Teacher Talk

Stephen McCormack, 46, is a supply teacher working in secondary schools in Surrey and south west London
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The Independent Online

What do you make of government plans to make school science more popular and relevant to everyday life by covering issues such as cloning and genetically modified food?

I'm all for trying to make the curriculum and every subject relevant to everyday life and teachers keeping up to date with what's going on in the real world. But that should not mean that subjects lose their intellectual rigour. The basic building blocks of science are the same as they were in Galileo's day.

If we reduced the whole school curriculum down to what the ordinary citizen needs to know we would be turning out dull and poorly educated human beings which is not in anyone's interest.

New research has found that middle-class graduates often feel they have not lived up to their parents' expectations. Do you come across parents with unrealistic academic plans for their children?

I haven't come across the whole pushy parents syndrome too much. I've taught in two big Home Counties comprehensives, with elements of their catchment area which are very well off, where you would expect pushy parents but I haven't encountered them. I'm more worried by parents who just don't care or just don't turn up at parents evenings or if they do, don't show much evidence of concerning themselves with what their kids do at school.

What can be done about this?

There's no point in blaming parents. You often hear people say about teenagers that have gone off the rails - "just blame the parents". In my view that's pointless. The teenagers will soon be parents and we'll be blaming them. In certain pockets of society we're producing wave after wave of people who go to school but don't get anything out of it. "Blame the parents" is a pointless refrain. We've got to go a lot further to get kids who are very young and intervene so that they can be brought up to be better than their parents in some way. I'm increasingly of the view that primary school is the important place.

Once you get kids aged 11, 12, 13, it's too hard to turn them around. Maybe there is a chance at six, seven, eight that you can open their eyes to something more enriching.

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