Thursday, 11 December 2014

In which their representatives remind us that teacher trade unions are bad for education


The regional branch of Ofsted has published some mildly critical comments about Bradford's schools. And it's true that our schools are not closing the gap and that, to put it mildly, the Council's leadership on this matter are rather complacent. But - and this is important given the close links with Bradford's political leadership - the response from teacher trade unions is utterly shameless.

Firstly, here's what Ofsted suggested:

Nick Hudson, Ofsted director for North East, Yorkshire and Humber, said: “The fact that Bradford is ranked 144 out of 150 nationally is clearly a concern."

He added: "I think the answers lie in secondary schools in Bradford and secondary schools on the borders of Bradford that are performing well.

"The Council should maybe look beyond its borders to see why other schools are doing better than those in Bradford are. My advice is the Council needs to seek links with these areas." 

Helpful advice - look at nearby schools perhaps in Calderdale, Leeds and Kirklees that are doing better.

So what do the teacher union representatives have to say. First up is the NUT:

Ian Murch, Bradford spokesman for the National Union of Teachers, was sceptical of the findings. He said: "Ofsted often finds what it is looking for. There are high levels of deprivation and in some inner city schools there are a lot of children who don't speak English as a first language.

"These schools are measured to the same standards. Performance of children from some of the poorest families are measured against children from well off areas whose parents went to university." 

Of course there's no deprivation in Leeds, Halifax or Huddersfield! Yet again we see a series of excuses rather than an urgent desire to improve Bradford's education. Plus the re-run of the myth about children with English as a second language being less able - which they aren't:

Schools with large numbers of migrants and pupils from ethnic minorities gain the best GCSE results because they have a stronger work ethic, according to research.

A study by Bristol University found that schools with a diverse pupil population performed significantly better than those filled with white British children.

It emerged that the effect could be worth an extra eight GCSE grades compared with the rest of the country – the equivalent of leaving school with straight A grades rather than Bs.

So you see, Bradford's schools aren't poor because of immigrants. Too many of them are just poor schools.

On to the NAS/UWT representative who launches into a rant about resources:

"Many schools are having to cut back, and have bigger classes with fewer staff. Standards in school is a much bigger issue than Ofsted would have you believe." 

Bradford's schools receive some £75 million more in funding today than they did in 2010 with much of this going to schools with more children from deprived backgrounds. Pam Milner, the representative in question is simply making stuff up.

These responses are worse than complacency (and that's bad enough), they amount to a denial that teachers have a central role to play in delivering the improvements in standards. Yet all teacher unions have done is promote strikes and other industrial action - things that do nothing to help the children their members teach. And rather than face up to their responsibilities these representatives shift the blame onto government, parents, immigration - anything but the schools themselves.


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