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The £10m question – can our Behaviour Tsar knock some sense into teachers?

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WHICH of these two teaching methodologies is more conducive to good behaviour, and thence to good teaching, in the classroom?

1. Traditional teaching that is teacher-led with all pupils facing the front;

2. Modern ‘progressive’ child-centred learning based on group work with the teacher acting as a ‘facilitator’.

According to the government’s ‘Behaviour Tsar’, Tom Bennett, traditional whole-class teaching is the clear winner. It seems that pupils sitting in groups, learning through ‘exploration’, many with their backs to the teacher, are more inclined to misbehave. Who would have thought that? Certainly not the schools and teacher-training institutions that have been promoting the child-centred approach as ‘best practice’ for years.

Nor has Ofsted ever really grasped that ‘teacher-centred’ beats ‘child-centred’. As Daisy Christodoulou noted in her Seven Myths About Education (2014), ‘Ofsted require teachers to give children the control of the classroom, just as Dewey, Rousseau and Freire suggest.’ She clinched her case by showing that Ofsted school reports invariably reserve ‘good’ or ‘outstanding’ judgements on teaching to those who deployed the child-centred approach.

Now, our Behaviour Tsar has come up with much the same conclusion as Christadoulou. He has told the Daily Telegraph that for many children, progressive teaching techniques are a ‘very good way to maximising misbehaviour’.

For this ‘statement of the bleedin’ obvious’ he has bagged a £10million jackpot. Yes, three years on from his appointment, Tom the ex-Soho bouncer has cracked it. Unlike anyone else within government or within the educational establishment, the Tsar has worked out that many kids ‘need really clear boundaries and they need to be taught good behaviour, too’.

Tom is spot on with this conclusion, but who amongst the teaching profession is going to believe the heresy that he has expounded to the Telegraph?

‘Progressivism rests on the idea that [all] children want to behave and they want to learn, the teacher needs to step back and allow the child to explore their natural curiosity, which will motivate them and get them engaged . . . But this relies on an “overly optimistic view” of human nature.’

Bennett is required to use his £10million windfall to convert the teaching profession to his way of thinking. Changing the mindset of a brainwashed teaching force will be a monumental task.

Undermining or debunking the ‘faith’ of those who live off our education system is akin to the tasks faced by Copernicus or Galileo when they challenged ecclesiastical ‘truths’. Belief and allegiance to current educational theology, constructed as it is on child-centred progressivism, is every bit as narrow, intolerant and fanatical as any religious extremism.

It has become almost impossible for the teaching profession to conceive of any way of looking at the world other than through its own narrowly focused lens. After decades of brainwashing, the profession’s hearts and minds are not going to change overnight. It is some years, now, since an iron curtain descended on and enclosed our education system.

In the end, rational argument and incontrovertible evidence is the most potent weapon that Tom Bennett will possess in order to combat the Blob’s irrationality and fanaticism. His starting point should be to send to every school and teacher training establishment in the country a copy of head teacher Irina Tyk’s seminal insight. 

It comes free of the ten million pounds that is about to spent by the government on the same issue and is certainly ten million times better than anything ever issued by the education department on teaching methodology.

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Chris McGovern
Chris McGovernhttp://www.cre.org.uk
Chris McGovern is the Chairman of the Campaign for Real Education. A retired head teacher with 35 years’ teaching experience, Chris is a former advisor to the Policy Unit at 10 Downing Street under two Prime Ministers.

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