Education Letter: Give teachers the right tools

WHEN I was a headteacher the taxpayer funded a year's further study for me, in common with others interested to improve their competence. I chose to study management in education.

One piece of relevant research emphasised was the finding that, in the workplace, job satisfaction motivates more effectively than anything else, even salary. Could this be why France offers teachers further study, where we look to the tired old market force of pay-dependent status?

Our teacher recruitment crisis is less to do with pay than professional morale and self-esteem. Both have taken an enormous hammering lately. Teachers are now being told by video how to teach their own language. Improving the competence of teachers is a correct diagnosis. The literacy hour can help, but it is akin to the use of sticking plaster on an oozing sore. We have significantly failed to address the ever-pressing need to update and inform teachers, with an inevitable and pervasive impact on overall performance. Only rarely have we ever managed effectively to share the evidence of successful practice when we have found it.

As a school inspector, I know several very good schools with some excellent teachers. I know them - but nobody else does. They do not even know each other.

Teaching is about having many tools for the job, and knowing which ones to use, how to use them and when. Very little has been done to so inform teachers, because debate has consistently been polarised around one tool or the other, not the use at the right time of all of them.

Much fine, well-managed research has appeared over my 35 years in the profession, about what makes teachers and schools effective but we have consistently failed to reach the classrooms with it.

MERVYN BENFORD

Banbury

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