Tristram Hunt, Education and New Labour Posh Boys

New Labour posh boy Ed Milliband (Corpus Christi and Oxford) must be so busy worrying about his position that he’s left New Labour posh boy Tristrum Hunt (University College School and Cambridge) to talk about a subject neither can conceivably know about from experience – state education. The latter’s only qualification in this respect is that the former made him Shadow Education Secretary.

I’ve got nothing against so-called Posh Boys, but they shouldn’t speak about matters they don’t understand, and I’ve just been listening to Tristrum Hunt on Today talking about how private schools (which he should know all about) will be forced to provide services to the local state sector – in particular lend their superior teaching staff to local state schools. I wonder how state school teachers feel about this assessment of their relative merit?

I’d also be interested to know whether he and millionaire Milliband had properly checked this with their Trade Union Paymasters. You see the teaching trade unions are currently mounting a campaign against the use of unqualified teachers. “You can’t let unqualified teachers teach our kids!” seems to be the general emotive argument for this closed-shop arrangement. And it sounds reasonable until you consider where teachers might come from. Either they train and obtain the necessary paperwork immediately following their own education, or they have a career, gain life experience and then convert to teaching later in life based on enthusiasm and aptitude.

In spite of government initiatives to attract more experienced people into the “profession”, it’s an up-hill struggle to obtain the paperwork mid-life. We’re talking about scientists and engineers here. Who can afford to take a huge drop income while training once you’re married with responsibilities?

There is an answer, however – the private sector. There it’s up to the head teacher to select teachers on merit, not paperwork. Good teachers need communication skills, a good knowledge of their subject and a transferable enthusiasm to pass it on. They don’t need paperwork.

So what are Ed Milliband and Tristrum Hunt thinking? Have they realised that the NUT is wrong, and this is an attempt to smuggle good “unqualified” teachers in to state classrooms by the back door? Or did they just not think it through?

Incidentally, I don’t share Milliband and Hunt’s assessment that state school teachers need help from the private sector, nor that career teachers are poorer than those bought in from industry, although life experience and hands-on knowledge is definitely an advantage when it comes to engineering and other real-world skills. State school teachers know a lot about education, which isn’t to be underestimated. And private schools have good and bad teachers, just like everywhere else.

People like me already volunteer to help out in state schools out of a desire to spread knowledge and experience to the next generation. In the state sector, however, the NUT has seen to it that we can only be “teaching assistents”; but we do it for the next generation – not the state.

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