Educating for Quality

Educating for Quality

Education is not always the first thing that springs to mind when thinking about Quality and Business Certification but in the wider context attitudes to quality can start manifesting from a relatively young age.

Today’s primary school students are tomorrow’s business leaders and we sometimes forget how crucially important the quality of teaching is during our early years. Having a ‘quality’ approach to education in our schools is actually an important foundation on which we should be building the right attitudes and behaviours in our young people.

According to the CBI, deep-rooted educational problems need to be addressed in order to break things like the cycle of social deprivation, low skill levels and long-term unemployment. One of the best ways to achieve this is to improve the quality of teaching and focus more resources on primary schools to prevent children from poor socio-economic backgrounds falling behind.  Studies have shown that primary schools should be the prime target for improved quality of teaching because it is during this time that the gap between high and low attainment widens.

Today it is countries such as Finland and Singapore that perform best in terms of educational outcomes because they traditionally focus strongly on the quality of teaching.

When Tony Blair took office in 1997 his mantra was ‘education, education, education’. Labour campaigned to put classrooms firmly at the top of the political agenda and today, under the coalition government, the education system is still very much in the headlines.

The schools white paper for example, “The Importance of Teaching,” was published in November 2010 and by January 2011 the Education Bill was on its way through the House of Commons.  David Cameron commented at the time that, “These radical proposals will give teachers both the freedom and the authority in the classroom that’s needed if we are to realise our ambition to drive up standards, improve discipline and behaviour and deliver the world-class education that our children deserve.”

The white paper claims it will strengthen the quality of new teachers, allow more schools to become academies, reduce school inspections and allow quicker and more wide-ranging intervention in failing schools. In other words it is trying to instil more of a ‘quality’ approach to education overall with the focal point of the new education bill’s proposals being the quality of teaching.

But what exactly are the best models of teacher training? And how exactly can teachers be trained in quality? The white paper says: “We know that highly effective models of teacher training systematically use assessments of aptitude, personality and resilience as part of the candidate selection process. We are trialling such assessments and, subject to evaluation, plan to make them part of the selection process for teacher training.”

Perhaps the last word should come from David Straker, MCQI CQP, who spent six years in a quality role at the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority and the Qualifications and Curriculum Development Agency. He believes that the education system in the UK could learn a lot from the quality profession, especially as the new reforms take shape.

David says “As schools become more independent, I would recommend that school managers read Deming’s 14 Points for Management and really try to understand it. School management generally needs to mature. A quality manager could improve the processes in a school, helping to make them living processes which really work. What do the people who write the parliamentary bills know about quality? Not a lot. It is up to us professionals to influence the understanding of quality at a national level so that places like schools can also reap the benefits.”

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