Teachers remain the key to raising school standards

Share

At last, one of the big questions hovering over the Government's education policy is beginning to receive an answer. Both the Prime Minister on Tuesday and David Blunkett talked on Wednesday about money - and plenty of it. After three years in which schools have found it difficult to see evidence of ministerial claims that delivery from the Conservative years of penury is at hand, the prospect is much brighter.

At last, one of the big questions hovering over the Government's education policy is beginning to receive an answer. Both the Prime Minister on Tuesday and David Blunkett talked on Wednesday about money - and plenty of it. After three years in which schools have found it difficult to see evidence of ministerial claims that delivery from the Conservative years of penury is at hand, the prospect is much brighter.

The national scandal of crumbling school buildings will be tackled seriously for the first time for decades, with much of the money going directly to individual schools to prevent local authorities diverting it for other purposes. Nursery education, a key to educational progress, particularly for working-class children, will be offered to all three-year-olds as well as four-year-olds.

For years, we have lagged behind our European neighbours in offering children the benefits of good nurseries. If the Government can sort out its plans for a new formula to get more of schools' annual budgets directly into classrooms, their finances will be on the way to recovery.

By and large, education is one of the Government's success stories. In primary schools, the literacy and numeracy hours are now widely accepted by teachers, and standards are rising rapidly. Infant class sizes are down, and proposals are in place to tackle secondary-school standards. Teachers will have the chance to earn more, albeit only if they meet conditions that some of them do not much like.

But Mr Blair's "education, education, education" project is still in danger. His carrot-and-stick approach to teachers is reasonable enough, but at times the stick has been more in evidence than the carrot. Only a few weeks ago, he was lambasting comprehensive schools, which 90 per cent of pupils attend, and he has repeatedly made political mileage out of attacks on the minority of incompetent teachers. Mr Blunkett may issue as many circulars as he likes, but without the support of classroom teachers the campaign to raise standards will falter. Earning teachers' trust should be a higher priority.

More important still, attacks on teachers undermine the status of a profession in desperate need of new recruits. The recently announced training bursaries will help, but the need to recruit and retain more teachers remains the most serious of ministers' educational problems. Money for nursery places and buildings is very welcome but, in the end, there may be no substitute for big improvements in both salaries and conditions for teachers.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Operations Manager

£45000 - £55000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Panel & Cabinet Wireman

£20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Panel Wireman required for small electro...

Recruitment Genius: Electronics Test Engineer

£25000 - £27000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An SME based in East Cheshire, ...

Recruitment Genius: Marketing Assistant

£18000 - £22000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Do you have previous experience...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Shia LaBeouf is one of Brad Pitt's favourite actors in the world ever, apparently  

Shia LaBeouf to Luis Suárez: Introducing my anti-heroes of 2014

Ellen E Jones
Gwyneth Paltrow and Coldplay's Chris Martin “consciously uncoupled” in March  

My best and worst stories of 2014

Simmy Richman
War with Isis: The West needs more than a White Knight

The West needs more than a White Knight

Despite billions spent on weapons, the US has not been able to counter Isis's gruesome tactics, says Patrick Cockburn
Return to Helmand: Private Davey Graham recalls the day he was shot by the Taliban

'The day I was shot by the Taliban'

Private Davey Graham was shot five times during an ambush in 2007 - it was the first, controversial photograph to show the dangers our soldiers faced in Helmand province
Revealed: the best and worst airlines for delays

Revealed: the best and worst airlines for delays

Many flyers are failing to claim compensation to which they are entitled, a new survey has found
The stories that defined 2014: From the Scottish independence referendum to the Ice Bucket Challenge, our writers voice their opinions

The stories that defined 2014

From the Scottish independence referendum to the Ice Bucket Challenge, our writers voice their opinions
Stoke-on-Trent becomes first British city to be classified as 'disaster resilient' by the United Nations

Disaster looming? Now you know where to head...

Which British city has become the first to be awarded special 'resilience' status by the UN?
Finally, a diet that works: Californian pastor's wildly popular Daniel Plan has seen his congregation greatly reduced

Finally, a diet that works

Californian pastor's wildly popular Daniel Plan has seen his congregation greatly reduced
Say it with... lyrics: The power of song was never greater, according to our internet searches

Say it with... lyrics

The power of song was never greater, according to our internet searches
Professor Danielle George: On a mission to bring back the art of 'thinkering'

The joys of 'thinkering'

Professor Danielle George on why we have to nurture tomorrow's scientists today
Monique Roffey: The author on father figures, the nation's narcissism and New Year reflections

Monique Roffey interview

The author on father figures, the nation's narcissism and New Year reflections
Introducing my anti-heroes of 2014

Introducing my anti-heroes of 2014

Their outrageousness and originality makes the world a bit more interesting, says Ellen E Jones
DJ Taylor: Good taste? It's all a matter of timing...

Good taste? It's all a matter of timing...

It has been hard to form generally accepted cultural standards since the middle of the 19th century – and the disintegration is only going to accelerate, says DJ Taylor
Olivia Jacobs & Ben Caplan: 'Ben thought the play was called 'Christian Love'. It was 'Christie in Love' - about a necrophiliac serial killer'

How we met

Olivia Jacobs and Ben Caplan
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's breakfasts will revitalise you in time for the New Year

Bill Granger's healthy breakfasts

Our chef's healthy recipes are perfect if you've overindulged during the festive season
Transfer guide: From Arsenal to West Ham - what does your club need in the January transfer window?

Who does your club need in the transfer window?

Most Premier League sides are after a striker, but here's a full run down of the ins and outs that could happen over the next month
The Last Word: From aliens at FA to yak’s milk in the Tour, here’s to 2015

Michael Calvin's Last Word

From aliens at FA to yak’s milk in the Tour, here’s to 2015