Claire Soares: Those who can, can't always teach

In Gove's world, you need not bother training to stride into the class

Share
Related Topics

Can you count to five? Readers of this newspaper would, I imagine, consider themselves experts in this field, so, after the holidays, saunter down to your local primary school and offer your services. For, in the world according to Michael Gove, experts need no longer bother with a formal teaching qualification to stride straight into the classroom.

Only, as anyone who watched Dream School can testify, an expert does not a teacher make. Consider David Starkey petulantly insulting a bored pupil or actor Simon Callow's admission: "I somehow got some sort of silence simply by shouting louder than they did. This was just brute force." You're not going to let these weak celebrities deter you, however. You have the backing of our esteemed Education Secretary who has just decided that new academies will be allowed to employ unqualified teachers.

So come September, you're in front of a class of wriggling infants, teaching them to count sweets. "Three, two, five, four, one" one boy pronounces, while a girl, who has already counted the five items correctly, suddenly looks panicked when asked how many sweets there are, like you've switched to advanced calculus. Erm, this was supposed to be easy, wasn't it?

Few of us are aware of the concepts we must master to count: the one-to-one principle, knowing a number represents a single object; the stable-order principle, the established sequence of numbers; the cardinal principle, knowing that the final item counted is also the total number of items; the abstraction principle, that objects don't have to be tangible to be counted; and the order-irrelevance principle, knowing it makes no difference whether you count from left to right or right to left.

Having switched careers after a decade as a journalist, I am often asked what I learnt during my year's training to become a primary teacher. Well, it's a long list, but one thing I was specifically trained to do is diagnose which of these five concepts a child is struggling with. A maths genius, however masterful their subject knowledge, was not. Proving the existence of the Higgs boson does not mean you can teach Year 4 about gravity after a windy lunchtime (as all teachers know, children are noisier and crazier on windy days).

The Education Secretary's misconception is equating expert subject knowledge with teaching expertise. Teaching is not about imparting facts, it is about engaging pupils and inspiring them to learn. That's why Finland, whose education system Mr Gove is happy to trumpet when it suits him, trains its teachers intensively. The most rewarding comment of my first year of teaching came from a pupil who thanked me not for what I had taught him but for helping him to become a better learner. That's why teachers need teaching, too.

 

The writer is a former Independent journalist who now teaches in a London primary school

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Online Media Sales Trainee

£15000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Now our rapidly expanding and A...

Recruitment Genius: Public House Manager / Management Couples

£15000 - £20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Are you passionate about great ...

Recruitment Genius: Production Planner

£20000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This fast growing reinforcing s...

Recruitment Genius: General Factory Operatives

£18000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This fast growing reinforcing s...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

If I were Prime Minister: Every privatised corner of the NHS would be taken back into public ownership

Philip Pullman
 

Errors & Omissions: Magna Carta, sexing bishops and ministerial aides

John Rentoul
As in 1942, Germany must show restraint over Greece

As in 1942, Germany must show restraint over Greece

Mussolini tried to warn his ally of the danger of bringing the country to its knees. So should we, says Patrick Cockburn
Britain's widening poverty gap should be causing outrage at the start of the election campaign

The short stroll that should be our walk of shame

Courting the global elite has failed to benefit Britain, as the vast disparity in wealth on display in the capital shows
Homeless Veterans appeal: The rise of the working poor: when having a job cannot prevent poverty

Homeless Veterans appeal

The rise of the working poor: when having a job cannot prevent poverty
Prince Charles the saviour of the nation? A new book highlights concerns about how political he will be when he eventually becomes king

Prince Charles the saviour of the nation?

A new book highlights concerns about how political he will be when he eventually becomes king
How books can defeat Isis: Patrick Cockburn was able to update his agenda-setting 'The Rise of Islamic State' while under attack in Baghdad

How books can defeat Isis

Patrick Cockburn was able to update his agenda-setting 'The Rise of Islamic State' while under attack in Baghdad
Judith Hackitt: The myths of elf 'n' safety

Judith Hackitt: The myths of elf 'n' safety

She may be in charge of minimising our risks of injury, but the chair of the Health and Safety Executive still wants children to be able to hurt themselves
The open loathing between Barack Obama and Benjamin Netanyahu just got worse

The open loathing between Obama and Netanyahu just got worse

The Israeli PM's relationship with the Obama has always been chilly, but going over the President's head on Iran will do him no favours, says Rupert Cornwell
French chefs get 'le huff' as nation slips down global cuisine rankings

French chefs get 'le huff' as nation slips down global cuisine rankings

Fury at British best restaurants survey sees French magazine produce a rival list
Star choreographer Matthew Bourne gives young carers a chance to perform at Sadler's Wells

Young carers to make dance debut

What happened when superstar choreographer Matthew Bourne encouraged 27 teenage carers to think about themselves for once?
Design Council's 70th anniversary: Four of the most intriguing prototypes from Ones to Watch

Design Council's 70th anniversary

Four of the most intriguing prototypes from Ones to Watch
Dame Harriet Walter: The actress on learning what it is to age, plastic surgery, and her unease at being honoured by the establishment

Dame Harriet Walter interview

The actress on learning what it is to age, plastic surgery, and her unease at being honoured by the establishment
Art should not be a slave to the ideas driving it

Art should not be a slave to the ideas driving it

Critics of Tom Stoppard's new play seem to agree that cerebral can never trump character, says DJ Taylor
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's winter salads will make you feel energised through February

Bill Granger's winter salads

Salads aren't just a bit on the side, says our chef - their crunch, colour and natural goodness are perfect for a midwinter pick-me-up
England vs Wales: Cool head George Ford ready to put out dragon fire

George Ford: Cool head ready to put out dragon fire

No 10’s calmness under pressure will be key for England in Cardiff
Michael Calvin: Time for Old Firm to put aside bigotry and forge new links

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Time for Old Firm to put aside bigotry and forge new links