Reported in the Times that less than half of primary school teachers have two good A levels, while only 41 per cent of secondary teachers have a degree in the subject they teach, according to a report claiming that the profession is in crisis.
There has been a big increase in teacher numbers in recent years, after a shortage in the mid-1990s. But the report from the think-tank Politeia says government policies focus too much on increasing numbers with too little regard for quality. It notes there there are two non-teaching members of staff for every three teachers. There are now 150,000 teaching assistants, while the number of unqualified teachers working in schools has increased significantly in the past decade.
Bob Moon, Professor of Education at the Open University and co-author of the report, said: "The assessment system allows even the weakest candidates through". The Training and Development Agency for Schools, the Government's teacher training agency, rejected many of the findings, insisting that standards had never been higher.
But they would say that, wouldn't they? I mean, if you're responsible for training teachers, you're hardly likely to admit that most teachers are rubbish?
I used to be a teacher myself, and this news doesn't surprise me at all. As I wrote on another page some time ago, teaching's a rotten job. About the only good thing is the pension, which is not exactly generous but is at least copper-bottomed and index-linked. Of course the government are tinkering with even that now, so today's teachers may not be as lucky when they retire as I was.
Otherwise, you're hemmed in by political correctness, abused by children, overloaded with new initiatives you know full well are totally pointless, and you're criticised and patronised by inspectors and education advisers who were failures in the classroom themselves which is why they became inspectors and advisers in the first place.
Increasingly you know that the material you're required to teach is rubbish. The Evening Standard "This is London" website has an article describing how traditional geography teaching is to be sidelined in favour of studying global warming, Third-World trade and the 2012 Olympics. Lessons in capital cities, rivers and continental drift will make way for "themed" teaching on issues such as the causes of climate change, the impact of buying clothes on poorer nations and the effects of the South-East Asian tsunami.
"Sustainable development" (a.k.a. eco-Nazi propaganda) will become a compulsory part of the curriculum. Children will conduct fieldwork projects such as "the regeneration of East London as part of the 2012 Olympics", and explore globalisation by looking at the impact of their choices as consumers, including buying clothes and trainers.
Still, not to worry. The children don't want to learn, behave or even listen to you, you have no sanctions at all with which to try and impose some discipline, and to cap it all you can be automatically suspended, your career blighted and your good name ruined because some evil little mare takes it into her head to accuse you of molesting her.
And don't anyone dare to tell me the long holidays make it worthwhile. They don't. Trust me, they don't. Most of the teachers I know would be delighted if the terms were made longer, because then they might have just the tiniest chance of getting something done for a change.
If there's one thing worse than being in a rotten job, it's being in a rotten job and knowing that you could actually do it quite well if only they'd let you.
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