Ladies and Gentlemen. I so enjoyed having an opportunity to welcome you to Clarence House and to say how marvellous it is that you are all here. I pray your discussions were valuable before we had the drinks! And can I express my warmest gratitude for your remarkable support of my Teaching Institute, which is barely fifteen months old but which, judging by the demand for places and information from teachers across the country, appears to be creating a bit of a stir.
I cannot quite believe it, I must say now, when I think back six years to the 4th October, 2002, in Dartington, Devon when I spoke at my first Education Summer School, and reflect on the fact that since then we have welcomed over 600 teachers through our doors and it just shows how many more we have to try and help. We have a full-time organization to support teachers and schools, and now have the University of Cambridge as a much-loved partner in all of this.
I promise you that none of this would have happened had it not been for the enthusiastic, indeed, almost rapturous response of the teachers who have attended the Education Summer Schools. Many have written to say that they have changed their approaches to teaching English and History and, at the same time, have re-discovered their reasons and their passion for becoming teachers in the first place. Interestingly, today so many of you have talked about the passion involved in teaching, and it struck me very forcibly how important that passion is in communicating the love of the subject. Here are a couple of evaluations from last year’s residential course at Cambridge , which are typical:
“I firmly believe I am doing the most important and stimulating job on the planet, this has been reinforced [by the Summer School]”
and from a teacher who has been in the profession for 8 years:
“This is the first positive Continuing Professional Development I have experienced”
So that’s encouraging. Now, whilst this is all immensely heartening, I am sure you would agree with me, Ladies and Gentlemen, this really only represents a beginning; a beginning on which we are building, but also one on which we hope the teachers who have attended from your schools are building too in their subsequent work in the classroom.
Why are we doing all of this? Quite simply, I happen to believe there is a desperate need to re-inspire teachers, to encourage the teaching of bodies of knowledge and to recapture some of the timeless principles of teaching which are so essential, at the end of the day, to the proper appreciation of the world we inhabit. There are some critics and commentators who would have us believe that the whole system in this country has become so far removed from the basic tenets of what constitutes a good education that it is too far gone to do anything about.
But I know for certain that everybody in this room (quite apart from the outstanding examples of your own schools) could identify several schools where the reverse of that litany of woe is the case. I think, for example, of the Robert Clack School in Dagenham, which sits in Britain’s biggest local authority housing area and which, before Paul Grant came along to sort it out, was failing in every conceivable way.
That school, which I visited the other day (after endless badgering by Paul Grant!) is now a shining example of well disciplined, attentive boys and girls who really study subjects in depth, who are encouraged to explore and to be curious and to test the world around them. And don’t let us have any stuff and nonsense about drawing from an elite supply of well-off youngsters – most are from poor families who qualify for free breakfasts. And the scale of the achievement is topped off by the emphasis on taking music lessons, playing an instrument and participating in school sports or gymnastics. So what is the result of all this hard work and vision on the part of Paul and his staff? Outstanding results in the O.F.S.T.E.D. reports and a school whose place in the wider community is assured through loyalty and affection.
I set up my Teaching Institute to focus on the teachers and in turn the pupils because, as one policymaker put it recently, and I paraphrase; “The quality of an education system cannot exceed the quality of the teachers”.
So perhaps it is important just to remember that what marks out a teacher at the end of the day is the commitment not only to know one’s subject, but to share it; to enthuse about it and to excite others about it. You are not, if I may say so, just subject specialists. You are also actors, storytellers and ambassadors for your subjects.
An international report published last month by a well-known company of consultants concluded that, based on studies in a host of nations, gigantic amounts of money and education programmes have generally failed to meet their targets. Why? Because such changes, according to this report, have overlooked the teachers. This report coincides with a call from O.F.S.T.E.D. recently – rather ironically in view of all the efforts made to pull it apart over the past forty years! – for a renewed focus “on the craft of teaching.”
This is why I believe that my Institute can actually play rather a crucial role in this whole area. How, you may ask? Well, Chris Pope and Bernice McCabe, the co-directors, and their team are building a range of activities to give more support to subject teachers. Amongst other things, there is now a proper website, with a “Staffroom” area offering teaching materials and other resources. And the P.T.I.’s one day, subject-based Continuing Professional Development events to refresh teachers' knowledge are taking place from Devon to Leeds via Cambridge.
We are also developing strategic and working links with other bodies – the collaborative arrangement with the Royal Shakespeare Company, of which I am President, is a good example of this. I am delighted to see two of my organizations working so successfully together, and I am very grateful to Juliet Stevenson and Gregory Doran for finding the time to work with teachers in this way.
And I am delighted to be able to announce today another development, namely, The Prince’s Teaching Institute Schools Programme. You have had an opportunity to find out about the Programme this morning, and I did just want to say how important I feel this is. By helping to create a network of schools departments with access to our resources, it aims to spread the work of The Institute beyond the four walls of the Summer Schools. As you may have gathered by now, the objective is to recognize and encourage the achievement of excellence in subject specialisms, based on elements such as evidence of pupil engagement, coherence, breadth and depth of study and inspirational teaching.
I can only hope you may feel that this is a constructive way forward and that you will be able to support the project. I would very much like to extend my warmest thanks to the Training and Development Agency, O.F.S.T.E.D. and the Department for Children, Families and Schools for their continuing support for both this project, and for the Institute.
Now, you have all been working hard this morning, and the last thing I would want to do is overload you with new initiatives! But I hope you have found this little gathering informative, and I did want to thank you for giving up your precious time today and for the support you have shown us so far.
Because together we can go on and do even more valuable things around the country in this field in which you work.