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

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

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

The Richmond Fellowship: Executive Director

£66,192 per annum including car allowance of £5,700): The Richmond Fellowship:...

Recruitment Genius: Customer Service Advisor

£16575 - £19000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An excellent opportunity is ava...

Recruitment Genius: Office Junior

£18000 - £20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Assistant Site Agent

£22000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This traditional family company...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Fighters from Isis parading in Raqqa, northern Syria, where the ‘Islamic State’ has its capital; Iranian-backed Shia militia are already fighting the group on the ground in Iran  

Heartlessness towards refugees is the lifeblood of jihadist groups like Isis

Charlie Winter
Refugees try to cross the border from Greece into Macedonia, near Gevgelija, on Wednesday. The town sits on the ‘Balkan corridor’ used by refugees, mostly from Syria, to travel from Turkey to Hungary, the gateway to the EU  

The UK response to the plight of Syrian refugees is a national embarrassment

Kevin Watkins
Isis profits from destruction of antiquities by selling relics to dealers - and then blowing up the buildings they come from to conceal the evidence of looting

How Isis profits from destruction of antiquities

Robert Fisk on the terrorist group's manipulation of the market to increase the price of artefacts
Labour leadership: Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea

'If we lose touch we’ll end up with two decades of the Tories'

In an exclusive interview, Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea
Tunisia fears its Arab Spring could be reversed as the new regime becomes as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor

The Arab Spring reversed

Tunisian protesters fear that a new law will whitewash corrupt businessmen and officials, but they are finding that the new regime is becoming as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor
King Arthur: Legendary figure was real and lived most of his life in Strathclyde, academic claims

Academic claims King Arthur was real - and reveals where he lived

Dr Andrew Breeze says the legendary figure did exist – but was a general, not a king
Who is Oliver Bonas and how has he captured middle-class hearts?

Who is Oliver Bonas?

It's the first high-street store to pay its staff the living wage, and it saw out the recession in style
Earth has 'lost more than half its trees' since humans first started cutting them down

Axe-wielding Man fells half the world’s trees – leaving us just 422 each

However, the number of trees may be eight times higher than previously thought
60 years of Scalextric: Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones

60 years of Scalextric

Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones
Theme parks continue to draw in thrill-seekers despite the risks - so why are we so addicted?

Why are we addicted to theme parks?

Now that Banksy has unveiled his own dystopian version, Christopher Beanland considers the ups and downs of our endless quest for amusement
Tourism in Iran: The country will soon be opening up again after years of isolation

Iran is opening up again to tourists

After years of isolation, Iran is reopening its embassies abroad. Soon, there'll be the chance for the adventurous to holiday there
10 best PS4 games

10 best PS4 games

Can’t wait for the new round of blockbusters due out this autumn? We played through last year’s offering
Transfer window: Ten things we learnt

Ten things we learnt from the transfer window

Record-breaking spending shows FFP restraint no longer applies
Migrant crisis: UN official Philippe Douste-Blazy reveals the harrowing sights he encountered among refugees arriving on Lampedusa

‘Can we really just turn away?’

Dead bodies, men drowning, women miscarrying – a senior UN figure on the horrors he has witnessed among migrants arriving on Lampedusa, and urges politicians not to underestimate our caring nature
Nine of Syria and Iraq's 10 world heritage sites are in danger as Isis ravages centuries of history

Nine of Syria and Iraq's 10 world heritage sites are in danger...

... and not just because of Isis vandalism
Girl on a Plane: An exclusive extract of the novelisation inspired by the 1970 Palestinian fighters hijack

Girl on a Plane

An exclusive extract of the novelisation inspired by the 1970 Palestinian fighters hijack
Why Frederick Forsyth's spying days could spell disaster for today's journalists

Why Frederick Forsyth's spying days could spell disaster for today's journalists

The author of 'The Day of the Jackal' has revealed he spied for MI6 while a foreign correspondent