Horses for courses

I was recently reading about a highly qualified Oxbridge scientist who was enjoying, and by all accounts succeeding in her first year as a teacher in a secondary school under the ‘Teach First‘ scheme that encourages graduates to spend at least the first two years of their career teaching in ‘difficult’ secondary schools.

Very soon, I thought, and sooner than she probably realises, she will have to make the biggest decision of her life – whether to leave teaching at the end of the two years, or to become a teacher for the rest of her working life. In later years we of course would recognise her as someone with excellent communication and personnel skills, highly organised, methodical, hard-working and socially-minded with excellent communication and personnel skills – ideal for employment in any industry. But sadly industry doesn’t work that way, and before long will simply see her as someone with no commercial experience or drive, and with scientific knowledge and experience that is now out of date. And, before she knows it, she will also have taken on to that mysterious ‘aura’ that seems to mark a teacher out in a crowd –  it’s just something about the way they speak, look and behave.

Meanwhile with our frequent references to ivory towers, regular readers might imagine that All Change Please! has the impression that all university courses are purely academic and, as such, of little practical value. Nothing of course could be further from the truth, with many of the so-called ‘soft subjects’ successfully preparing students for the rigour of life and work in the real world. And indeed, it is the traditional courses in history, english literature, pure mathematics, etc that are declining in numbers and closing down. So why do we continue to have a primary and secondary curriculum that continues to promote these out-moded academic disciplines, particularly at GCSE and A level? Why aren’t we introducing and giving much greater emphasis to the subjects school-children are more likely to go on and study?

Maybe it’s partly because most of our teachers are those who have themselves been academically successful in school, have gone on to study a traditional academic subject at university, and then have discovered they can’t get a job in anything other than teaching a traditionally academic subject in a secondary school? And at the same time mid-career industrialists don’t see that the technical, project-based collaborative skills and expertise they have acquired and could pass on will be valued in a school.

Somehow ‘once a teacher, always a teacher’ is a mind-set and situation we urgently need to change.

A horse is a horse, of course…

Meanwhile, after a photo-finish and a win by a short head, the novice, dark-horse Mr Ed appears to have won the race.

The more senior readers amongst us will of course recall that the famous Mr Ed is of course a talking horse who featured in a US TV series in the mid 1960s…

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