Belfast Telegraph

Sunday 28 December 2014

'National Service Teachers' call

Sir Michael Wilshaw says an 'invisible minority' of disadvantaged children are being let down
Sir Michael Wilshaw says an 'invisible minority' of disadvantaged children are being let down

An army of top teachers should be deployed in schools that are failing their poorest pupils, according to Sir Michael Wilshaw.

The Ofsted chief inspector is calling for the Government to recruit a proportion of England's most talented teachers to teach in "less fashionable, more remote or challenging places".

Teachers could be offered incentives to sign up to become a National Service Teacher such as bigger pay packets, higher status and faster career progression.

In a major speech, Sir Michael warns there is an "invisible minority" of disadvantaged children living in "leafy suburbs, market towns or seaside resorts" who are being let down by their schools. These youngsters are underperforming and coasting through school until they leave at the earliest opportunity.

He says: "The quality of education is the most important issue facing Britain today. In the long term, our success as a nation - our prosperity, our security, our society - depends on how well we raise and educate our young people across the social spectrum."

In the last 20 to 30 years, standards in schools in major cities such as London, Birmingham, Greater Manchester, Liverpool and Leicester have been transformed, and problems of underachievement have shifted to deprived coastal towns and rural areas of the country, especially in the east and south east of England, Sir Michael argues. There are also a significant number of poorer children in reasonably rich areas such as Kettering, Wokingham, Norwich and Newbury who are being failed by their schools, he said.

"Today, many of the disadvantaged children performing least well in school can be found in leafy suburbs, market towns or seaside resorts," he says. "Often they are spread thinly, as an 'invisible minority' across areas that are relatively affluent. These poor, unseen children can be found in mediocre schools the length and breadth of our country. They are labelled, buried in lower sets, consigned as often as not to indifferent teaching. They coast through education until - at the earliest opportunity - they sever their ties with it."

He adds: "The most important factor in reversing these trends is to attract and incentivise the best people to the leadership of underperforming schools in these areas. This may require Government to work with Teaching Schools to identify and incentivise experienced and effective teachers to work in less fashionable, more remote or challenging places. The concept of a 'National Service Teacher' should be considered."

National Service Teachers would be employed and funded by central government to teach in schools and areas of the country that are deemed to be failing their disadvantaged pupils.

A Department for Education spokesman said they would consider Ofsted recommendations and respond in due course.

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