Maggie the teaching dog.

Two views of teaching in the United Kingdom.

The title to today’s post may be a tad misleading, for it doesn’t offer a guide to both aspects of the post.

But first to what prompted the title.

Earlier yesterday, Neil Kelly, friend from my days when I was living in South Devon, sent me a link to a recent BBC News item. Here’s the story:

Maggie the dog made honorary primary school teacher

28 December 2015 Last updated at 04:31 GMT

A dog has become so successful in helping children to read, that she’ has become an honorary member of staff at a school in the West Midlands.

The idea of getting pupils to read to dogs in order to improve their literacy was first tried out in the UK five years ago, but Maggie, a 10-year-old Shih Tzu, has become so successful that she now has her own staff badge at Earls High school in Halesowen.

Phil Mackie went along to meet Maggie, and Grace, another Shih Tzu, who’ is training to take over when Maggie retires.

Teaching Assistant Toni Gregory spoke on behalf of the two literary pups.

Unfortunately, the short video of Toni Gregory speaking hasn’t yet made it to YouTube so I can’t include that in the post. But do go across to here and watch the short interview with Toni. Here’s a picture of Maggie.

_87347683_87347682Moving on!

It’s difficult not to see the connection between Maggie offering teaching services in a UK school and this recent essay from Richard Murphy of the Tax Research UK blog. It is republished in full with Richard’s very kind permission.


The parents of primary school kids need to get very angry for their children

Posted on

Ninety three per cent of all children in the UK are taught in state schools. The parents of the other seven per cent may wish to pretend otherwise but the truth is that the prosperity, well being and future of the UK is dependent upon the ability of state schools to deliver the education our young people need. But, as the Guardian has reported, that is in jeopardy:

Britain’s leading expert on school recruitment has warned that a shortage of trainee teachers is reaching crisis levels in some of the most important subjects in the curriculum.

In evidence submitted to the parliamentary education select committee, TeachVac, an independent vacancy-matching and monitoring service for education professionals, said that it had identified a “woeful” lack of new teachers in several key secondary school subjects.

This is not a minor issue. As they note:

[TeachVac] has identified an 85% shortfall in the number of trainee teachers needed to fill vacancies in both business studies and social sciences. The number of new teachers for design and technology is also more than a third below what it needs to be and there is a 10% shortfall in the number of IT teachers required.

These are core subjects at the heart of the skill base the UK needs. And we may not be able to teach them.

There are three reasons for that. First, when the government portrays any job in the state sector as parasitical – and large parts of the media join in – any recruitment programme is going to be hard.

Second, student debt is crippling for those on what is thought to be middle pay, which is what many teachers can, at best, hope to earn.

And third, pay is just not good enough.

All of those are the direct result of policy. The first is ideological. The second is born of the desire to economically enslave people though debt which underpins neoliberalism. The third is the austerity mantra.

Put them together and this country will be crippled by denying an education to those who need and deserve it.

We need a new narrative.

The need to supply high quality education has to be at the core of that narrative.

I hope parents of those ten and younger realise what is going to happen to their children. It is not good, and they need to get angry, now.


It strikes me that we need new narratives on so many issues ‘both sides of the pond’. Maybe, just maybe, 2016 kicks some of these new narratives into play.

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