'You can know the name of a bird in all the languages of the world, but when you're finished, you'll know absolutely nothing whatever about the bird' said the great scientist Richard Feynman. BBC Two's recent screening of a documentary about the legendary lecturer's life, left many wishing for teachers to posses the man's sense of wonderment, fun filled quest for knowledge and the sheer joy of 'finding things out'.
Inspirational, quality teaching is one of the topics I present to the UK's department of education spokesperson, along with cyber bullying, raising standards, bringing programming and code into the curriculum, academies, the rise of male teachers and more.
Q As Bill Gates, Mark Zuckerberg and Tim Berners Lee openly advise students to learn programming and code, I congratulate your office on shifting the emphasis to an up to date ICT curriculum
A .The new computing curriculum will mean pupils have a real understanding of how digital technologies work -- allowing them to create new technologies rather than being passive consumers of them.This brings exciting challenges for computing teachers -- we are raising our expectations of the subject knowledge they should have, including how computers work, programming and coding. We want a generation of children being taught how to write computer animations or design apps for smartphones -- not be bored by lessons in how to fill in spreadsheets or learn word processing.
Q Many schools now play an active role in increasing parents' awareness to potential online danger and 'internet conduct', can you please comment on the unique challenges the internet brings to education?
A No child should have to suffer the fear and victimisation of bullying. Children from the age of five will soon be taught how to stay safe online. They will also learn how to communicate safely and respectfully.
Q You state 'getting better standards of aspiration and higher expectations in poorly performing schools' as one of your goals, can schools help instill these qualities children and parents?
A We are driving up standards right across the board by bringing the best graduates into teaching, developing a world-class curriculum and restoring order to our classrooms. We are driving forward the Academies and Free Schools programmes with more than half of secondary schools now enjoying Academy status. We have introduced the EBacc so more pupils are encouraged to study the core academic subjects that universities and employers demand and we will be introducing a new, far more rigorous examination system
Q You support the introduction of teaching observation as a key part of assessment, before an offer of a teacher training placement is made.
A As all the evidence from around the world shows, nothing is more important for raising standards in our schools than ensuring that we have more great teachers. That's why our reforms focus on attracting the best and training them to the highest standards. We expect ITT providers to have in place rigorous selection process so that only candidates with excellent subject knowledge and aptitude for teaching enter training. We also want schools to place a greater role in selecting and training for new teachers.
Q Would you like to see more male teachers enter this noble profession?
A We want more men to consider primary teaching. Applications from men have already risen, with 50% more male primary trainees in 2011/2012.We're encouraging men to apply for training places by holding events where they can speak to teaching experts and other trainees. Up to 1,000 high quality male graduates will take part this year in a new school experience programme which will boost numbers further.
Q Many parents resent any exceptions made on religious/cultural grounds, from wearing earrings on school grounds to enabling the existence of faith schools.. would it not be fairer to have just one code of practice that applies to all parents and children in all English schools?
A Schools have the freedom to set their own uniform policies. We expect them to act reasonably in accommodating the needs of different religions.
Q Many schools are choosing to become Academies, how successful is the process to date?
A Great heads and teachers are best placed to run their schools - not town hall or central government bureaucrats. We have given them the freedom to take charge, and thousands are grabbing the chance. Two million pupils are now reaping the benefits - including more than half of all secondary pupils.
We believe that the support and advice of an academy sponsor is the best way to improve underperforming schools. Sponsors have already turned around hundreds of struggling schools across the country.
Q Are you aware that in Bromley, where all but one secondary schools are now academies, many have suffered financial detriment since they converted?
If academies are meant to be independent of local authorities, why has the government given local authorities the power to decide on allocation of funding including the level of AWPU?
A Academies funding is calculated on the same basis as all of the other council-run schools. The only differences are down to variations in pupil numbers. The rate of funding for pupils is protected by the Minimum Funding Guarantee and cannot reduce by more than -1.5 per cent in any year.
Local authorities develop the funding formula working through their Schools Forum which is made up of representatives from all types of schools in the local area, including academies. The number of representatives is determined by the number of pupils attending each type of school. The forum agrees the final funding formula. For 13/14 local authorities are following new regulations which introduce a new much simpler formula."
Q How does the government believe that secondary schools which are suffering cuts of hundreds of thousands of pounds to their sixth form funding will be able to sustain adequate sixth form provision, particularly in light of the raising the school leaving age?
A We are spending £7.4 billion this year on education and training for 16-19 year olds, giving young people the opportunity to continue their studies and go on to skilled employment or higher education. We are also raising the age of compulsory participation in education to 17 in 2013 and 18 in 2015. As the participation age increases, we are providing funding to ensure schools and colleges can offer places in education or training to all young people who want them.Work on the next Spending Review Period is ongoing and no decisions have been taken.