Secret Teacher: multi-academy trusts want machines not mentors

Teachers are being told to ‘just stick to the script’ like staff in a call centre. Is this really how we want children to learn? Writes The Secret Teacher in The Guardian

Ask anyone about their favourite teacher and they will, more often than not, describe the rogue teacher – the teacher who seemed to tear up the rulebook and teach the way that best suited them. They were strong personalities who left a lasting impression on you and taught you as much about the world as they did about their own subject area.

When I came into teaching, I had hoped that I would one day inspire young people, as the Department for Education’s advertising slogan promised me. Over the years, I have come to recognise that good teaching depends so much on the personality of the teacher. When this is taken out of the equation, what else is left?

There is no secret formula to being a good teacher. There is no secret fairy dust head teachers can sprinkle over their new staff, immediately turning them into outstanding teachers. This is much to the frustration of academy principals and multi-academy trust directors – who, it seems, would like nothing more than to have the same strict uniformity in the personalities and proficiency of their teaching staff as they currently have in their student dress codes.

This seemed to be the underlying motive of a training session for a new Key Stage 3 mastery programme I was forced to attend recently. The session bore many similarities to previous training I had received for a telesales job; we were told, with no hint of a joke, that we would all be required to read from a script and that these scripts would form the entire content of two hour-long lessons per week.

Even the training video we watched seemed bland by comparison. Bearing a strong hint of David Brent, the teacher – script in hand – demonstrated how to read a script aloud to a “real” class of just seven compliant students. As we were prompted into applauding a fellow English teacher’s ability to read word-for-word from a script, I found myself looking over my shoulder for any hidden cameras, or for any signs of Ant and Dec lurking in the shadows, giggling like a pair of schoolgirls at the hilarity of such an obvious prank.

This growing trend worries me not only as a teacher, but as a parent too. I want my children to love learning. Yes, I want them to be able to write in paragraphs, but I also want them to write poetry. Yes, I want them to be able to answer questions, but I also want them to ask questions. And yes, I want them to listen to their teachers, but I also want them to feel that they have a voice.

Read more Secret Teacher: multi-academy trusts want machines not mentors

Have you attended a training session for a new Key Stage 3 mastery programme? Did you feel the same way? Please tell us your thoughts in comments or via Twitter?  ~ Tamsin

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  1. How ironic! Many other countries with education systems with a strong emphasis on rote learning are trying to attract British teachers and teacher trainers with a creative slant because THEY recognise the limitations of this approach.

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