Education secretary Gavin Williamson needs to trust teachers to do their jobs - YEP letters
Gavin Williamson wants children to face the front but he is the one who needs to pay attention.
Chris Whitwood, Yorkshire Party Ambassador to the European Free Alliance
For a man who once spoke of the importance of strengthening academic freedom, Gavin Williamson’s latest remarks on the arrangement of furniture in classrooms seems almost laughable.
The Education Secretary recently announced that he was concerned that too many children were facing each other at square or round tables.
Yet before attempting to feng shui classrooms by decree, perhaps Williamson should consider the pedagogical implications of such a statement.
Presumably, Williamson is of the opinion that teaching is simply a case of dictating facts in the manner of Dickens’ Mr Gradgrind to row upon row of children who will obediently absorb information by osmosis.
Adults learn from each other through collaboration, exploration and discussion. Children are no different.
I have taught some lessons where children sat in rows facing forward. I have taught others where they worked in groups or pairs, supporting and encouraging each other’s learning.
I have even, no doubt to Mr Williamson’s horror, taught lessons where children have been encouraged to move freely about the classroom.
The layout of the classroom, particularly in primary, is adaptive. Different arrangements work well for different subjects and tasks.
As a qualified primary teacher, I can assure Mr Williamson that the most effective way to ensure children pay attention is by allowing teachers the freedom to teach engaging lessons, adapting and structuring content to meet the needs of their pupils.
The Education Secretary’s latest comments not only needlessly interfere with teaching practice that should be the choice of the class teacher, it also betrays a lack of understanding about a role that he is unqualified to undertake himself.
Many teachers I’ve spoken to have expressed their support for the Yorkshire Party’s call to depoliticise education policy making.
The party’s education policy, which is available to read online, underlines the importance of giving teachers the authority to do their job and affirms that the responsibility of government should be “to ensure teachers’ standards are upheld, but not to micromanage how these are fulfilled”.
It would be absurd for the Health Secretary to dictate to nurses or doctors the best way to measure blood pressure or to say that temperatures must only be taken using rectal thermometers. In a similar way, perhaps Williamson should focus on doing his job and trusting teachers to have the professionalism to do theirs.