The College of Teaching will serve to unite teachers within a diverse system, enabling shared and portable standards and accredited learning to be developed.
It’s a privilege to be a part of that process and I firmly believe that continuing to develop and challenge teachers throughout their careers – as the College of Teaching is planning to do – will enhance the role they play in the education system.
I am not a loud voice within the world of education; I’m not a member of an expert panel; I’m not in senior leadership in school, nor am I a teacher within a multi-academy trust or academy chain. I don’t live in the south of England with easy access to educational events, debates or conferences. In short, I’m exactly the sort of teacher that needs the College of Teaching and who should be integral to its make up.
I’m a middle leader within my school, with a significant professional development remit both internally and within local schools through my role as Teaching School Coordinator.
I regularly see young teachers enter the profession from a range of different routes. I see them develop skills and depth of knowledge and understanding over the years, very rapidly at first; and I see them then either plateau, or I see them blossom and flourish and move into more senior positions – often taking them out of the classroom in the process.
There is of course a broad middle ground, too – and these are all teachers I feel are in need of the College.
Much of the system’s input into teacher development is front-loaded and once a certain base level of expertise is reached, many teachers are then left to tick over in the same way as they always have. I believe we are losing too much potential – the wasted years in teaching, if you will – in leaving teachers to operate in this way for perhaps thirty or more years.
At the national conference of ResearchEd in September last year, Schools Minister Nick Gibb told us that: “There’s never been a better time to be a teacher” – and I agree. In fact I will always agree. At all points throughout my 25 year career, there has never been a better time, in spite of the many disorientating changes I’ve seen, which have often left teachers bobbing about like corks on a turning tide.
Teachers that I know feel the same; there’s a huge impetus within the profession to make long-term commitments to improving our schools. The College of Teaching will provide a central focus and act as a coordinating hub for this commitment.
There’s an emergence of a new sense of responsibility among teachers to lead the way. The school-led system has been so successful in developing local networks, working groups, research clusters and professional development alliances that teachers are now in a much stronger position to develop the tools and strategies for self-improvement as well as school-improvement.
Teachers want to use this sense of self-awareness and professional responsibility to add to, and absorb, new information about educational practices to make children’s learning as effective as possible. There is currently a hole in the education system that the College of Teaching needs to fill. It offers many potential opportunities for teachers in terms of professional and career development, access to professional knowledge, mentoring, accredited courses and portable qualifications.
It’s exciting to think that teachers could access these benefits for themselves, independently of the school, trust or chain that they work within, enabling us to further our commitment to the education system, the teaching profession, to pupil progress and our own personal development.
In 2015 I made a resolution to get out of Cumbria. Not to leave, but to open myself up to the best of what was available nationally, perhaps internationally. I wanted to take back to my home county the successes of London and other regions, and of trusts and chains that don’t feature very prominently in the Cumbrian educational landscape. I live about as far away from a Free School as it’s possible to live; schools in my area form small clusters and it’s not always easy to travel between them. So last year, I made a point of getting to meetings and conferences that I wouldn’t normally have considered.
I found that successes in other regions often hinged on a sense of professional community between and within groups of teachers. In northern, rural, coastal and outlying areas, teachers often lack the connectedness that exists in other areas. In looking for more for the profession, I found the opportunity for this connectedness in the Claim Your College campaign and the group’s proposal for the College of Teaching.
The College of Teaching can offer this connectedness to all member teachers, regardless of region, school type, or phase. All teachers need this throughout their careers, to prevent the plateau research tells us can happen when teachers are not as stimulated as they could be, or as supported as they should be.
So what’s a teacher from the north of England to do in London on a school day, as I will be tomorrow? A gallery or two, maybe? Shopping and lunch in a trendy bistro? Actually, I’ve already made plans – because what else can a teacher from the north of England do in London on a school day, but visit a school? I shall be continuing the journey by visiting Michaela Community School in Brent to see the work they do.
This week last year, part of a blog I’d written was read out at the SSAT Wellcome Trust review dinner. In this blog, I’d written from the perspective of a teacher twenty years hence….
I wouldn’t be where I am today without the College of Teaching. I wouldn’t have received the mentoring, support, stimulation to develop my teaching, or the confidence to engage with others on a broader platform had I not committed to the College all those years ago, when I became an NQT. I’m now part of a profession which has grown and grown in status and professionalism since the early days of the College. Teachers’ voices are heard and respected, of course they are. Views are sought about professional development, examinations and assessment and curriculum. Of course they are.
A number of changes have taken place since then-
- The Claim Your College proposal was finalised and submitted – all of those involved in the Claim Your College coalition should be thanked for their tremendous hard work leading up to this point
- Last spring, the proposal was accepted
- Questions in the house prior to the last election enabled further discussion – I feel I should certainly offer my gratitude to Charlotte Leslie MP for all she has done to help further this cause
- A selection committee was created and tasked with recruiting for and appointing a board of trustees
- And after a rigorous selection process, those trustees are now in place and undertaking significant amounts of work to enable the advancement of a whole organisation.
- As the phases of development continue, as the College takes shape and its provision for teachers becomes embedded in practice, I believe that there will come a point when teachers look back and wonder how on earth there was ever a time when we didn’t have the College of Teaching as our professional body. Thank you.