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Who looks to whom for teaching talent?

Joining in the latest round of Blame the Teacher! (©Gove&Wilshaw) comes Martin Stephen, kindly providing us with a case study of how to extrapolate monumentally ignorant conclusions from the gleaming spectacle of a sound analysis.

His initial breakdown runs thus: bright children in state schools needs access to top quality learning; the Assisted Places scheme helped some of these children get into the best private schools; however the scheme diluted the mainstream of its top talent; this effectively relieved mainstream schools of the responsibility to cater for elite academic performance; thus, the Assisted Places is not something that should be resurrected.

Bravo, Mr Stephen, you’ve said what teachers have been saying for years. And years. And years. And what’s more, you’ve recognised that this is unsatisfactory, that we need to do something about it, that the state system ought to provide opportunities for the poorest (and anyone else) to soar.

How insightful! How benevolent! Huzzah, Mr Stephen!

Yet how do we solve this dilemma? Is there a way round this apparently intractable problem?

Fear not, for Mr Stephen has the answer:

Which brings me to teachers. What the state sector needs most is good teachers and that is where the independent sector can really help. It has a proven ability to attract top graduates to teach the difficult subjects such as maths, physics, chemistry, biology and modern languages.

Shock! Gasp! What the state sector needs most is *gulp* good teachers?

I must admit, I just did not see that one coming. Having been blamed for everything from the Broken Society, to stagnant social mobility, to Vince Cable, it just never occurred to me that the principal and primary reason for children in Bootle Community School not achieving the same as their colleagues in Eton was the standard of teachers that graced the vaulted classrooms and high halls of the state sector counterpart.

Mea culpa, mea culpa, mea maxima culpa! May the darkness of ignorance be driven from mine eyes! May the Lords of Learning rescue me from an eternity of wailing and gnashing of teeth!

Now, far be it from me to seek to mitigate my evident obliviousness, but if you will yet hear me out then I will offer my defence. Unlikely as it may seem, I had reason not to recognise the Indisputable Truth toward which Mr Stephen most graciously points us.

For you see, in my (very small) school we have Oxbridge and Russell Group graduates, a former PPC with a PhD in History, another with a PhD in social sciences, a TeamGB Athletics coach, a former high ranking civil servant, a published novelist, a regularly published writer/author, and an ex Special Forces guy (for the ResPublicanites amongst you). In other words, some fantastically talented people. And if I had the time and inclination to inquire into the background of all those I work with, I’m sure that already impressive list of talent could be extended yet further.

Quite why I never made connection between our failure to emulate Westminster School with our alleged-but-not-apparent dearth of talent is beyond me.

Yet there is more. My own brief (MoD funded) stint at a private boarding school even lead me to question whether things like, oh I don’t know, much smaller class sizes and far superior facilities had a positive impact on educational success.

That I did not realise these things had tangential impact on why Coatbridge Comprehensive fails to keep pace with its comrades at Loretto can only be described as an embarrassing oversight on my part.

And lastly – I grieve at my witlessness as I mention it – the various reports on private school reliance on the state sector for recruitment, this despite their already extended freedom in attracting talent, never once lead me to the clearly logical conclusion that the private sector has the monopoly on teaching talent, to which the state sector ought to grasp desperately for crumbs from its overloaded talent table.

Now I see the light. Now I have been given the truth. Awkward questions need not be asked for we have all the answers we need. Blame the Teacher! Blame the Teacher! Blame the Teacher!…

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