Daily catch-up: what makes a good teacher? And politicians in the class room

All you need to know about what is going on

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The Independent Online

1. Classroom scene: Tony Abbott, Australian prime minister, talks to pupils. Lovely photo via Matthew Champion.

2. “Hardly anything matters more than education,” writes Ian Leslie, in an outstanding article about what makes good teachers.

“Yet when we talk about education we spend a lot of time arguing over things that do not matter very much. Class sizes, uniforms, curriculum design, which politician runs the Department for Education – none of our favourite flashpoints make a lot of difference to whether children do well at school. For all that parents worry over which school to send their children to, more important is who teaches them when they get there. Professor John Hattie, of the University of Melbourne, has undertaken a rigorous assessment of the thousands of empirical studies that have been carried out on educational achievement. He concluded that, other than the raw cognitive ability of the child herself, only one variable really counts: ‘What teachers do, know and care about.’”

Leslie’s opening description of how a good teacher commands the attention of her class, using her position, gestures and non-verbal corrections “with the grace of an elite tennis player delivering a disguised drop shot”, is entrancing.

3. Talking of leadership and educating young people, I thought this was brilliant by Rachel Reeves and Chuka Umunna. They were answering questions at Park High School in Harrow. One student asked what they made of the Green Party’s plan to decriminalise cannabis.

Reeves replied:

“When I was at school, lots of people did really well at GCSEs and then the next year it all started going wrong.

“And often things started to go wrong because people started smoking weed and using other drugs. And boys and girls who were getting good grades at GCSE suddenly started falling back when it came to A-levels, and I think that’s a huge waste.

“Some people say, ‘Oh, it’s harmless.’ It’s not harmless. Some people have friends who have gone off the rails because they have taken drugs, and cannabis then leads to other drugs that are even more harmful.

“So my advice to all of you is to stay away from that stuff. You’re all doing incredibly well, you’re at a good school, you’ve got your whole lives ahead of you. Don’t risk it by doing stupid things.”

4. After I posted Naz Shah’s inspiring life story yesterday, two SNP supporters got in touch to offer to donate to her campaign to beat George Galloway in Bradford West. Anyone can get in touch with her on Twitter.

5. I’m already bored with people saying they’re bored with election coverage. As Dan Hodges says, this is the most exciting election for at least 18 years.

6. And finally, thanks to Moose Allain for this:

“Hold a photocopy of a buttercup under your chin to see if you like margarine.”