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From The Socialist newspaper, 22 January 2014

An open letter to Tristram Hunt, shadow education secretary

Dear Mr Hunt,

You have made it clear that you will revive the idea floated during the last Labour government of regular "relicensing" of teachers.

Shamefully, you are lining up behind education secretary for England, Michael Gove's agenda of blaming teachers for the problems of education and society more generally.

The root causes of these problems lie in cuts, underfunding and poverty. As a historian you should know that there is a clear correlation between social deprivation and educational performance.

If you took the time to talk to teachers, you might realise that the real issue that needs to be addressed is not the myth of "underperformance" but the fact that huge numbers of excellent teachers are leaving the profession because of the impossible demands we face.

Under Mr Gove's performance-related pay legislation, the threat is that we won't be awarded a pay rise. Under Mr Hunt, the threat will be that we won't even keep our jobs.

In Britain, politicians of all stripes have embraced the ethos of the US model of education over the past two decades.

They support the privatisation of education in the form of academies and free schools, they share the same mania for testing and all choose to ignore the fact that class and poverty are fundamental factors in shaping attainment.

Professor Diane Ravitch, a historian of education and former US assistant secretary of education, explained in a 2010 article for The Wall Street Journal why she was opposed to blaming teachers for the problems of America's education system:

"The current emphasis on accountability has created a punitive atmosphere in the schools. The Obama administration seems to think that schools will improve if we fire teachers and close schools. They do not recognise that schools are often the anchor of their communities."

Fellow American education writer Alfie Kohn has similarly noted how politicians and the educational establishment express "outrage" at low academic achievement and believe in quick fixes such as blaming teachers.

"Many public officials, along with like-minded journalists and other observers, are apt to minimise the matter of resources and assume that everything deficient about education for poor and minority children can be remedied by more forceful demands that we 'raise the bar'," he writes. "The implication here would seem to be that teachers and students could be doing a better job but have, for some reason, chosen not to do so and need only be bribed or threatened into improvement."

This is all in sharp contrast to Finland, which is widely recognised as having one of the best education systems in the world.

Children there don't start formal education until they are seven and education is free at all levels.

There are no school rankings or inspections and students take only one standardised test when they are 16.

Teachers are well-paid, respected individuals. There has been no privatisation and there is an emphasis on social equality that is sadly lacking in Britain with its mania for privatisation of public services.

Dr Dylan Murphy, History teacher

This was published in TES magazine

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In The Socialist 22 January 2014:


Socialist Party news and analysis

Real living wage now

Capitalism is a system in crisis

Pay me - I'm a banker!

What exactly is the point of Labour?

Stop the NHS sell-off

Bedroom tax loophole: Can legal tactics be effective?

Fracking - profiting from environmental destruction

Them & Us


International socialist news and analysis

Egypt referendum: no enthusiasm for new constitution

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Education

Stop the student debt spiral - day of action 6 February

Youth Fight for Jobs campaign in Croydon

An open letter to Tristram Hunt


Socialist Party workplace news

Transport workers have power to defeat cuts

Teachers need a date for national action

Teachers strike against threatened redundancies

NUT strikes against management "observations"

More action needed to defend Probation Service

Publicity alone can't save sacked union branch official

Workplace news in brief


Socialist Party reports and campaigns

Lincoln marches against racism and fascism

Protest against Atos 'assessments' on 19 February

Salford workers and environmentalists challenge council

Stop cuts in Kent

Carlisle petition


Readers' comments and reviews

Benefits Street: A caricature of poverty

Leeds' forgotten dispute: The 1913-14 Corporation Strike

Robert Burns, insurrectionary poet


 

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