From a privileged position

July 16, 2015

Many academics will have bridled at Tony Little’s claim that there is a “gulf” between the quality of teaching at sixth forms and that at universities. He has failed to match the opinions of his former Eton students with a more representative sample of the UK’s student body (National Student Survey data) that reflects widespread satisfaction with teaching at UK universities. It is spurious to base claims about a sprawling sector on the selective experiences of a privileged elite. Further, his suggestion that teaching is “way down the list of priorities” does a disservice to the commitment to student learning already found in lecture and seminar rooms across the country. Yes, we should strive to improve this important and rewarding part of our work, and a more open dialogue with schools is a component part of this. There are some innovations under way elsewhere in education that we should implement more widely. Greater training in pedagogical techniques would support the student transition to the independent style of learning required at university level, and excellence in teaching should form a part of (and a route to) career progression. However, that Little’s criticism occurs just as he seeks to promote a book strikes a particularly sour note.

Sarah Crook
Queen Mary University of London

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