Derek Blunt writes…
A Government Minister, Nick Gibb, announced recently that:
• Teachers should use textbooks rather than worksheets
• Paper textbooks are better than digital ones
• Maths textbooks published in England are not as good as those in Singapore
• An English version of a Singapore textbook is being trialled in England
• Maths lessons should start with learning times tables, because that's what they do in China.
I could respond to these suggestions but there is a more fundamental issue: the Government has laid down what must be taught in the National Curriculum. Should they now start telling teachers how to do their job?
Would a Government Minister tell doctors, for instance, that they should use mechanical blood pressure monitors rather than digital ones?
Would Computing teachers be happy if Nick Gibb or one of his colleagues said that they should use textbooks, and start each lesson practising binary arithmetic? Would they be happy if he said that a programming approach used in China should be adopted here?
It doesn't matter whether what he or his colleagues say is correct or not. As a matter of principle, I don't think we should discuss it with them. Teachers are professionals, and should be trusted to get on with the job. I mean, how much political control should there be, and are the statements about what sort of resources should be used, and how lessons should start, an indication of even more state interference in the classroom?
Apparently the tenure of a Government Minister is, on average, 19 months, and there's an election coming up in 5 months' time. Textbooks take longer to write and publish than 5 months – more like a year to 18 months. If textbooks are changed and then a different party is elected, is it all change again? Even if you think it's a good idea to engage in discussion with Government Ministers on the minute details of what resources to use in your classroom, what's the point?
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