Staving off the tedium of cough-recovery inactivity, I was ploughing through yesterday's Sunday Times when I came across a piece about the proposal to raise entry standards for wannabe primary teachers. (Actually I'm not certain about that last qualification - the paper was certainly talking about primary teachers, but there was a lack of clarity ...) Anyway, I had a flashback to my own primary education, during which I was taught by two men and five women, six of whom were Glasgow MA graduates and one a BSc. They all wore their hoods to prizegiving. They were fiercely proud of their work and of the school, and some of them were also pretty fierce, in a respect-inducing sort of way. The only time I ever saw one of them at a loss was the hapless BSc who taught us in P7, for he became entangled in the thickets of English grammar and had to appeal, in a note home via me, to my father for assistance. Less strange than you might think - they were old buddies, and when I came in with homework that was different from that of the other 39 in my class, he realised he was in unsuspected deep water. (He might not have noticed the juxtaposition of metaphors in that story, but the formidable Miss Campbell would not have liked it).
When I was a secondary teacher, I never felt out of my depth in my own subject. Had I had to teach P7 maths, it might have been another story - though I can still do long division, for what it's worth. Perhaps a subject-based degree is not such a useful qualification for a Primary teacher - but its possession at least shows a level of study and competence without which an underlying confidence might well be lacking. I still tend to rate people by their ability to write competent and properly-spelled English as an indicator of basic education, and I still expect teachers not to come out with such expressions as "I seen" and "I done" - or, worse still, "Ah seen" and "Ah done". It's even worse when this is a common feature of the speech of the English teacher of one's own child - and when the same teacher, who is also a colleague, tells you "But you're posh".
Posh I am not. But I was well taught, fairly rigorously tested, and instilled with a passion for language that has grown with the years. I cannot say that the similarly good teaching managed to get me beyond the basic competence needed for Higher Maths and Higher Science (remember, if you're older than I am, that that was awarded after a single paper in both Physics and Chemistry; they split the two, if I'm correct, in the early 1960s) - but the MAs who taught me were bright enough to do the biz in Primary and my teachers after S3 had a real uphill struggle against orchestra practices and other distractions.
So: how on earth do you get accepted for teacher training without demonstrating enough ability and education to have room for manoeuvre? And whom does a lack of rigour help? Not the teacher - horrid to find yourself the butt of sneers from a ten-year-old who knows the answer you don't; not the pupils, who have perfectly correctly spelled words marked wrong by the ignoramus charged with their education. No: there are no winners. There don't seem to be teacher shortages either, not right now.
Seems pretty bloody obvious to me.