Opinion – Fabian Society » Three things that really matter to teachers – Andrew Old – Best Blogs Series – John Gelmini

I’m afraid that getting a subjective viewpoint on what matters to UK teachers with input from parents, pupils, politicians, the police etc., as Dr Alf suggests, is not going to do the job.

The state education system in the UK used to be number 1 in the world in 1960 and it has progressively fallen to 44th position during that time and to 29th position in terms of literacy and numeracy.

1 child in 5 who leaves state education cannot read, write or communicate and this rises to 1 in 3.5 in the Fens and on sink estates.

Effectively then many school leavers are unemployable.

We also have a situation even after Coalition job creation successes of there being 47 people chasing each vacancy and 75% of the jobs being filled by migrants.

The idea that we can have “learning for learning’s sake” any more really is fanciful.

Parents and a great many of the stakeholders Dr Alf lists have not the faintest idea just how far behind the UK education system is at state level ages 5 to 18.

The UK teaching profession with its differentiated teaching methods, “wow factor” and a recruitment system which involves pupils in the selection process know least of all.

The politicians do not address the question of worker productivity and exports(2 of the ways we can pay for improvements and create more jobs) nor do they look at just how un-competitive the country and the education system is when compared with Finland, South Korea,Hong Kong, Japan, Singapore, France, Sweden etc,etc.

The Fabian Society may have a vision but it is not one which deals with these basic problems which will get worse as we automate, develop more expert systems, use 3D printing, use robots and offshore.
Britain’s teachers are for the most part not fit for purpose in this brave new world and must be replaced en-mass by non-unionized teachers of the right calibre who “get it”, parents from socio- economic groups C1, C2, D and E need to wake up to what is going on and the entire educational regime needs to be revamped on Singaporean lines with extra tuition South Korean style making for a longer but more intensive and immersive experience that takes the school-day up to 5 pm, excluding homework plus Saturday school for the laggards and intellectually challenged.

The UK, like Singapore, needs to calculate exactly how many scientists, doctors, lawyers, engineers, technologists, chemists and teachers it needs on a 5 year rolling basis, factor in drop out rates and then come up with a set number of university places. These would be allocated on the basis of actual results, a SAT and a demanding interview to the brightest students. Those who wanted to study things not needed by the country would be directed to study overseas and those who were not university material would be given vocational training following a longer period of National Service than would apply to University graduates.

People with practical skills of a non-academic bent would be “incubated” into self-employment or encouraged to “swarm out” overseas once they had language skills.

John Gelmini

Time to punish teachers’ union for UK being bottom of the Class?

G20 protests in London. National Union of Teac...

G20 protests in London. National Union of Teachers. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The recent flurry of  focus on teachers in the UK and disastrous educational performance compared to international benchmarks has prompted me to consider radical reform in a series of related blogs.

Let me summarize the focus to date:

With UK education deteriorating each year, compared to international benchmarks, surely the teachers are to blame?

If the teachers are responsible for the failing education standards in the UK, surely it is reasonable to punish the teachers or their proxies, the unions?

When I was at school, it was all very different. I remember vividly being caned or being clipped around the ear for talking in class; these days, of course, discipline is more of challenge for teachers.

Let’s take a simple input/output analysis. Here are a few factors that come to mind:


  • Raw ingredients, namely the children
  • Processes, including the National Curriculum
  • Context including physical, economic, social and political factors
  • Teaching


  • Educational achievement, measured by exams and term work
  • Preparation of children for further education, work and adulthood

In this blog, I want to focus on the teaching ingredient and it’s political wrapping.

In the UK, the largest teaching union is the National Union of Teachers (NUT) and their current policies are:

Can you see anything in the NUT’s policies about children or improving education? The answer is “No”!

NUT is essentially a political organization to promote the interests of teachers, regardless of educational achievement and the wider impact on society.

To some extent, teaching in the UK is effectively a closed- shop, making it difficult for outsiders to break-in. Also there is limited sanction over the quality of teaching, with many poor-performing teachers being protected by their union.

This leads me to two open questions:

  1. To what extent is the NUT responsible for falling educational standards in the UK, compared to international benchmarks?
  2. How should the NUT be sanctioned or punished for the UK education being bottom of the class?

Any thoughts?


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