetoric. Michael Gove called teachers ‘whingers’ and 10,000 teachers have left the profession. That is putting school standards at risk.’
So here we have a grudging acknowledgement that making sure teachers are up to scratch in basic maths before they are unleashed on pupils is probably a good plan. It’s followed by a Labour-would-do-better line, which as CoffeeHousers already know, involves Labour doing what the Government is already doing on education, while booing Michael Gove to try to establish some sort of distance. And then comes a big moan, which tries to establish a link between Michael Gove calling teachers names like ‘whingers’ and standards being put at risk. Having worked in a primary school when I was a student, I would have thought teachers weren’t all that bothered by name-calling: after all, it’s part of your job to tell an eight year old that just because he’s been called a ‘cheesehead’ in the playground, it doesn’t mean he actually is a ‘cheesehead’, whatever that is.
If Brennan is worried that teachers might be upset by being called names, he’ll be enraged by today’s Telegraph splash, which features an interview with David Laws in which he attacks teachers for having ‘depressingly low expectations’ of their students. If he’s not already in the NUT’s list of villains, the new Lib Dem education minister will be now.