Alastair Stewart: Is teaching a dying art?

'One of Boris Johnson's interesting appointments was Nadhim Zahawi as Education Secretary'

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When Boris Johnson reshuffled his Government last week, the least unexpected move was to show Education Secretary Gavin Williamson the door.

One of the more interesting appointments was Nadhim Zahawi as Education Secretary.

He’s worked on apprenticeships and children & families before so he’s got some skin in the game.

But he is one of the big achievers in Government: he chalked up the victory in vaccinations.

It is a big statement on intent: Education matters and there’s much to do.

In a widely welcomed, open letter to all working in education, Zahawi wrote:

“My commitment is to pursue and support excellence for every child and every learner. That means academic excellence and skills that lead to brilliant jobs; but also the surrounding support and care that allow every child to take advantage of those opportunities and make the most of them. I will listen to you and work with you to make sure we do right by children and learners. And, with you, I will also listen to children, families, young people and adult learners so that we can spread opportunity far and wide”.

He’s also good a whole new team of Ministers - usually an indication of action and intent.

There is still the outstanding catch-up plan for schools to be fully funded but one of the biggest problems he will need to address is the fact that 1 in 6 teachers leave the profession after a year.

There are big shortages, not least in nurseries & early years.

But in primary and secondary the most common complaints aren’t the hours in class and the face to face time with children, not even lesson preparing: it is admin, data collection, assessments and some marking.

I recently read a brilliant book, ‘Let That Be A Lesson’ by a former teacher, Ryan Wilson, who called it a day.

It is funny, profound and a cautionary tale.

Ryan had wanted to be a teacher from childhood but all the above ground him into the ground. He wants it to be better - he might even come back!

So today we’re asking ‘Is Teaching a Dying Art?’

If it is, what can Nadhim do to give it a shot in the arm, as it were?

Can’t AI & smart data take some of the tedious form filling out of the frame?

Can we do better on teacher training?

The private sector is opening new schools all over the place: what have they got we could learn from?

Can we do better or are we at risk of fighting to keep the art alive and appealing to the people our kids need.