Sunday, 29 July 2012

De-skilling in schools

I've spent the past twenty five years in an industry where de-skilling was a constant issue. Since PC's started to be found in every home the world and his wife have become typographers. Our trade was flooded with hipster designers who knew their way around a Mac but hadn't a clue about kerning, leading and ligatures. Now -  just I am about to invest time and money into joining the teaching 'profession' the same thing is happening there.  

Whilst Olympic euphoria is grabbing the nation, Education Secretary Grove has  snuck in an announcement that Qualified Teacher Status will no longer be required by teachers in academies. This matters because he also has a declared vision that the majority of schools will be academies - and in some parts of London they already are.

Perhaps Grove is trying to emulate 'independent' - or to give them their proper name    - fee-paying schools where teachers have never had to be formally qualified. Perhaps he really thinks that this in itself is the reason for their better academic results - with the implication that this is because of better teaching. Translated to the state sector, with all the very different real world challenges it faces, de-regulation of teaching represents one thing only - teaching on the cheap and de-skilling. 

Since being around schools one of the big differences I have seen from my own schooldays is the proliferation of people in the classrooms who aren't actually teachers. I have seen some very experienced, effective and highly motivated cover supervisors and Higher Level Teaching Assistants but they were never intended to replace teachers - although the pressure of work and scarcity of resources means that they are often called upon to do the work of teachers. This too is a form of creeping de-skilling.

There is a huge contradiction at the heart of current Tory education policy -  an unresolved clash between free market de-regulation and traditional paternalism. On the one hand more stringent 'skills tests' for student-teachers, and on the other no qualifications needed at all. Obsession with a prescriptive national curriculum - and a crusade to build up 'independent' academies, and free schools who don't have to follow it. Or harking back to traditional 'proper' subjects, whilst encouraging competitive league tables that drive academies to put students through questionable 'equivalent' vocational courses in order to hold their place in the rankings.

None of this deters me from wanting to be a teacher - or taking the year required to get my PGCE (followed by another NQT induction year).  It may not be necessary for much longer - but it remains to my way of thinking, the right way to do it. I am dubious about the coded class-distinction that differentiates 'trade' from 'profession' - but  in de-skilling I see the same trend that seems to permeate every aspect of late capitalism. A trend of 'good enough' and 'to a price' that de-values peoples' skills and belittles their pride in the work they do. To the detriment of everyone.

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