Details can be irritating, it is so much easier to read the headlines. This means that full understanding is never achieved whether it be over a new washing machine or a new policy. The latter of course is much more public and lack of true understanding leads to generalisations and then misconceptions. I am thinking of two current examples, firstly about Universtity Technical Colleges (UTCs) and secondly about appointing qualified teachers.
UTCs are new schools for 14-18 year olds, there are 57 open or approved to open across England. They are the brainchild of Lord Baker who envisages 163 (see TES last week) to gain parity with the number of grammar schools which certainly seems a neat and equitable solution to meeting specific needs. However, concern is often vehemently expressed that 14 is too early to specialise and that local schools will be denuded of year 10 students. They fail to read the small print.
UTCs are schools first and foremost offering a core curriculum of maths, English, sciences, IT, languages, humanities, sport and extra curriculr opportunities. The students do work with their chosen employers and university but this is possible with the longer day (8.30-5) 40 weeks a year. Students are then able to move after GCSE in the UTC to an academic A level pathway or a more vocational pathway or something in between. Specialisation does not limit them. Many will go into STEM careers but not all and none will be NEETs.
Secondly, UTCs are sub regional and so they are designed to recruit from a wide geographic area and thus not adversely affect any one local school. If there are 3000 odd secondary schools in the country and UTCs will number at most 163 with only 600 students per college, then it is hard to see how this tiny proportion, offering something slightly different for those young people that would benefit from a more project based curriculum, can be a problem.
As for the promise from the Opposition and indeed the LibDems that only qualified teachers will be allowed to teach in state schools. Well it sounds obvious, who would want an unqualified person teaching our children. However what do these terms mean in the small print? Unqualified teacher means a teacher with a university degree in their subject or another recognised qualification. Many such are teaching successfully in our world acclaimed independent schools. It just means they do not have a specific teaching qualification. Now most heads I know will indeed ensure that if they appoint an unqualified teacher who as we have established has a degree, then they will be put on a course that enables them to have Qualified Teacher Status (QTS) while still having started work. I see this is now the line of Tristram Hunt. So when you read the small print theirs is not a big new policy to safeguard standards in our schools but the stus quo. The generalisation sounds good though!