According to February 2nd’s Guardian, ‘around 17,000 “substandard” teachers’ are at work in the nation’s classrooms, boring their pupils, being inadequate, communicating nothing. That’s 17000, folks. And from where does handy horrorbite chucked around by the Guardian originate? From a body that is supposed to represent and support teachers, the GTC (The General Teaching Council). Yet just how did Bartley arrive at this figure? The GTC, unlike OFSTED, does not inspect schools, and even OFSTED itself does not report individual teachers it deems to be failing. It would appear, however, that this figure, which represents roughly 3.4% of the total number of schoolteachers in the UK, does originate from OFSTED. According to the Guardian, the figure comes from ‘Sir Cyril Taylor, then a chief government schools adviser.’ However, without any statistical evidence to back up his claim, Bartley was reported as saying ‘It is not unreasonable to assume that in a workforce of half a million there is a proportion that is probably around that 17,000 that are in practice substandard.’ This seems to me to be an irresponsible, unscientific and alarmist statement made by the head of a government body whose main function is unclear–to the public, certainly, and quite probably, to many teachers. Yes, we teachers are registered by law with the GTC and yes, we pay them money. But as to what the GTC do; most teachers would probably not be able to tell you much about that.
So is Bartley’s comment a cheap shot aimed at a profession he is purporting to represent, a shock-horror soundbite which will horrify anxious parents? Arguably, the best we can say is that it’s likely to have been the most interesting moment in a long and dull speech (the context of Bartley’s comments isn’t elucidated by the journalist in the article). But even if the comment has been taken out of context, it’s still irresponsible: Bartley surely knows when his language might be deemed inflammatory or provocative. His remark is certainly not designed to make teachers feel valued: consider the equally thought-provoking statistic I’ve just made up–er, or should I say ‘not unreasonably assumed’, that at least 96.6% of teachers do a bloody good job for not very much money. That one might cheer up one or two in the profession, and ease the bruised feeling in the ribs we teachers get from the regular kickings inflicted by odious OFSTED/Thatcherite lackeys like Chris Woodhead, government ministers and the other pointless figureheads of the various educational quangos. Or perhaps we should be grateful to these leaders for their ‘tough love:’ we should defer to these worthies who clearly know so much more about how to inspire kids than we do.