Teaching reforms mean Goodbye to Mr Chips

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The Independent Online

Mr Chips is alive and well - but his present-day equivalent can only be found in independent schools, says one of the country's most respected education experts.

Mr Chips is alive and well - but his present-day equivalent can only be found in independent schools, says one of the country's most respected education experts.

The inspirational teacher, immortalised by Robert Donat in the film Goodbye, Mr Chips (and latterly, on television, by Martin Clunes) would be weighed down by the three T's - testing, targets and tables - if he were a state school teacher today. That was the view put forward at an education conference organised by the Institute of Ideas at the weekend by Alan Smithers, professor of education at Liverpool University.

Of course, Professor Smithers reminded his audience, Mr Chips was an independent school teacher. However, he argued, there was a chance that he might have been better able to flourish in a state school in 1989 - before the welter of reforms initiated by both Labour and the previous Conservative governments.

He said: "There is currently considerable migration [by teachers] from maintained schools to the independent schools."

Reasons cited by teachers included: "I feel I will be getting back to teaching for pleasure again"; "Because I felt I would be able to do what I wanted - teach"; "I wanted to get on with teaching - not crowd control".

The number of teachers resigning from schools almost doubled between 1998 and 2001 - from 25,000 to 46,500. "We have to reinvigorate the profession by putting the fun back in teaching - which would allow today's Mr Chips to flourish in a state school," Professor Smithers said.

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