Should students choose their teachers?

4 April 2010

There’s no doubt that students, in certain ways, are gaining greater powers in schools. For example, legislation on “Student Voice” means that teachers are obliged to consult students about what teachers they would like to teach them. The wording is vague however: headteachers have a great deal of discretion as to how much they actually listen to their students. Obviously, the system could be open to abuse if a headteacher lets student voices over-ride the judgement of experienced teachers. Student Voice also means that students are observing lessons and making judgements upon teachers’ expertise in an official capacity. I think this could be and is demoralising. Often students are issued with “Ofsted-style” forms and asked to make judgements about a teacher’s capabilities. This seems to me like students are being co-opted into being spies for the state. Like the Nazi youth, they’re unwitting victims of an authoritarian system which seeks to undermine teachers’ self-worth.

 But don’t get me wrong, I am all for students being more involved in decision making in school; they could be much more involved in making decisions about what they are taught and how they are taught it. At the moment, despite all the talk about student voice, pupils have very little power, except the phoney power that the state confers upon them. I am conducting some “Action Research” which involves students in choosing what they might want in their lessons, but “Action Research” is a co-operative system, based on mutual respect. It isn’t a tool for the state to spy on teachers.

I appeared on BBC News talking about this after the NASWT complained at their conference that teachers were becoming victims of unjust student abuse because of the “Student Voice” system.

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