Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Qualified Teacher Status be damned: children want to be led by talent and enthusiasm

Stupid Leftist credentialism in Britain.  I taught High School successfully without ONE MINUTE of teacher training.  Enthusiasm for your subject is the best qualification -- JR

What makes a great school? It’s a question that obsesses parents, professionals and politicians alike, and there are all manner of theories bandied about. But, really, it’s rather simple: you must put your students first. And in order to do that, you must hire only the very best people to teach them.

At our Academy school, we don’t mind whether or not our staff is QTS (Qualified Teacher Status) trained – a basic freedom that private schools have long enjoyed. We have trained dozens of high-quality, enthusiastic men and women over the past few years and retained the best ones, qualified or not.

During this time our school, despite being based in the disadvantaged seaside town of Weston-super-Mare, has become one of the best in the UK. Our GCSE results have eclipsed those of schools in more leafy suburbs and placed us in the top few per cent nationally.

So it came as quite a shock to learn this week that if Labour wins the next election, some of our staff will be among the 5,000 untrained teachers to be told they must gain a formal qualification or face the sack.

This would be a disaster, for schools, students and for my “unqualified” teachers; it is a nonsense that you need QTS to teach. Union leaders may not like it, but schools such as ours have developed a successful model of getting the best staff because we are able quite simply to recruit people who are keen, ambitious and hungry for success. It works: our school has become a conveyor belt of the very best teaching talent.

Take one of our brilliant maths teachers, Melissa Harding. Mel started with us in 2008 as cover and she immediately shone with her refreshing motivational style and enthusiasm. It was clear we had an outstanding talent on our hands, so we made her a maths “teacher”.

Her students performed above expectations, which is surely a good indicator of success, and then, after only two years with us, she was graded highly during an Ofsted inspection. In fact, she received a higher grade than some qualified maths specialists. No one – parents, teachers, staff – could have guessed that Mel was non-QTS.

Of course we were monitoring her closely, as we do with all our staff, but the bottom line, surely, is results, and Mel’s results are superb. Our entrepreneurial vice-principal/head of the upper school, Jane McBride, still does not have QTS, but her teaching of business studies is outstanding.

A business graduate and former leader of an Asda sales team, her enthusiasm and motivation are the key reason why our school-leavers take away first-class results.

What good would it do to sack staff such as Mel and Jane?

The trouble is, the unions and certain other parties seem to think that QTS is a guarantee of success when it obviously isn’t. All head teachers and principals have seen their fair share of poor “qualified” teachers who drift into the profession and are almost impossible to shift out. If we can find excellent QTS staff, that’s all good, but in the current market we need to have the flexibility and creativity which thankfully Michael Gove has introduced.

Why should a great local chef not teach cookery? Why should a great local hockey coach not teach PE? How many graduates drift into teaching without a real passion for the job? Conversely, how many people have been put off teaching by the rigid system of QTS?

Academy freedoms have been long-awaited and we are using them to the full for the benefit of students. No creative and forward-looking school wants to be shackled by bureaucracy and rules. We have abolished “supply teachers” and instead use highly enthusiastic and motivated cover staff. Ironically, many of these after a year or two are now progressing on to QTS courses: this system itself is creating better QTS-trained staff.

To help improve education for thousands of children, I would urge heads and principals to use their new-found freedoms to develop the best teaching talent, and Stephen Twigg to ditch this regressive part of his plan.

And Mr Gove could do us all a favour by making it even easier to dismiss the few unsuccessful and unmotivated teachers and give their jobs to the unqualified talent that is eager to teach. This could be his greatest legacy.


NYU's 'Toxic' Expansion Prioritizes Marketing Over Debt-Saddled Students, Professors Say

In a time of growing alarm over soaring student loan debt, New York University -- which graduates the most indebted classes of students in the country -- has embarked on an ambitious real estate expansion that could make the school even more expensive.

A vocal group of professors has mounted a rebellion aimed at halting the university's plans, which call for the addition of 6 million square feet of new space over the next two decades. NYU's administration has refused to publicly disclose the cost, but faculty critics point to estimates that the build-out could run several billion dollars.

"The situation is so toxic right now," said Adam Becker, an associate professor of religious studies at the university, and a member of the faculty opposition movement. "People are angry at the place. We feel like we have been pushed into the corner."

Like many of its students, NYU will need to finance its ambitions through borrowing. The plan's critics argue that these costs will surely get passed along to future classes in the form of higher tuition and less financial aid.

"I think they should put more money back into scholarships for students instead of expanding," said Sashika Gunawardana, who graduated from NYU in 2012 with about $150,000 in student loans.

University officials say that NYU must amass more space in order to keep pace with other campuses that can offer faculty and students more room than their school, based on the urban island of Manhattan.

But to faculty opponents, these plans, known as NYU 2031, exemplify what is wrong on their campus and throughout much of American higher education: The post-graduate financial distress of graduates is exacerbated by undertakings like NYU's real estate ventures and an expensive arms race to recruit and retain elite faculty.

For the nation as a whole, concern over the rising costs of college has reached feverish proportions. Over the past five years, American college costs have soared 24 percent, according to the College Board, even as the financial fortunes of millions of families declined. Not coincidentally, borrowing has soared.

Between 2004 and 2012, total outstanding student debt tripled to $1.1 trillion in the U.S., the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau recently calculated. The average debt load now exceeds $25,000 -- double the level of eight years ago. Some 13 percent of borrowers owe more than $50,000, and 4 percent owe more than $100,000, according to the Federal Reserve Bank of New York.

These forces are especially pronounced at NYU, the nation's largest private university. Even by the measure of private colleges, NYU is extraordinarily expensive, with the price of a typical four-year stay, including tuition, room and board, approaching $280,000.

Financial aid is relatively scarce, prompting many NYU students to gorge on student loans. The 2010 graduating class departed campus owing $659 million, according to Department of Education data, the highest sum of any class in the country (excluding a handful of for-profit colleges).

This borrowing spree has turned the financial life of many recent graduates upside down. Many are starting their careers owing an amount that would equate to a mortgage on a modest house. The debt burden is also forcing grads to live at home or on a shoestring budget. Some simply can't keep up and are defaulting, a financially ruinous outcome for young people further handicapped by strict laws that prevent discharging student debt through bankruptcy.

Gunawardana's debt saturation began in the weeks leading up to her freshman year in the fall of 2008. Her parents told her that their business had collapsed, leaving them unable to contribute to college. She signed off on the first of what would become a mountain of loans, telling herself that this was the price of admission.

"If you want to go to one of the top schools in the country, this is the sacrifice," she said.

She now works at a tech startup in New York and shares an apartment with two roommates. She declined to disclose her salary, but said the $1,000 each month she pays to her college lenders leaves her with barely enough money for groceries. She hasn't been able to afford a trip home to California to visit family in two years. She has shelved thoughts of graduate school for fear of taking on more debt.

On July 1, rates on new federally-backed student loans will double to 6.8 percent, unless Congress acts to prevent the increase.. Gunawardana may soon be forced to assume payments on a separate student loan her mother co-signed, which have been deferred until now.

Yet rather than confronting this burgeoning debt crisis among its alumni, or working to lower tuition costs for current and future students, the administration of NYU President John Sexton has instead prioritized a costly expansion funded by borrowed money, his critics maintain. The new expansion endangers future students, who will be forced to shoulder the cost, they say.

Last year, the university's prestigious Stern School of Business voted against the proposed expansion by a tally of 52 to 3, warning in a public letter that it would be "tremendously costly, amounting to several billion dollars." The borrowing-funded expansion will put "a significant strain" on the university's finances, and could lead to higher tuition rates, the school cautioned.

"Our widely-shared assumption is that the cost of debt-financed growth will inevitably fall on students in the form of rising tuition," said Andrew Ross, a professor of social and cultural analysis at NYU who is one of the leaders within the growing faculty opposition movement.


Parents banned from childrens' sports day by British school in case crowd 'stresses out pupils'

Furious parents have been banned from attending their own children's sports day for fear of causing their offspring stress.

Staff at Kenningtons Primary Academy in Aveley, Essex wrote to parents saying the annual sports day would be for 'children only' and that parents should not attend the event.

The letter from headteacher Miss Jo Sawtell said: 'Last year, we were not able to accommodate parents as the field was waterlogged and some of the activities took place inside.

'For lots of children, sports day is a very stressful occasion. This is invariably linked to being watched by a large crowd.  'All decisions are primarily taken with the interests of children at heart.'

But Sue Wilkinson, a spokeswoman for the Association for Physical Education, criticised the decision.  She said: 'We would like to see parents engage right across the educational spectrum. We would actively encourage parents to be part of their children's education.'

A group of mothers are angry at being barred from the event, with some threatening to ban their children from competing.  One mother, who did not wish to be named, said: 'Quite a few of us are upset about it. We are fuming.  'I have got friends who are teachers and they say they are crying out for parents that want to get involved.

'I did not realise wanting to get involved in the sports day would brand us bad parents.'

She added: 'I am keeping my children off school that day and I know other mums that are.  'We will recreate their sports day if needs be.

'The letter says sports day is very stressful for children because of the crowds watching.

"But they are inviting parents from other schools to see another sports day the next day - even though we are not allowed to our own kids' sports day.'

Parents have organised a meeting to discuss the ban.


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