The Socialist 7 July 2009 |
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Education white paper
An insult to teachers - an attack on education
Teachers will have been shocked and appalled by New Labour's latest white paper. In it, Ed Balls, secretary of state for Children, Schools and Families, suggests that teachers should pass an MOT-style test every five years.
Teachers generally welcome feedback, constructive suggestions, guidance and help where necessary, but the 'Licence to Teach' would mean particularly worrying and scrutinising observations. Potentially teachers could lose their jobs if their performance is not deemed satisfactory. This move would destroy the idea of job security in the teaching profession.
Moreover only head teachers or other members of the senior management would be undertaking observations. This leaves classroom teachers open to victimisation and bullying from management, but on a new scale. Not only intimidation over workload or lack of promotion, but now the power to remove a teacher's livelihood is made that much easier. In the midst of a recession, with rising unemployment and rocketing debt, this further shows that the public sector under New Labour is being attacked in order to save money.
More criminal however, is that one of the three teachers' unions, the National Association of Schoolmasters - Union of Women Teachers, has supported the white paper, mistakenly believing it will lift the 'professionalism' of teachers. The National Union of Teachers, in which the Socialist Party is active, needs to lead a fightback against these attacks on our conditions and link this to teachers' declining pay and heavy workload.
The white paper, ironically called: Your child, your schools, our future, also claims parents will be provided with information about their local schools in a "report card". This is simply a different type of league table, taking other factors into account. Implementing this will mean more pressure on schools, and therefore teachers, to prove they are 'good enough'. The whole system of ranking pitches local comprehensive against local comprehensive, bringing elements of the market further into education. The white paper also calls for more 'federations' to be established whereby schools are linked to one another, often leading to the formation of super schools. This could mean job cuts and cuts in funding.
Other reforms have been suggested that sound reasonable at face value. For example, New Labour has pledged to put more money into schools in deprived areas and has promised to guarantee places in education for every student until they reach 18. However, since 1997, New Labour have attacked education, and the wider public sector, time and again. How can we trust them now?
New Labour plans for the working class to pay for the recession, through cuts, which will inevitably mean students and teachers will face harder times in schools. They have increased, not decreased workload for teachers. Only a united fightback of teachers, students and parents, linking all the issues, can challenge the educational attacks that both Labour and the Tories have planned.