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The primary school teachers

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The primary school teachers

Primary education is a process that takes children as they are, and leads them towards what they can become. It starts from a context and moves towards an aim. There may in fact be a series of contexts and a number of aims, but that basic model of the process of primary education remains the same. Primary teaching is the most creative career and primary school teacher has to be very good and lovely.

Primary teachers usually take responsibility for aa group of children, spending most of their day with the one class. They have many opportunities for creativity in the classroom, devising programs that are exciting and challenging for their students.

Primary teachers are generally expected to teach in seven key learning areas: English, Mathematics, Science, Technology, Health and Physical Education, The Arts, and Studies of Society and Environment.

The primary school teacher as professional

We can define professionality at this point as the set of professional knowledge, skills and vvalues entailed in proffessional practice. One is thus concerned with exploring the degree to which primary scool techers have, over recent years, been upgrading their knowledge, enhancing their skills and developing the values tat are inherent in truly proffesional work. IIn the first place, although the study of teachers and teching in Europe has in recent years developed to the degree that makes a volume such as this possible, there are not yet sufficient comparative data to enable detailed comparisions to be made across system and over time. But more important is the fact that professionality remains a contested concept. The teacher’s job is very hard and responsible so they must be professional in own job.

The teacher’s role in most societes has been undergoing considerable expansion. This role has perhaps occurred most clearly at the secondary level, but the primary school teacher is also beset by increasing expectations, not only in terms of subject matter knowledge. The areas in which tthe teacher’s role has been under pressure to expand include the following: responsiveness to parental expectations, social education, pastoral care, curriculum development, school management, technological development, assessment, links with other priffesionals in the social and welfare fields, combating discrimination, and professional development.

European countries tend to have flat career structures for primary school teachers. In some system, career achievement is seen in terms of a move from primary school teaching into teaching in the lower secondary school, a move that is rrelated to achievement in an academic subject. Although it is a contentious matter, there is perhaps a case for increasing the career opportunities of teacher within the primary sytem, so long as – and this is the practical difficulty – progression is associated with increased professionality achieved through proffesional development.

The teaching lacks the status of the primary education and other proffesions has been attributed to a varety of factors. These can be grouped as follows:

• Knowledge and skill: Teachers are regarded as needing a lower level of expertise than major professionals.

• Autonomy: Teachers are seen as being more bureaucratically constrained than proffesionals in private practice and even professionals employed in organisations.

• Characteristics of teacher: The social class background and educational achievements are lower than those of the major professions and theis personality characteristics are believed to be ‘unenterprising’.

• Client and client relations: The teacher’s clients are joung, captive and confronted in groups over a lenghty period of time and potentially prone to indiscipline.

• Intermediacy: The teacher stands in an intermediate relationship with the wider world into wich their charges will eventually pass. They are intermediate between the world of non – work, the moral world of the school and the less fastidious world outside, and tthe world in which knowledge is create and the world in which knowledge is used.

• Size: Teaching is by far the largest of the professions.

• Careers: The circumstances of appointment, lack of career opportunities, the lack of clear criteria of success and the relatively low salaries of the majority of teachers compared with salaries in other professions.

The status of primary school teacher

The status of the teacher is a policy issue, not least for the primary education sector. Enhanced status is important to the teachers themselves in so far as it is an indicator of the worthwhileness of theirs work in the eyes of society at large and, therefore, enhances the intrinsic satisfaction of teching – and perhaps also extrinsic rewards – but it is also important in that the higher the status of teacher the more influential is their proffesion likely to be. Occupational status is the standing of an occupation in relation to others within and across societies.

Teachers as policy – makers in practice

A further model of the role of teachers in education policy – making is one which we have called ‘teachers as policy – makers in practice’. This model does not see teachers as mechanistically implementing policy more or lless successfully and does not see teachers as typically resisting or transforming policy. It is related to the notion of partnership but is more informal and individualistic and arises from the nature of teaching rather than from deliberate choices by partners.

This model draws on the way that teachers, along with people in similar service – oriented occupatons such as social workers, doctors and the police, are constantly making choices and decisions about the way in which they carry out their work. These choices are not optional and are only partly derived from a tradition of professional autonomy. The practical reality of teachers’ working situations is such that these choices and decisions arise inevitably, to an extent that peaple are probably not aware for most of the time that they are being made. The job of teaching, like many service – oriented professional occupations, potentially expands indefinetely in the sense that the level and range of activities in which they could engage and the demands they could meet are far beyond the time and resource available to them. Consequently, teachers must ration their time and prioritize their tasks. They also have to establish school and classroom routines, ways of getting the

business of the day accomplished, in order to make sense of the constant demands on them.

Teachers as opponents of government policy

A third model of teachers and education policy casts teachers in an oppositional role with regard to current education policy developments. Teachers in this model are seen as resisting the imposition of policy changes. Resistance can be sees as the mirror image of implementation and, like the implementation model, comes in both left–wing and right-wing versions. In the left–wing version, tteachers are cast in a potentially heroic mould, acting collectively through unions or other political groupings to prevent the imposition of change. Such resistance is held to be in the interests of pupils and frequently is explicitily intended to advance other political agendas such as equal opportunities and anti-racist approaches to education.

Teachers as partners

The notion of a partnership between teachers and other actors in the educational policy-making process has informed a number of discusions of policy-making, in practicular those of tthe 1960s and 1970s. The notion of partnership derives from a pluralist coception of the of the policy-making process, involving a degree of decentralized and ‘distributed’ power. Partnership does not exclude conflict, but it does mean that various actors must ssee each other’s roles as legitimate and that there must be a measure of agreement about common goals. Partnership models are typically characterized by a degree of ambiguity about the boundares of influence of different actors and shifts of these boundaries in practicular circumstances.

Until recently, analysts of educational policy-making agreed that the process was characterized by a partnership between central and local government. Teachers were generally, although not universally, seen as also being partners in education policy.

Insofar as the teacher partners are the teachers unions, this end of partnership seems undenliable. ...

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