With a distinct lack of fanfare, Michael Gove has announced plans to shake-up the induction arrangements for new teachers.
Admittedly, not a story to compete with Kate and Wills. Even the spin maestro’s at Education HQ managed to generate a press release which was startling only its literalness: ‘Induction regulations for newly qualified teachers’, the headline reads. A job at Ronseal awaits for said press officer.
But enough sitting on the fence; let’s take a peek at the latest to emerge from Michael of Whitehall.
First reaction? It seems entirely reasonable to take a fresh look at this. It’s sensible housekeeping, if nothing else, to check such things as induction processes are functioning properly or, to use the jargon, ‘fit for purpose’.
My experience is that the induction process does the job in a fairly dry, unexciting, predictable way. In completing the ‘standards’ there’s ample opportunity for the teacher to focus on the specific requirements of the job, to ask for help, to observe, to practise, to learn, and to demonstrate competence; they provide focus for what can be a frantic first year. It gives the learning curve some kind of shape and form.
Equally, there is enough scope for a school to identify those who have scraped through teacher-training and who would actually be best suited doing something completely unlike teaching. Not to put to fine a point on it, at this stage, the wheat can be sifted from the chaff.
In terms of the detail of the current arrangements, there is a bit too much repetition and a bit too much ticking of boxes – although it’s not so bad that this hinders retention of good teachers, as Gove claims (without any reference or citation, as is often the case). Nevertheless, a trimming of the unnecessary bureaucracy is no bad thing.
But, and this is the key point, a significant trick will be missed if this becomes solely an exercise in paper reduction.
It will leave untouched the real point and focus of the introduction to such an important profession. That is, to begin the process of turning wide-eyed novice into a pedagogue of some excellence. To do this requires much more than just doing less, and much more enthusiasm than is evident in this drab announcement.
Where is the sense of possibility? Where is there anything clear or concrete about raising the teaching profession to new heights? Where is the ambition?
All we have is a wearisome quote from Nick Gibb which starts off aimless and, from there, fails to improve. The deficit, it seems, has truly left us impoverished.
Once again, when it comes to teacher development – the silver bullet of educational reform – Gove and his team reveal their timidity. On funding and on legislative reform the main man is bold and radical. Too bold and too radical, perhaps, but – whether you like them or not – there is no denying his policies in these areas are imbued with considerable energy.
Instead, we see scraps: disallowing graduates with third-class degrees from teaching; a troops-to-teachers programme and (admittedly a bit more substantial) plans for Teaching Schools. This is not to mention the mixing of messages which results in a raising of the entry level for teaching in a maintained school, yet for Free Schools, the removal of any requirements for a teaching qualification at all.
So far, for Michael Gove, when it comes to the most important cog in the educational wheel – improving the quality of teachers – he fails to excite. His imagination fails.