Today (3rd February) Lord Adonis (the former schools minister) has stated that all secondary schools, if they are to have a hope of sending their students to top universities, must have graduates from those universities on their teaching staff. Otherwise, you may as well not bother because you’re never going to be able to inspire students to go to those universities if you have no experience of them yourself. He was taught by a teacher who went to Oxford, who, in turn, inspired him to go there too. So there you have it. In order to get into Oxford, you need to have been taught by someone who went there. Am I the only one who thinks this is missing the point a little? Does he honestly think that all it takes for our free school meal students (who, according to last year’s figures, totalled only 40 in Oxford or Cambridge) need to have is someone who ‘knows the system’? He also says they have a ‘good specialist subject knowledge’. I pity every other poor teacher who didn’t go there – their subject knowledge must be really sub-standard. If this is the level of understanding you need to become a schools minister, then I’m on my way to Westminster tomorrow. I can’t fail to be given a high-ranking post.
This kind of statement really doesn’t help things at all. There’s an awful lot more to required than just having a teacher who’s ‘been there, done that’. Ask any secondary teacher why more of their students don’t get to the red-brick universities and they’ll give you many differing answers – but I bet very few, if any, will say it’s because no-one teaches at their school who went to Cambridge. These universities have a reputation with many people, whether they like it or not, of favouring students from more affluent backgrounds. Does this have any basis? Maybe it did some years ago, maybe it does now, I don’t know. But if that’s what people think, then that’s what needs addressing – perceptions. Take students there, show them around, let them know that they can get there too – barriers need to be broken down, I would think, if mindsets are going to change.
Then again, I’m a primary teacher. And we know very little about these things.