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.