Harriet Walker: Why should puffed-up parents be granted more respect than teachers?

Click to follow
The Independent Online

The battle cry of the teaching unions resounds after Michael Gove announced yesterday that he would make it easier to "get rid" of bad teachers, and "move them on".

But his new plans aren't simply about employment rights and performance – they highlight exactly what is wrong with the way we view the profession more generally.

In our enlightened society of getting what you pay for, when you don't like something, you can make a fuss. This Tory-led Government is obsessed with results and corporate targets (although not, oddly, when it comes to private companies), and it insists on foisting them, like a tea cosy over a spaceship, on to our state services. What it doesn't realise is that education doesn't work like that.

Our customer service culture has made us more than ready to complain when we deem goods shoddy. We decry the NHS for being less than a five-star experience, and we rail against teachers because they don't behave like air hostesses. Our national psyche could do with a thwack of the birch.

Derision for and mistrust of the public sector is the legacy of privatisation and individualism, but Gove's attack on teachers yesterday showed that this Government also has no grasp of how teaching differs from, say, selling knock-off dishwashers. They won't lift a finger to help you when your ISA defaults because a rich man has speculated and failed, but they will sack someone trying to expand your child's mind.

Youth unemployment and countless early-years studies might have combined to make teaching the sacred cow it deserves to be, but no such lessons have been learned.

Gove's measures make no concessions to the problems of discipline. They make no allowance for scrappy resources, classroom chaos and the fact that not everything can be measured by grades A to C. They don't consider the complexities of the job. They treat teachers like bad waitresses, let go after taking the wrong starters to table six. And, to add insult to injury, Gove urges parents – the only people who know less about teaching than the Government – to make sure their children are receiving the education they deserve. We all know what that means: puffed-up mums and dads, drunk on their own sense of entitlement, announcing that this sort of thing wouldn't fly in their workplace.

One of the most important words I ever learnt at school was "hubris" and it seems that many of us, the Government included, could use a vocab test.

h.walker@independent.co.uk

Comments