I’ve read three of these today. From @rlj1981 I learned that taking a leap out of one’s comfort zone when feeling an undeniable professional impetus can be a rewarding endeavour, worthy of the exertion. And that I’m not the only one to wave my arms around when talking. Phew. And from @Gwenelope I’ve delighted in seeing that the irrepressible desire to teach and to pass on this enthusiasm isn’t just inside me, but also in others, irrespective of personal circumstance. Thank you for you candour. The third I read was from @cherylkd who has reminded me of two universal truths…that “my school” and the pupils therein always come first on the list, and that work/life balance is still elusive for those who revel in educational discussion.

Cumulatively, these three really got to me.

Most of the people who might read this don’t know me, or not very well. As a reflective document, this is probably best seen as ‘by me, for me’ then, so here goes.

2014 began, for me, with new experiences as both a mother and a daughter. My son had just turned 17 and his embarking on driving lessons became the most terrifying experience of my life. He’s out now…it’s cold and dark and he’s driving on country roads in a county notorious for deaths among young male drivers. Drive safely, son, and you might make it to your 18th birthday in two days time. We’ve got you a really great present, honest. And then, in January, my mum had a hip replacement op. Several weekends followed of driving back and forth between Cumbria and Lincolnshire. Lots of errands, little bits of housework and shopping, nail cutting, hair washing and plenty of reminiscing over the old days later and mum is pretty much recovered, mobile again, independent once more. I’m her only child, just as James is mine. I wonder what our mother-son relationship will be like in 30 years time.

The end of the school year brought a tremendous clash between our personal and professional worlds. We (husband and wife) realised in no uncertain terms that our professional destinies are not entirely in our own hands, regardless of our capabilities,…and much as I would like to go into detail, I won’t, except to recommend that leaders remember that teachers are people too, not merely commodities.

The light in the darkness for me, at this time, actually came through Twitter. I’ve had an account for years, but never really used it. Then for some reason, probably through something I’d read elsewhere, I started looking up ‘education’ people. I found some ‘big’ contributors and a few key bloggers. Luckily, they make sure they promote their own and each other’s work pretty frequently, and for a newbie like me, this was a good starting point. In February, I started tweeting, and remember a discussion about assessment and criteria with one @mfordhamhistory pretty vividly. Twitter has reinforced for me that I do have a voice, and that I have a sometimes outspoken, yet sometimes strangely introverted, drive to promote teachers, teaching and all things educational. My role as a Head of Professional Development both fuels and feeds this and I am as keen as ever to develop this role. On Twitter, I’ve built up a small following of about 250. I know fewer than 10 in person. One is a neighbour, one an old friend, one a former colleague, one a former student pal now also a teacher. Three are former pupils, one of whom is now a teacher herself, all of whom are well aware of how much my teaching means to me. I hope everyone who knows me is aware of this. As for the other 240 odd, well what an absolutely joyous revelation it is to be among such a crowd of education geeks! If only I’d realised this sooner.

Earlier this month, I had wanted to dip my toe into new waters. I was booked onto @lisajaneashes pedagoo Christmas party in Newcastle, slightly nervous about what to expect, train ticket booked and everything, when my husband suffered a huge bout of back pain, was stuck in bed for weeks, zombified on diazepam and pretty much shut inside of himself. This was horrible. And caused me to have to cancel. Sorry, dear, but it’s true: missing out on Newcastle was a disappointment.

And so to 2015.

January sees the @CollofTeaching meeting in Birmingham. I have so much motivation to see ‘real teachers’ involved in the establishment of a College that I’m travelling from Cumbria to get to this and be part of the discussion and maybe develop the blogs I have started on this theme. Later in the month, I’m going to my first Teachmeet, a new venture in this part of the country, I assure you, at a nearby school. And I’ll be contributing. In February, I’m going to London for the IoE Festival of Education, and in June to NRocks2015. 2015 is the year when I’m determined to put my own beliefs and motivations about education out there, to share and build, and hopefully to drink in new ideas and grow.

On the home front, James turns 18 on Sunday. We’re going to Centerparcs to celebrate. I hope he enjoys the copy of Harry’s Last Stand we’ve got him. Welcome to adulthood, son. A levels permitting, he’ll be off to uni in the autumn, leaving us as part-time empty-nesters with time on our hands and significantly lower supermarket bills.

Most of the people who might read this don’t know me, or not very well. Maybe a little better now. And, I hope, better again in the year to come.

The College of Teaching – some background reading and a range of views

The following is a sampling of a range of writers who have contributed recently to the debate about a College of Teaching. See @CollofTeaching and #claimyourcollege

In 2012 a Prince’s Teaching Institute workshop brought together stakeholders from across the education spectrum, including Headteachers of secondary and primary schools, representatives from Unions, Higher Education, Subject Associations, the existing College of Teachers and school employers.

The need for a new College of Teaching

Workshop delegates were in agreement that there is a role for a body that will raise the status of the teaching profession, and provide teachers with a greater degree of self-determination. There was a view that there “is a need for a body that will reflect the profession’s instinct for self-improvement” and promote “conditions that enable teachers to self-determine, self-regulate and self-improve”.


It was agreed that the lack of a strong voice for professional standards in teaching had led to a “vacuum” and that as a result, government policy had strayed incrementally into areas that should be determined by teachers. A well-respected College of Teaching that had the support of the teaching community would allow teachers to articulate their own standards, and “reclaim professionalism from government”. As one delegate phrased it, “government of whatever colour would go to the College because they are respected for sound ideas”.



SecEd tweetup – 140 second mini-talks

Calls for a Royal College of Teaching and a clear, national strategy for teachers’ professional development were among those to come out of a Teacher Development Trust “Tweet-Up”.

Hosted in conjunction with SecEd, the event saw educationalists debating the question: How can we raise the status of the teaching profession?

A Tweet-Up sees a number of keynote speakers delivering 140-second addresses (to match the 140 characters of a Tweet) and debating questions with the audience. The audience, in turn, is encouraged to tweet from the debate and SecEd’s Twitter feed, @SecEd_Education, was among those reporting live.

Opening the discussions, John Bangs, a senior research associate at the University of Cambridge Faculty of Education, said that the conditions for a high status profession included self-efficacy linked with improved instructional practices. Distributed leadership and teacher leadership was vital too.

Mr Bangs, a former assistant secretary at the National Union of Teachers, also called for a national strategy for teachers’ CPD and for professional development to be an integral part of teacher policy.


More recently, the blog ‘Scenes From The Battleground’ has run a series of posts discussing whether The College will best serve teachers’ interests

‘Why I’m Deeply Sceptical About A College Of Teaching’

So far, discussions around a College of Teaching (major developments seem to have centred around The Prince’s Teaching Institute) have done nothing to suggest it would be any different to the GTCE in terms of the influence of the existing education establishment. The biggest red flag, the one that turned me from sceptical to hostile, was that a major meeting to launch it was held on a school day in term time, effectively excluding most teachers who might have been interested from involvement. The next item to have a dramatic effect on me was reading about who was being asked to get involved. The Prince’s Teaching Institute actually wrote the following without irony:

In keeping with the Minister for Schools’ argument in the report that “a new College of Teaching would need to come from within the profession”, the workshop brought together stakeholders from across the education spectrum, including Headteachers of secondary and primary schools, representatives from Unions, Higher Education, Subject Associations, the existing College of Teachers and school employers.

Yes, that’s right. The interpretation of “within the profession” that won the day appears to include everyone except classroom teachers. No wonder they didn’t want to hold their meetings at weekends. This is not a movement of teachers, this is a new education establishment body.



 ‘Why Evidence and Research Won’t Resolve Ideological Disputes Around The College of Teaching’

I wrote last time about how the GTCE, despite being intended to be a professional body, ended up being an arm of the education establishment promoting a very progressive view of the role of teachers and the methods that should be used. I also discussed why I feared The College of Teaching could end up being a very similar organisation and why, assuming I had the choice, I would be reluctant to join. However, it hasn’t been created yet, so the idea can still win me over, and there are certainly people I respect involved (although none of them are teachers) and so I had intended to immediately describe what needs to be done to make the prospect enticing to me. I now realise this is going to take more than one post.

While my starting point was that the College of Teaching cannot have the same ideological leanings as the GTCE had, there is a wider point that any strong ideological stance (including those beliefs whose adherents claim not to be ideological), would make it of limited appeal to some significant part of the teaching profession. I think this is a concern across the board. A lot of people’s main priority is that the College Of Teaching does not get captured by those they disagree with (whether they think that’s a matter of ideology or not). My next post should include some practical suggestions about how this can be ensured, however, I have realised that some people advocating a College of Teaching have assumed that making the ideas it promotes “evidence-based” will be enough to unite the profession.

In this post I simply want to point out that a commitment to evidence or research (I’ve not really distinguished between the two as I’m not sure that matters for this argument) will not be enough to make a body seem ideologically neutral.


Howard Stevenson, writing in The Conversation, fears that The College will merely reproduce old ideas better left alone

‘Why teachers should be sceptical of a new College of Teaching’

Barely one month after the current government was elected in 2010, the secretary of state for education Michael Gove announced the abolition of the General Teaching Council for England. Now, only a few months from the next election, his successor Nicky Morgan has committed to establishing a College of Teaching.

While not a like-for-like replacement, the similarities are sufficient enough to argue that this represents a significant policy volte-face. Ironically, for a move claimed to take the politics out of education, it highlights precisely why teachers feel so frustrated by the interventions of politicians. Not only does policy swing one way and another between governments, it does so within the lifetime of a government.




Martin Robinson’s @surrealanarchy blog approaches the news of The College of Teaching with reference to the College of Teachers

‘Some Questions About The Proposed College of Teaching’

A college of teaching is to be set up to: “Protect standards and to raise the status of the teaching profession”. “Ms Morgan says she wants teaching to be seen as having a similar status as professions such as medicine and law. In a joint statement with Mr Laws, the education secretary says teaching is “almost unique amongst the professions in lacking such an organisation”.”

This is fascinating on a variety of levels, the most salient being that teachers do not lack such an organisation. There has been a College of Teachers since 1846 and its current patron is His Royal Highness, The Duke of Edinburgh, K.G., K.T. I still can’t fathom why this is overlooked in the press releases or interviews about setting up a College of Teaching. Perhaps teachers are almost unique amongst professions in that everyone, including most teachers, ignore or are not aware that we have a professional organisation. The College of Teachers claim that: “Everything we do is driven by a commitment to raise standards in education and improve learning for all.” This is a noble aim and seems to aim higher than the College of Teaching which seems only to want to protect standards… It does make one wonder though that if this organisation has been committed to raising standards since 1846 why are we so in need of another ‘college’ in 2014? Maybe people think there is something lacking in the current college but are too polite to say so…




The Claim Your College group campaigns for teachers to be at the forefront of the debate regarding the College

‘Who we are’

The Claim Your College campaign is being facilitated by a collective of enthusiasts for the idea that any future College must ‘lock in’ the teaching professional’s voice as paramount, and that it must be self-sustaining and independent.

Most people are either volunteering their time or have persuaded their employers to offer their work time pro bono, for which we are very grateful. While only some of the current members of the organising group are current teachers, we share a determination that this campaign is just a stepping stone to a teacher-led future, and that we will not allow anything or anyone (including us) to impose their will on the long-term future of what must be a profession-led College.


There will be a public meeting of teachers and other parties interested in the development of a College of Teaching at Waverley School, Birmingham on 17th January 2015.


Thanks to a range of bloggers and commentators (see links) – please advise if the links to your pieces don’t work.

Keep adding to the discussion – the more teachers that get involved in discussion at this stage, the better.



Professional. Vocational. Academic.

Professional. Vocational. Academic.

Which of these would you apply to your role as a teacher, and to what extent? There has been much debate of this in the blogosphere recently.  In respect of teaching, are these in any way interchangeable, or overlapping, or distinct? Plenty of this debate rests upon our views of the nature of knowledge of the theories and practices of teaching, and many comments have related to the teacher workforce and its access to, creation and communication of and control of its body of knowledge.

Don’t forget that much of this body of knowledge is gained through years of experience, not only from the objective and replicable research that more formal academic partners can offer. A College of Teaching needs to recognise and value this, and promote ways of perpetuating it, which is why the college must be composed of recent/current/seconded teachers from early Years to KS5, not of university academics or commercial CPD providers, advisers or politicians.

Real teaching also based on relationships, and to some extent a consideration of the social context in which we operate. Real teaching also based on individuals…yes, many of whom conform to broad patterns of behaviour and attitude, but who perform differently at different times of a day, week or term, and these differences sometimes demand a variety of responses from teachers,  through intuition or spontaneity as much as through methodology and pedagogy – and these are some of the key ‘softer’ qualities of a good teacher that A College of Teaching also needs to consider and encourage.

Several industrial parallels are being made with regard to the teaching profession and its proposed professional body. We hear of institutes, charters, societies, ‘royal’ this and that. The College of Teaching needs to be seen in a similar way in terms of status, expectations of professionalism and responsibility for some aspects of career development, but in other ways the parallel doesn’t work… Teachers, and schools, have little control over their raw materials and are not always able to implement instant, system-wide changes.

And surely we don’t want teachers just to become ‘shop floor workers’ who  follow the methods set out by a perceived-as-superior academic expert body who don’t work in schools every day. Parents want to know that that their child’s needs are being met by a caring professional who understands both the learning and personal attributes of their child’s personality. Teaching is also more than the delivery of subject expertise in the classroom, important though this is. Don’t forget the quite significant amount of assessment, and marking, the revision in preparation for exams, the form tutor role, report and reference writing, the reflection and self-evaluation. Many of these day to day tasks have yet to be discussed in aspects of the debate I’ve been reading, yet they are the reality of a teacher’s workload.

All the more reason why a College of Teaching needs to be discussing the day-to-day realities of school life with serving teachers – and so all the more reason why teachers should be engaging actively in these discussions from the outset.



The Thing with a College of Teaching – Part Two

From Dec 19 2014

Last weekend, I saw this picture, from the Schools Improve Twitter poll –


..and of course, this refocuses the mind. If the aim of ANY body connected with schools and education is not ultimately to “improve” schools and education, then why bother? So is the negative response here revealing a lack of faith in a body of teachers to be able to improve standards? And what do we mean by “standards” anyway?

Schooling has become a very diverse ‘industry’ since I entered in 1990. At that time, there were state schools, administered and monitored by Local Authorities, and there were various kinds of independent schools. That seemed to be it. When Local Management of Schools (LMS) arrived in the late 90s, questions were asked about not just the new financial freedoms that state schools could operate, but about where this shift to a freer organisation might end. And of course we now see so much more variety in school organisation – I don’t need to list them here.

A College of Teaching needs to reflect this diversity in its composition while at the same time striving for consistency – focusing on the matters that unite us, rather than on ideologies that divide us. A College of Teaching needs to also needs to value the diversity of approaches within the profession. Yes, we’ve seen that Ofsted don’t require a particular lesson style; yes, we’ve encouraged teachers to free their creativity, to relish not being confined by prescriptive, formulaic lesson styles. Surely the same now needs to happen within a College? There can’t be only one way in which the ‘truth’ (cue philosophical responses…) about teaching is investigated. Research or evidence driven approaches are very effective, very popular and very current. But how many are there? Teachers can’t be expected to respond, in their teaching, on an immediate, practical level, to every piece of evidence that comes along, just as they shouldn’t have had to suffer the twists and turns of some recent government policy shifts. A College of Teaching needs to value diversity of approach and diversity of relationships which are at the heart of the classroom experience. However much ‘research’ supports an approach, there might well be times that I know – I KNOW – I just know – that this won’t work with my class. My relationship with 9S or 10X2 is at the core of my teaching and my knowledge of them as people, and as learners, gives me the direction to follow. Granted, this is the result of 25 years of experience – and I’m not saying that lesson studies, action research and evidence based approaches aren’t valid, interesting, useful or effective in ascertaining learner needs and efficacy of teaching strategy. But intuition and the day to day ebb and flow of lessons, marking, more planning, more lessons, assessment, feedback, feedforward and on we go… these are also my research … these are also my evidence. A College of Teaching needs to enable and support evidence-based approaches as key points in the discussion of effective teaching, but to acknowledge that softer ‘evidence’ is also valuable.

I wonder how many methods and mechanisms there are for driving up standards? As many as there are schools? Types of schools? As many as there are teachers, or classes, or pupils? A quick Google search elicited over 74 million suggestions for ‘How to drive up standards in education?’ A College of Teaching needs to also needs to mediate and evaluate the huge range of inputs of opinion and policy that currently deluges the teaching profession. In the same way as many teachers in many schools are complaining about the ‘tick-box culture’ of responses to every new initiative, so the profession as a whole needs to take stock and focus on what really matters. I’m lucky to work in a school whose management team have long refused to give out a criteria sheet or tick list for lesson observations, for example. Common sense prevails. The ‘feel’ of the lesson is valued. Of course there are standards, and we are a school where Ofsted judgements are issued for some lesson observations (and we are an Outstanding school) but we don’t let the minutiae cloud the bigger picture.

I’ll be attending the London Festival of Education at the IoE in February. I’m not a Londoner, but it makes sense to me to listen to some discussion about what works, as well as to take part in discussions about how lessons learned in London can be disseminated around the country.

A College of Teaching needs to be a good listener, especially now, in order to become a respected body, integrated into the world of teachers from the outset. There are communications in the ether:



and some interesting information comments on an earlier wordpress site here https://claimyourcollege.wordpress.com/



The Thing with a College of Teaching – Part One

It’s the teaching that’s the issue for me; the college must support the teaching; the teaching comes first

I’m wondering about people. People are precious, and teachers as people are even more precious because so much rests on their effectiveness. But teachers are fallible and can make mistakes; they’re less effective at some times than others and sometimes (I would argue throughout their careers) they need nurturing so that they can continue to develop. Very few, if any, teachers can be 100% effective 100% of the time. But many, hopefully most, make really positive contributions to the lives, learning and opportunities of young people.

A College of Teaching needs to be made up of teachers – real teachers. By this I mean teachers who teach regular timetabled lessons to classrooms of children, and who are deemed accountable for results. These are the teachers who understand what teaching is currently all about. Yes, there will be many others who will have a role, valuable roles, in an ‘associate’ capacity, but a College of Teaching for teachers, to teachers, by teachers, must be made up of teachers. At the level of the organisation of the Colleg, this in itself is going to need the cooperation of schools – secondments are likely to be needed to enable these teachers to take time to train, travel, attend meetings, visit other school, devise training events, generate communications, etc, etc. I’d love this sort of position – what a great job, and all that. But no. This sort of role shouldn’t be someone’s forever job. Real teachers are needed back in the classroom when they have done their College stint. And times change. The teacher who has remained in the classroom while I was out of it will now be in a better position to advise me – so we’d need to keep these positions fluid.

Currently the issue of teacher workload is, rightly, being debated at all levels. Real teachers do not, however, need to debate this – it’s a reality – and let’s face it, they probably don’t have the time. I’m a terrible advert for work-life balance…but out of choice because my teaching is effectively my hobby as well. No joke, I am a total education junkie/geek/whatever you will. I have looked up the term dates in other counties, and visited school when they’re open and we were on holiday. I am that school nerd. But I would not in a million years expect a normal real teacher to engage in this sort of craziness! It’s often said that ‘great’ teachers “go the extra mile”, putting on early morning, Saturday, after school and holiday classes. I take issue with this – the hours that we work are already open-ended and increasing – the expectation that it still isn’t enough actually offends me.

A College of Teaching needs to campaign for realistic workload. Most teachers, effective, hardworking real teachers, work about 60 hours a week. That’s a week and a half’s normal ‘work’. So for the 40 weeks or so of a school year (keeping the numbers rounded for ease, I admit) means we work about 60 weeks’ worth a year, and that’s with no holidays, bank Holidays, etc. Many teachers are permanently shattered. Family life does suffer. There are two or three main issues here. One is the ‘diktat’ issue – teachers having to repeatedly jump through new hoops because ‘somebody’ has decreed a new requirement. A second is contact hours, and linked to that pupil numbers – for every class, there is planning, resourcing etc, which takes time. Then there’s the marking and assessment time – x minutes per child, multiplied by the number of children in the group. You can tell me class size doesn’t affect pupil outcomes – try telling that to teachers of  GCSE English classes with 32 compared to a GCSE ‘option’ class with 16. Whose marking would you rather be doing? Is this teacher working twice as hard to ensure pupil outcomes? Is this right/fair/changeable? A College of Teaching needs to look at this.

Accountability and performance management are very real and very necessary parts of school life. A new teacher builds on observation feedback, develops their practice to new targets and steadily progresses up both the pay scale and the ladder of expertise. Focus on their development is fairly intense. Individual teachers, line managers, senior leaders all have a part to play and all have a stake in this teacher’s success. And then the input, in some schools, starts to fizzle out. Some schools or academies put a lot of thought into long-term teacher and teaching development. They use UPS status as a way of ensuring teaching discussion happens in school. They aim to keep things fresh without them becoming a treadmill.

A College of Teaching needs to investigate and coordinate the dissemination of best practice here. This needs to be thorough and wide-reaching. Training schools were excellent in developing great CPD schedules which impacted on learning, but they weren’t always the best in sharing this work, except among other Training Schools. Teaching Schools in more recent years have taken a step closer to engage in real partnerships, but are patchy in geographical terms. Then there are so many other systems happening – there’s ResearchEd and lesson study systems, there are teachmeets, commercial CPD providers, there’s Teacher Development Trust and many, many, many more – senior leaders’ and subject leaders’ networks, SLEs, National College projects, university research…. A College of Teaching needs to act as a hub, and perhaps a collator of all this work. We are all judged on the same Standards, so should all have access to the same routes to improvement.

Then there are schools. I can see a role for a College. I can see plenty of teachers wanting to be involved. What I’m not so sure about – perhaps because I’m not a senior – is how school organisation fits in. It’s another aspect of partnership that needs to be looked at. In places which set their own pay and conditions, can the recommendations of a College work in the same way as in any other school? A College of Teaching needs to be clear about what its power and remit can be, and will need to work WITH, but not be part of, government, unions, etc. Its aim must always be to protect the long-term interests and status of the teaching profession, while at the same time contributing to the quality and effectiveness of those teachers.

The challenges of the job itself are ever changing. Hardly a week goes by without a News feature beginning with “Schools should teach….” – usually something to do with gardening, pornography awareness, road safety – adding to the list of demands teachers and schools face. These tend to alternate with “Schools are failing to…” stories – and they focus on our performance in PISA rankings, or other perceived inadequacies. Encouraging negative public perceptions in this way does nothing for the morale of teachers who are already struggling to keep up with ongoing real demands such as changing curriculum planning and delivery, changing assessment characteristics and purposes, changing practices regarding children with different social or educational needs.  A College of Teaching needs to face the media and stand up for teachers who are being pulled in so many different directions, to focus on what pupils, and communities, actually need from teachers and schools, not just what is needed to make the world a better place.