October 18, 2004
David Wolfe is a great physics teacher – but is he "qualified"?

The Government makes a rule. A particular case shows the rule to be ridiculous, and the media get heavily involved. Contemptuous people assemble in crowds saying: rubbish. So, the Government suddenly invents a policy which says that the rule doesn't apply to this particular case after all.

DavidWolfe.jpgI'm talking about the case of Dr David Wolfe, an excellent physicist and a superb physics teacher, who, the Government said, because he hadn't passed his GCSE maths, wasn't "qualified" to be a teacher. There can be no exceptions. Curse rage, government is idiotic, media hubbub, David Miliband is a plonker, and hey … how about that? There can be an exception. It turns out there's a "fast track". Some government inspectors can sit in on his classes and declare him qualified.

Read the Telegraph here, or the Guardian here.

I read about this in the Sunday Times here, who end their report yesterday thus:

But this may yet be a story with a happy ending. After the flurry of media exposure last week Wolfe was summoned to the phone. On the other end was "a very nice man" at the Department for Education and Skills. He told him that an assessor from the University of Gloucester would soon come to the school to observe one of his lessons. If it was fine, hey presto, he would be a qualified teacher.

"It's a complete volte face by the government," says Dingle. "No other head has heard of this 'fast-track' route. Heads up and down the country are saying, 'I beg your pardon?'" Nonetheless, he adds, "This time next week I earnestly hope David Wolfe will be a qualified teacher. Hurrah!"

But the rules remain in place, and not many good but "unqualified" teachers will be as vigorous in challenging them as Wolfe and his many friends have been.

The obvious riposte to this is that there do have to be rules. Well, maybe, in this centralised, nationalised system that we now have, with London in charge of everything, well, then, London has to be in charge, to have rules, and to stick to them. In Brian-world, people just educate themselves as they wish, and get what help they want. The idea that the government could forbid people to learn from some particular individual that they want to learn from would be regarded as ludicrous.

I should have picked up on this story sooner, instead of just babbling on about America. Sorry about that.

Posted by Brian Micklethwait at 09:55 AM
Category: Examinations and qualificationsScience