Ladies and Gentlemen, I must say it’s a great pleasure to be able to welcome all of you here to Clarence House. I have now discovered having sat on the front row for a bit that you just appear here as a rather interesting silhouette!
I can’t believe really that it’s been seven years since we started this exercise with the Summer Schools. I have been very grateful to have people like Bernice McCabe and Chris Pope to help make all this come about. And it is wonderful, if I may say so, to see so many teachers here who have attended the Summer Schools and who have benefited from having jolly sessions with Tom Stoppard, Alan Bennett and Stephen Fry. I can’t tell you how hard I worked to get them to come to my Summer Schools, but I felt it was so important to have those people who can help to transmit their love of the subject and how it has benefitted them in their careers.
I also wanted to say, by the way, that as far as Ulverston Victoria High School is concerned, I was mortified to hear about the floods that they have been having to contend with up there in Cumbria. Everybody was sent home early on Thursday and that the school was used I think by flood victims, so I do hope that things will gradually get back to normal.
I wanted to congratulate all the pupils who have come today and given us the benefit of what they feel about the value of this particular project. It is very encouraging for me, if I may say so, and I think the team from the Teaching Institute to hear that. I hope that also coming to London hasn’t completely ruined your studies, and that it won’t affect your exams, but of course you can always blame me!
Ladies and Gentlemen, some of you may possibly be aware that for what seems rather a long time, I have been banging on a little bit about the need to recapture some of the timeless principles of teaching which, if I may say so, are essential to achieving a proper appreciation of the world we inhabit.
It seems to me, and I think probably many others too, that the teaching of bodies of knowledge is a crucial part of a young person’s development which ensures that when they leave school, they do so equipped with a thorough understanding of a range of subjects, and with curious minds, whether they be geared towards the academic or indeed vocational.
The importance of inspiring teachers in a child’s education is critical, yet this simple fact can be too often overlooked. For instance, here in Britain, professional development for teachers is not mandatory - unlike in other professions. This is not to undermine the efforts that many make to improve the situation, but it does strike teachers, whom I have met many through this particular programme, as a little odd, to say the least…
An international report published a couple of years by McKinsey’s rather helped, I thought, to point out the essential need to inspire teachers in their passion for their task. This 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 can this be so? Because such changes, according to this report, have overlooked the teachers.
For this reason therefore, I am delighted that my Teaching Institute, which I set up to try to help to address all these difficulties, is meeting with some considerable success in addressing professional development and inspiring teachers to “go the extra mile”.
Last year, some 90 per cent of departments participating in the Schools Programme membership scheme increased the challenge of their work thanks to the inspiration of my Teaching Institute.
So, Ladies and Gentlemen, as perhaps you can imagine it is enormously heartening to witness the growth of this scheme, driven by a lot of hard work which is based on a shared agenda of ambition and challenge. From the first group of 88 departments in 50 state schools last year, we have 228 departments in 151 state schools this year which is estimated, will affect over 125,000 children. So it seems to me that what you and your teaching staff have demonstrated in the last year is that by increasing the challenge of your work, you are unleashing a new and invaluable burst of aspiration in your schools, which is surely a cause for celebration?
Of course, none of this would be possible without a great deal of support, and I did just want to thank every pupil, every Head Teacher and every member of staff whose efforts are making such a difference in this important area of national life. I also want to thank the small but perfectly formed team in my Teaching Institute for there tireless dedication to this whole enterprise. As a result of all this effort I understand that the co-operation between schools, agencies and Government has been hugely encouraging and I can only wish everybody very well in the next phase of the Programme’s development in which I will be taking a keen interest.
So thank you Ladies and Gentlemen.