One of the reasons that I have ended up where I am is because I quit my chosen profession of teaching nearly 40 years ago. It had always been my ambition to teach and I had enjoyed the role for six years. In the years that I have been out of the school system I have continued to find roles where I can still use my teaching skills.
So why leave my ideal job? The first reason was a change in parental attitudes in the seventies that seemed to think we were there to fulfill their role while they enjoyed 70’s freedom. But there was also an annoyance at a reward system that ensured that, however good or bad you were, you all received the same financial reward.
Moving into the private sector I was pleasantly surprised to discover that salary rises and promotions were based on merit, that you didn’t all get the same increase each year regardless of how badly you had performed, and promotions were not a case of ‘dead men’s shoes.’
As I watched the television last week with protests in England about introducing performance pay for teachers, a number of things occurred to me. The first was that nothing appears to have changed in 40 years.
And yet, the evidence for performance related pay has developed significantly. We now know that a good teacher will grow a child by one and a half years in a year whereas a bad teacher will grow the child only six months. In other words, rewarding and keeping good teachers will out perform smaller class sizes, better decoration and better facilities. A child is significantly better off in a shabby school with a good teacher than they are with a glossy school and a bad teacher.
So why do parents still go for the glossy school with the 5% smaller class sizes and the smart new facilities? You could argue that it is because parents are fooled by the marketing gloss but could it be something much simpler?
Because there is no performance related system in the schools they have no way of judging where the good teachers are. So parents, regardless of your political persuasion, if you want to show your brains off to your children, make sure that you lobby for the system that gives yours and other children the best chance.