I have just come across a website called Rate My Teachers, on which students and parents are invited to, er, rate their teachers. There are a number of issues here.
1. As a matter of principle, there is, in fact, no need for a website like this. The Office for Standards in Education (Ofsted) exists to inspect schools, and as part of the inspection process it seeks the views of parents and students.
2. If a student or parent wishes to
praise or criticise a teacher, they can do so by contacting the
headteacher or Chair of Governors. In the case of praising the teacher,
you can nominate them for a teaching award by going to:
3. As a parent contributor to the
website says, anyone can post comments to this website about a teacher
they don't even know. Where are the controls?
4. The terms and conditions state that
the owners of the website take no responsibility for the comments that
people make, and the comments are posted anonymously as far as I can
tell. That means that a teacher whose career is potentially blighted by
this website has no way of getting redress through the courts. It would
make an interesting test case I imagine: I wonder if the company that
hosts the website could be sued in such a scenario?
5. Having said that, I don't think there
is much danger of anyone taking the ratings seriously, when you have
this sort of comment:
"Dont like him at all. Had him as form
teacher in 1st year and if he sees u in the corrider nw gives u a dirty
look or looks straight thru u. He finks hes pur clas on the piano :("
What an incisive and useful analysis!
This guy may be the world's greatest educational expert, but that
counts for nothing because someone thinks he gives them dirty looks!
Another comment said that the lessons were intense.
Which leads me on to...
6. If students are going to rate
teachers, it should be on the basis of their impact on learning. Of
what use is a comment like "She is a nice person although her lessons
are intense" (I made that up, but it's an amalgam of similar
comments.). What does it mean? Although there are guidelines on the
website, they come nowhere near the incisive and structured questioning
that should be used to find out how well teachers teach, and how well
students learn under their guidance.
Some years ago I did some private
college work for a few weeks. After the first morning, the Principal
called me into his office and said: "Good news: the students like you".
I nearly said, to almost quote Clark Gable, "Quite frankly, I don't
give a damn". After all, I was there to teach, not win a popularity
contest. Besides, I thought it was out of order for him to go asking
students what they thought of their teachers after one morning!
However, I thought I would say nothing
until I found out what was really going on, and it soon became clear:
most of the students were foreign, and if they liked you, they
would tell their relatives, eg cousins, who would then apply to enrol
on a course at the college. So good academic results were regarded as a
kind of bonus: the really important thing was whether the students
But I digress.
7. A website that is set up purely for
the purpose of enabling people to pass judgements on others should
surely try to ensure that it passes muster itself? The most recent
"monthly" newsletter is dated February 2005, at least one of the links
doesn't work properly and the site is plastered with advertisements.
So all in all, I am not at all sure how this website contributes to educational standards in the UK.