Ladies and gentlemen, it is an enormous pleasure to join you all this afternoon. I particularly enjoyed going around and listening to what some of you were discussing earlier. When standing up here, I hope you all realise I am not an expert in any of these things. You are the real experts and I admire hugely all of the wonderful efforts you all make in teaching and inspiring the young in so many different ways. The last thing I certainly want to do is to teach teachers to suck any kind of egg. Actually I have always been amused by that idea of teaching your grandmother to suck eggs I can only assure that an awful lot of grandmothers were sucking eggs at some point or another.
I am only too aware that I know very little about the actually nitty-gritty of the teaching profession. The fact that we’ve got now to this stage with the Teaching Institute after ten years, I think, is remarkable. Because in fact it goes back further than ten years, it was perhaps twenty years ago now I think that I remember making the odd speech which didn’t get very far, about some of these issues. In particular because even twenty years ago there were articles and statistics showing that we were going down the league and general tables as far as the international picture was concerned.
It seemed to me that this whole issue of subject teaching was absolutely critical, particularly the English and History aspect which is how we started with the summer schools originally. The main reason being that we were in danger of losing that golden thread that linked so many generations. So many young were in danger of being denied access to a body of knowledge, and being denied access to our historical culture and moral heritage. This really was the object of starting the Summer Schools. As you can imagine it took quite a lot of effort to persuade anyone that this was actually worth doing, we then had to raise some money and sponsorship to enable the Summer Schools to happen. But we managed to get them off the ground and bit by bit I think we have managed, over the years, to show that there is a value in this kind of continuous professional development and ladies and gentlemen in most ways you have all voted with your feet in order to come and take part in them.
I did just want to say of course that you cannot do any of this without the wonderful people that I was lucky enough to find who could help to put all of this into practice. So I really wanted to pay particular tribute today to Bernice McCabe who by a miracle we discovered and unearthed her from this remarkable girls school in London, which I visited, one of the most enjoyable visits I have ever made! The pupils were incredible, I visited one of the classes and I was so terrified by the general level of brilliance that I had to leave, before I was asked too many difficult questions! She has been absolutely crucial in developing this whole programme. I was then incredible lucky that Chris Pope came along, we were so lucky to get him and his particular contribution also has been key and absolutely crucial. Harvey McGrath of course as the Chairman is another absolutely vital element in the whole equation because he has ingeniously found people to come and help, so I do owe him also an enormous debt of gratitude.
In fact this evening when I get back to London we have a dinner to try and encourage even more people to support what the PTI is doing and also what Teach First is doing. I don’t know how many of you know about Teach First, but this is something that was introduced here through Business in the Community of which I have been President for the last 26 years. It was an idea picked up from the United States where they have a scheme called Teach For America. This scheme has worked incredibly well here in terms of encouraging young, very bright graduates who would have gone for instance into the City or Financial Services or something else. They have been diverted into teaching for sometimes a short time, a year or two, or as we have now discovered, they want to remain in teaching because that is something they find that they can give their particular talents to, when they never would have thought of teaching before. So this particular scheme is bringing in young teachers who have a real passion and love for their subject. And it is already beginning to show in the schools in which they are working, many in the most deprived areas, that it can be unbelievably effective in helping to raise aspirations. For instance there is one remarkable girl I met last year who is in quite a difficult area in Burnley, Lancashire in a secondary school there. She got a double first in Classics from Oxford and she has actually managed to get her class doing Latin and Greek. And do you know how she got them to do it? She said I will teach you the spells in Harry Potter and she captured their attention. They are now, amazingly, doing it. No-one ever would have believed that they would be able to do Latin, why I don’t imagine because it seems to me that if you teach it properly and with enthusiasm anybody can do it at the end of the day. She also takes them on field trips to Chester to look at certain remarkable heritage sites. So she has got their attention and enthusiasm and the same is true for many other teachers. So this evening we are going to try and raise more support for both PTI and Teach First – the links, you can imagine, are fairly obvious I think.
I know as far as your gathering here today is concerned, that you have all recognised, I hope, the value of the PTI. You’ve seen it in terms of the returning teachers you’ve sent on Summer Schools or the courses. Even though they may have been pretty sceptical before they went, they come back frequently fired up by what they have discovered, by the conversations and discussions they’ve had with other teachers. Perhaps they have been reassured that they weren’t the only ones thinking that way or worrying that way about things, thinking “I daren’t put my head above the parapet and say I am not certain, or worried about this, in case I am the only one who thinks that.”
Then when they come on these courses and I think they begin to realise that there is safety in numbers and actually it can help to inspire them and make a real difference to the way they teach and inspire their pupils. So from the head teacher leadership point of view I do hope that these course are valuable in helping to re-energize. I know only to well from having visited for instance the Robert Clack School in Dagenham, Paul Grant here who I must say I have seen his head teacher leadership put into practice in the most remarkable way in Dagenham. It is a school that he turned around completely from a very difficult situation so that leadership can make the ultimate difference. If I may say so Paul Grant also understands the essential importance of teaching for the whole person, teaching and educating character, as well as the academic side.
It seems to me that one of the things that has been left out of the equation for so long is the element of character. I know particularly from 36 years of The Prince’s Trust that one of the key issues we have to face is how to raise self-esteem, self-worth and self-confidence. Because what we find for so many of the young people that we deal with, and I am sure that what many of you are also finding, is low self-esteem, low motivation, low aspiration which have to be raised and there are certain ways of doing this - it is not rocket science. I have seen through The Prince’s Trust and meeting the young people we have that do all these courses and help with the team programmes and everything else, that you can turn people around from being completely destroyed by being in prison, on drugs, about to commit suicide, in gangs you name it. I talk to lots of them and we have a whole army of people whose lives have been transformed and now they want to get out there and help in so many different ways it can make a fantastic difference.
The point is I think that you can raise the levels of self-esteem before they can then access a real level of education, whether it is academic or vocational or both. You don’t need me to tell you that there are a lot of people for whom the academic side is not so important, so if you can relate it to the practical and the vocational then suddenly they understand the relevance. I do think that the key issue is how you link the two – the vocational and the academic – together. That is why extra-curricular activities are crucial in education, the development of team games, organised games and workshops so that people actually do practical hands on things, be it carpentry or metal work. There is a huge shortage of those skills and I know that a lot of you have these technical abilities that are so often wasted. Potential is not brought out and they very often come up with some remarkable answers because they are eminently practical and see through certain things. Educating the whole person is absolutely crucial in all this.
The great thing as far as I am concerned is that over 91% of the delegates attending these PTI events since 2007 have given the PTI in excess of a 90 per cent satisfaction rate, which is hugely encouraging. It means I hope that we can continue to provide the kind of service you want. But as I say it could not be done without the help of the teacher leaders and the trustees and all of those people I am afraid that I have put pressure on over the years; it was a cunning plan on my part to encourage people like Sir Tom Stoppard and Simon Schama, a whole range of marvellous people, because I wanted them to come and explain what it was that they felt they most benefitted from when they were young at school. To describe just how important the subject was to them and the teacher of that subject, how that teacher would inspire them and just to try to re-energize. Without those speakers, without their qualities given how much they have achieved, I don’t think we would be able to make so much progress.
I must finally thank Cambridge University in particular for the remarkable role that the University has played because they agreed to the partnership with my Teaching Institute back in 2006, which has underpinned the work of the PTI. The speakers from the University of Cambridge again have been crucial in terms of helping the courses that the Teaching Institute runs to be rigorous and an inspiration. I owe a huge debt of gratitude to my old University, of which I am very proud indeed. As this house was where my Great-Great-Grandfather was accommodated when he was a student at Cambridge, it has interesting associations.
Thank you all so much for the marvellous inspiration that you all give to so many others.