Which is the very same reason why Katherine Birbalsingh's latest article has resonated so very much at Puddlecote Towers. You see, I recognise this from both their respective schools.
Stand in front of your class for more than 10 minutes and the inspector will tell you that you’re only ‘satisfactory’ because learning is no longer about the teacher teaching: it is about the teacher ‘facilitating’ learning. All inspectors want to see is children working in groups, ‘discovering’ learning as opposed to being taught anything at all. And some subjects lend themselves well to this new regime, like English or History. Others, like Languages or Physics, do not. And even in the well-suited subjects, should one really be doing group work all of the time? Ask any child what they do when put in groups and they’ll tell you it amounts to very little.Group work is probably great fun for the kids (although I've had to complain before now when the boy was grouped with a rat-faced kid who, at 8, was still watching Teletubbies and thinking it funny to wreck the computer they were 'working' on), kinda like a Build a Bear party staggered into different elements, but hardly constitutes 'teaching' IMO.
The subject of schooling crops up quite a bit amongst parents, as you can imagine, and one of the first questions I always ask of those who I find to be well-adjusted and educated is which of their school teachers did they find most inspirational. Just as an interesting aside, more often than not they plump for a primary level one.
To follow, I ask why they made their choice(s). The answer is always - and I really mean always - that the teacher(s) not only taught them the curriculum, but also engaged them by going off at a tangent and imparting knowledge, wisdom and life experiences ... and not necessarily all in the subject which they were teaching. They were the ones who gave them an all-round education; the ones who cared more for the future life chances of their charges than those who just crammed the required knowledge in before clocking off.
My two were an English teacher who seemed (in hindsight) to be making lessons up on the fly, and a History teacher who could reduce the entire class into fits of giggles with a few seconds of wit. Looking back, I'm pretty sure neither followed any kind of curriculum, but they held their scholarly court in an atmosphere of consummate attention.
We hung on their every word as they injected their wisdom without our even feeling we were being taught. I was around 11 years old, yet these guys were using the same tactics as a university lecturer ... and we lapped it up simply because they were as inspiring as their targeted anecdotes were unmissable. The teachers who stuck to their notes I barely remember, and have had little noticeable impact on my adult life.
It's the same with those acquaintances I question as to their educational background. The teachers they respected - the ones who could impart knowledge without stiffly relying on text books - have sometimes become later life friends, with respect still at an elevated level. Those who weren't able to do so have been almost forgotten (the clicking of the fingers as they struggle to recall names is a regular response).
Kids need to be taught. Not just curriculum, but also a general way of getting through life. If it takes tales of cockroaches dropping into an omelette whilst in the United Arab Emirates (a long story) or playing the latest chart hit and then getting them to write an essay about what they were thinking, then so be it.
Inspiration is everything in education, not just sticking to the syllabus.
Now, I know some may be ready to leap at me after previous mutterings about the paucity of instilling times tables and spelling into the kids, but if so you've missed the point.
Getting away from the drudge of education cramming is vital in teaching kids, especially at the primary school stage. But the tangential education has now been taken over by government. Where once it was up to teachers what they could teach outside the core elements of the subject, it has now been replaced with a plethora of state-sanctioned life lessons which I'm sure you don't need me to enlarge upon.
The role of teachers used to be to ram home the basics and then drop in some life education as they saw fit. Now, politicians and education authorities have decided what is to be considered as 'approved', thereby binding teachers to a strict set of state-dictated life lessons to promote to their pupils.
The inspirational tutor has not only been hog-tied by all of it, but increasingly marginalised for going off-script.
Not only that, state-sanctioned mantras seem to be nudging core education more and more into the sidelines (see again my examples above).
Teachers are now not only not allowed to be individual and inspirational, but also must adhere to rules laid down by government as to what kind of life should be taught, at the expense of what taxpayers think their contribution is paying for.
To learn that Ofsted are ticking boxes in promotion of such a bland and counter-productive regime - as described by Birbalsingh - doesn't come as too much of a surprise, but it is still deeply saddening.
Again, though, we see unintended consequences not just seeping into the equation, but fairly flooding in through a massive hole in state thinking. In pursuit of a 'comprehensive' education, legislators have tied the hands of inspirational teachers so much that only kids who are either very bright, or have a handy extra resource at home - well-educated parents - will be adequately prepared for properly succeeding once outside of school.
Politics used to be anathema for schooling in those of my age group. Its latent use in the 21st century education system is not only producing many quite useless finished articles, but is also playing into the hands of the more wealthy and - hate to say it boys and girls of the Spirit Level persuasion - increasing income inequality for the future.
Of course, as a working class boy made good by liberated teaching, I live in hope that others may be allowed to be as lucky in the future, but with the increasing homogenisation of education and the daft state conditioning now required to go with it, it's not with any realistic optimism.
Let teachers teach, we'll see results. Let government dictate too much how or what they teach, and the only result - as is always the case when state pokes its nose in - will be mediocrity.