Wednesday, 21 January 2015


Triumph of the flannel
Words fail

Publication of the official review of ITT ('initial teacher training') in England offers an index of how far an education system can sink in terms of addressing the real processes of its practical work. The just published Carter Review of Initial Teacher Training (ITT) deals with a huge and vital sector of the national educational system, and manages to do so without saying anything of educational substance, or for that matter anything about training teachers how to teach from the outset of their careers.

This report states no explicit ideology, offers no philosophy, no theory, and no substantial reference to the process of educational practice. What are the ethics of all this? What is child development, how does it relate to education, what are the aspirations of parents, how does the whole thing actually work to help create the next generation? How does one teach children, how do they best learn, how does one act to come to answers to such questions and then transfer the knowledge gained to future generations, Who knows? Who cares?

And before you ask, yes pedagogy is mentioned (a word count of twenty over 80-odd pages) but it no longer seems to mean the science of skill of teaching. Instead it features as part of the frequently met fallacy of subject-pedagogy), a belief that better knowledge of the subject being taught is often associated with being better teachers, ergo knowing the subject being taught is the (sole knowable?) way to improving how it is taught.  As in this document as a whole, no relevance substance. 'Pedagogy' is another good word now being debased.

SEND (Special educational needs and disability)

SEND features big in the Carter Review. Here we go again, unquestioningly:
All teachers are potentially teachers of SEND.(p.34)
What, however, is involved here? What ought teachers to know. about the pupils, their families, their social, mental and physical conditions? How do children learn and develop? How does one intervene in all this and to what ends?

What's it all about, and how might one best introduce it all to teachers at the start of their careers? Patently, as the report acknowledges, the present system does not satisfy them, for example:
...SEND remains one of the lowest rated aspects of training for primary trainees.(p. 58)
And the situation continues to deteriorate.

So what are the fundamental steps to take to remedy this? None are suggested here.

Get it

It is most frustrating to search through this document looking for what is actually meant in terms of knowing what to do to train better teachers (or even acknowledging that this task is just an inseparable part of interlocking problems in and around England's education system. It just does not say anything.

Instead it smothers the topic with a stifling blanket of the same old stuff, yet more of the usual flannel, sounding much but saying nothing.

What to do about this? Words fail. Is it best just to tiptoe away and ignore the whole matter?

Of course, if you work in the English education system you are obliged to take it into account. If your experiences lead you to despair about how little teachers and schools understands about 'SEND' – not least but hardly exclusively for children with motor disorders and other disabilities – if you really want to do something about this, then you have no choice. If you want fully to understand the magnitude of the problem that you face, get Carter, read it critically, and do not fail to take account of what it tells you about the world in which you operate.

That of course also goes for everyone wishing to advance the education of children with cerebral palsy and other disabilities, and the cause of Conductive Education in England.

Who writes this sort of stuff?

Who knows? Policy wonks and pointy heads with no experience or even contact with the matters under their consideration? 'Consultants'? 'Managers'? 'Academics'? A committee? 

These people are named:

And criticised:

The eponymous Sir Andrew Carter OBE? Who he? He is a primary-school head-teacher, knighted last year 'for services to education'. None the worse for that. These services might in fact stand comparison with the epics of education, the pedagogic poems, of the likes of A. S. Makarenko. If they do, though, there is no sign of them here, smothered under the blanket of official flannel.


Carter, A. (2015) Carter Review of Initial Teacher Training (ITT), London, Department for Education

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