Hardly a week goes by without some comment about education in the media. Telford man Ken Pattinson [KP] has been involved in the education system for nearly four decades.

KP. The biggest change without any question and I think I can almost date it to the Callaghan/Ruskin speech in 1977 when he started to raise the ante of education when it all started when his grandson couldn’t spell conscientiousness or something silly. The lad was only seven. So standards were slipping. This is absolutely untrue. I think our pupils are doing work at GCSE and A-level to a level that I was doing at university.

There are going to be illiterate children, they are illiterate for all sorts of reasons. Having said that, there were bad schools up and down the country and the whole system is being beaten for those few bad schools.

Steve Pattinson [SP]. It’s also the standing of the profession of school teaching that has gone down. I can remember, about 25/30 years ago when somebody said to me. "There’s a school teacher who lives at the end of that lane." They regarded that school teacher higher than a bank manager. Now all that has disappeared.

KP. It’s disappeared for all sorts of reasons and part of it is our fault we are now a trade; two of our unions are part of the TUC [Trade Union Congress]. It is a trade, it is a job. It is a much bigger business than it was some thirty years ago. But I think that we have reached this stage because the vast populace now asks so many questions about the status quo. So therefore teachers cannot be the godlike figures that they were. In the past it was "Do what I say, not what I do", now the vast majority of the kids and certainly their parents would say "Why?". I don’t think there is a great deal unhealthy about that. But it has made life much more difficult.

SP. You’re coming up to retirement, how many years have you been teaching?

KP. Thirty-seven, plus.

SP. It used to be the profession that you entered for the love of it. And not for the money.

KP. I’ve never came into it for the money. I came in to it because I did like it, but also because I slipped into an additional course after my degree. I found it a great deal of fun.

SP. It was the fun element that I was getting at. The fun element must have changed and eroded quite considerably I can imagine. There is now a mountain of paperwork that all teachers moan about; All the overtime and all the marking that they perpetually moan about.

KP. We’ve always done that. That’s not new. Nobody would moan about it if it was recognised and valued. Can I say that the kids have hardly changed at all. I don’t believe that they have changed that much at all. If they have changed, the vast majority have changed for the better.

SP. It sounds like there’ll be a lot of things that you’ll miss.

KP. I will. Probably the funniest things are the unconscious comments that people have made in school. For example, back in the bad old days when corporal punishment was involved. I caned a boy for some pretty gross behaviour and a few days later his mom came in and brought a friend with her, and she was stamping mad. She said "Well you’ve marked my sons backside" and this was a big sixteen year old lad who had gone home and shown his backside to his Mum, which I would never would have done. She said "What are you going to do about it?". I said, "There’s a very simple answer, the neighbouring school has a policy for no corporal punishment, I’ll get him transferred there." And the classic line from her was, "He ain’t going there, there’s no discipline." I just burst out laughing. She burst out laughing, and she said, "I think I’ve come up here on a fools errand.". Corporal punishments’ not a particularly pleasant thing to talk about or laugh about, but that circumstance was absolutely terrific.


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