Wednesday, 11 March 2015

Or alternatively, they could just increase maths and science teachers' salaries...

From the BBC:

David Cameron is to announce a £15,000 university bursary for teenagers with good A-level maths and science grades, if they commit to enter teaching.

This "golden hello" for teenagers is an attempt to recruit more maths and physics teachers for England's schools. The prime minister says he wants this country to be the "best place in the world to learn maths and science"...

The £15,000 over three years for potential teachers would help with living costs and would be repayable if students did not go on to teach for three years after graduating.


DBC Reed said...

Or they could stop obsessing with Maths and Physics which only appeal to a minority of students.

A K Haart said...

We could do with more MPs who understand maths and science too.

ThomasBHall said...

Personally I don't really want state employed teachers paid more per se- and this at least is a cheap bribe. Consider it a state discount on university if you go and do something the state wants afterwards. If you didn't take it, you might not pay the full cost back to the state anyway...
I don't really know how to entice genuinely good teachers into teaching, but I imagine it will involve more around the work environment than the salary alone.

Lola said...

THB. Mrs L was a teacher. She got into it because she liked doing the teaching bit. She got out because education has become a political plaything for all the various factions.
Best you can do for them is to privatise the lot so that they can become masters of their own destiny and provide the teaching services that the customers want. MW education vouchers will ensure that all can pay.

ThomasBHall said...

Lola- Maybe. I am a fan of vouchers, and agree that normally, customers are king. There is a slight issue in my mind though, as the "customer" of a school is the parent, not the child- and there are plenty of parents who don't take their own duties as seriously as they might... It is due to the dependence between parents and children, and there clearly are duties owed by parents that the State has a role to uphold. I don't have the answer...

ThomasBHall said...

One other thing Lola- do you ever come down to London town? Some of the commentators on this site do go for a pint from time to time- usually on a Friday...

DBC Reed said...

The obsessive notion that schools will get better through competition is a zeitgeist thing that only time will eradicate.In the meantime kids will continue be transported miles to schools in a three/four o'clock secondary rush hour in towns which have, on a standard curve of distribution, one superlative school (which nobody can get into) ; two above average; two below average and one hell hole. Surely the idea would be to get standards ,curricula, and teaching methods to the same high standard everywhere so the kids can walk to school (and hence take part in out of school activities more easily) and could ,with a totally unified system, leave one school at the weekend and go to another next week without a break in the teaching progamme ,which should be national.(This would prevent the situation where the parents can't move to another part of the country because it would interrupt the children's schooling.)

Kj said...

DBC: I'm very sympathetic to the idea about public services, also in education, and would also like if such a system were in place. But there are a lot of problems with the idea that this would always be possible to come about in any circumstances, given enough resources/correct organisation.
I was just recently in a discussion about a tangential topic regarding the contracting out of diagnostic services from my local hospital, and various issues around private health care services. The other people were employees of said public hospitals. They moaned about the private facility churning out CTs, X-rays and MRs like it was nobody's business, on the public dime and ordered by specialists in the public sector. The back story is that previously, diagnostics within the hospital had massive waiting lists, and the costs of investing in increased capacity was deemed to high. Which is why the private facility got the contract.
Anyway, the view of these health professionals, very good people, was that: It was wrong that the private sector was involved, got profits etc., and that what is needed is proper organization within the public sector, and all this would be solved, and would even be cheaper than if privatized.

The question is, why didn't it just happen then? There is no natural progression in any organization to acomplish the objective of providing the best services possible to the user, and this is, although not exclusive to, especially true about the public sector. Changes have to be brought about with lots of politics and fighting interest groups, trials and failure. Sometimes it can work out quite good, often it doesn't. The idea that this process can be perfected to produce top notch education, and provide the same top shelf education in all schools, doesn't have any basis in reality. And even if we accept that no private school would be perfect either, the idea that alternatives are never a good thing, to test other methods, offer an alternative to someone who are very dissatisfied with the service offered at the public school, is very monolithic.

As for private schools encouraging long travels, this is exactly the opposite of the experience hereabouts in Norway. The biggest growth in non-public schools is where councils are centralizing primary schools in order to getting to do their favourite thing: building big modernists facilities that stands as symbols of their accomplishments as politicians. The "private" schools are taking over to ensure that the kids don't have to travel for an hour on the bus.

Bayard said...

"Surely the idea would be to get standards ,curricula, and teaching methods to the same high standard everywhere"

Agreed. I have a friend who runs a company taking over failing schools and turning them around. I'm not sure if this is semi-privatisation or what, but what interested me was, when I asked her what the main thing she did to turn the schools around, she said "upping staff morale".

So it looks like getting a good education system isn't a case of spending lots of money, getting class sizes down, or any of the things that politicians and educational theorists say it is, it just a case of stopping those idiots trying out their latest theory/policy/wizard wheeze/magic bullet on our schools and letting the teachers get on with actually teaching.
If the only way to do this is by privatisation, then so be it.

DBC Reed said...

Privatisation by its nature will only fragment things further.I am flat opposed to the idea of schools trying out teaching methods on an experimental basis.Having once been in charge of experienced teachers, I would say there is no greater disaster than the "personality teacher" who has "a vocation" to inflict their own weird ideas on young people.
There is enough collected expertise, for example amongst the Schools Inspectorate to come up with a curriculum ,teaching programme and support material
for a subject which can ensure optimum results by being teacher proof i.e. not underminable by the personable foibles, even problems of the teachers, which includes years as novices when teachers are making it up on the hoof.
We would not want to go to a hospital with wacky maverick practitioners who had invented their own treatments in a system which encouraged constant competitive experiment.
People were discussing only a few years ago (arguing ferociously) about teaching reading by phonics or by the whole word method.Clearly this should have been settled by extensive field trials fifty years ago.Yet we continue with the free market chaos to this day and its getting worse.

Mark Wadsworth said...

DBC, as I have learned from years of blogging and in real life at work, most people are pathetically hopeless at numbers and maths and logic.

It's only maths teachers and science people who get it.

AKH, yes.

TBH, it's a 'cheap bribe' and short term stunt, so will be less effective than a general increase in maths and science teacher salaries, or indeed improvements to terms and conditions or whatever.

We've covered this before - people who are numerate earn on average higher salaries than those who aren't.

L, whether teachers get better terms and conditions or higher salaries is the same thing. That's not the point.

TBH, don't talk to me about f-ing parents. I had a free place at a top grammar school and my c-nt parents decided that I should leave at age 15 after doing my O-Levels. F-ck knows why.

DBC, this 'walking to school' is a side topic. Most kids are within walking distance of a primary school, and if secondary school pupils have to take the bus for half an hour, so what?

DBC, Kj, B, as to how we can improve standards in state schools, I do not know.

But other countries have excellent state schools, all we have to do is copy what they do.
Vouchers seem to work elsewhere where they have been tried, why not give that a go?

Anyway, that was not the topic of the post.

Mark Wadsworth said...

DBC: "Privatisation by its nature will only fragment things further.I am flat opposed to the idea of schools trying out teaching methods on an experimental basis"

Come off it.

Private schools are by their very nature very staid and least likely to go off on some wild experiment, unless the government forces them to or unless it provably works elsewhere.

It is the state which continually forcing 'radical shake-ups' and changing the syllabus.

Last time I looked, the times tables, periodic tables, spelling and grammar are the same as ever, we learned it as kids perfectly well using the teaching methods of the day. They worked then, why would they not work now?

Bayard said...

"it's a 'cheap bribe' and short term stunt"

Of course, it's election year, innit?

However, it doesn't have to be short term. The state offering scholarships in subject it wishes more people to study at university is more effective than increasing the salaries of the job those subjects point towards. Yes, if the state wishes more students to read certain subjects so that they can become teachers in those subjects, it can increase the salaries of (mainly state employed) teachers but what if they wanted more engineering graduates or any other subject where the employment opportunities lie mostly in the private sector.

Also, increasing teachers' salaries is a sledgehammer to crack a nut. The state would have to fork out for increasing the pay of hundreds of teachers in the vague hope of attracting a few more graduates into teaching. What if it didn't work? At least with the DC method, there is a guaranteed teacher for the outlay.

Mark Wadsworth said...

B, short termism never works.

" increasing teachers' salaries is a sledgehammer to crack a nut."

?? we know from evidence that people who are good at maths and science think more rationally.

If you offer them a £15k bung to teach for three years, they will see that as a £5k salary bonus for the first three years, that's all. They are indifferent between that and (say) a lifelong guaranteed £1k salary increas.

For sure, that means the salaries of all existing maths teachers goes up, but it's always cheaper and better keeping somebody in a job than churning, whereby teachers pack it in after three years and then a whole new cadre has to be trained up.

"but what if they wanted more engineering graduates or any other subject where the employment opportunities lie mostly in the private sector."

YPP higher education policy is here.

Curtis said...

MW: "as I have learned from years of blogging and in real life at work, most people are pathetically hopeless at numbers and maths and logic."

is not entirely compatible with

we learned it as kids perfectly well using the teaching methods of the day. They worked then, why would they not work now?

depending on who you are defining as most people.

Mark Wadsworth said...

C, yes, that's exactly what I said, but it's not contradictory.

People don't do numbers and logic in real life because they do not want to and because they do not like the answers and not because they are intellectually incapable or because they weren't taught properly.

People all talk and think like politicians. So instead of thinking, they blame it all on immigrants, blame it all on banking, blame it all on carbon emissions, blah blah blah.

My second jibe was at DBC blaming private schools for constant radical changes in teaching methods.

DBC Reed said...

As a matter of fact the current Academy programme " frees" schools from all that boring National Curriculum stuff and allows them to teach what they like : a lot will go hippy,another lot will succumb to religious mania.They also can hire anybody as teachers.STand by for half educated nutcases to have a field day, inflating their own disturbed egos unhampered by sticking to any curriculum or syllabus.
People good at maths and science think more rationally ? One-word answer to that:Thatcher!!!It pains me to say that the supremely rational politicians were Enoch Powell and Harold Macmillan who were educated in the classics(though HM spent a lot of time off school with illness).
Scientists and especially computer nerds seem to believe in very simple rules and cannot cope with complexity and ambiguity like wot we humanities geezers kno all about.Neither can the techies assemble masses of evidence and use deduction .e.g.
The zeitgeist at the moment is the Wahabbi lite injunction Markets rule.The market may be a man-made system but we cannot possibly improve or adjust it .

Bayard said...

Mark, well, yes, I am sure that increasing teachers' salaries would work, but not necessarily as effectively as offering a cheaper degree. Worst case for the first option is that you end up paying a lot of existing teachers more and get no new entrants. Worst case for the second option is that you get no new entrants and it hasn't cost you a penny (apart from the (probably ridiculously high) set-up costs). If it was my money being spent, I know which one I'd go for, but then I'm a pessimist.