New year, new CEO, new College of Teaching

Ross McGill, known on his blog as Teacher Toolkit, produced this blog about the College of Teaching and the recent announcement of Dame Alison Peacock as CEO of the organisation.

This is the comment I added

I am a supporter of the CoT – I think there is a real need for it. I realise that not everyone thinks this, and, well, that’s fine…you don’t have to join or have anything to do with it if you don’t want to.

Ross has pointed out a lot of positives, as well as some concerns and recommendations of his own. Here are some of my thoughts.

Teachers need a voice within the media and when dealing with policy makers when those Sunday morning pronouncements and unanticipated policy changes are made. How many times do we hear of a new policy via the Sunday papers, see it commented on, recommended or rejected before we ever hear from anyone who’s spent or is spending their career in the classroom? Yes, we have the unions…we wouldn’t want to be without them in their extremely valuable role in protecting and promoting our pay and working conditions. But the profession itself should be in charge of pedagogical discussions and should have representation in policy development.

The broader the teacher base here, the better. If the CoT develops by recommending one style of teaching over another, or by closing down debate on the validity of different methods, then it’s not going to develop teaching or the teaching profession at all. But my understanding is that that’s not going to happen – one of the key aims of the CoT, as with other chartered professional bodies – is to develop, not inhibit, the knowledge base of the profession and to further career long teacher learning through improved access to research and validated experts. When I spoke to newly appointed CEO Alison Peacock last week, she made the point that teacher expertise must also be recognised and that rather than only importing ‘expert’ views into teaching practice, often seen as a ‘top down’ judgement on teachers, we should also be developing teachers’ opportunities to share their expertise and successes in rigorous ways. Regional CoT hubs and national discussion groups can enable this, and can form a reliable knowledge base from which teachers can draw in developing methods and resources.

You might not feel that you need any of this. Perhaps you work within a big MAT who really have developed extensive CPD systems, career development channels or networks of advisers? Ark and Harris, among others, have developed excellent practice. Dixons have developed training that supports and challenges teachers to develop practices that focus almost forensically on learner development. And while 60% of secondary schools are academies, not even all of these are well connected and well developed in terms of mature CPD provision. Many stand alone schools offer brilliant CPD but don’t have much chance to share their models with others. Most importantly though, and always my main focus when I think about the TEACHER at the heart of the profession, is the issue of recognition. If I’ve been a lead practitioner, or worked in an SSAT school, or undertaken TEEP, or a recognised leadership course, these are externally accredited and therefore portable qualifications.

Part of the CoT’s membership offer and chartered structure will enable a teacher to develop skills and learning in ways that their current employer might not be able to offer. It can provide access to knowledge and an academic world that many of us in rural or outlying districts find difficult. Yes, researchEd provide great events – the sort of events I personally feel teachers should be accessing – but it’s not easy for us all to get to these. They did a Leeds event, yes. That’s three hours away from me. A York event, likewise. A London event means a £113 train ticket, a 5am start, and often an overnight stay as well. We need an organisation that can bring similar events to our doorsteps, organised by local teachers, partnered with local teaching school alliances and HE institutions.

The CoT’s charter means that it can exist “in perpetuity”. It can exist beyond the lifetime of the current government, and the next and the next… It can provide a steady path for the profession whatever political changes might come. It’ll take a long time to get it fully up and running as a mature professional organisation and there’s a danger of expecting too much too soon. In reality, the CoT doesn’t really exist ‘yet’. It’s in development. It’s just moved into a new stage with the announcement of Dame Alison Peacock as CEO, with her role to commence in January 2017. It’s like announcing your pregnancy as you move into the second trimester. There’s still a long way to go and a lot of growth needs to happen.

Teachers, if they want to see this organisation succeed, need to get involved in shaping it. They need to discuss membership proposals, CPD ideas or regional needs. Chase up the links Ross has suggested here and look at the site, the @CollofTeaching Twitter feed or the College of Teaching Facebook page. Sign up for newsletters and consultations. Think of where this could take us in years to come.




Teachers, sans frontieres

From January 2015

One profession. Together.

As teachers, we are many things to many people, and we do many things for many people: we’re lesson-planners, reference-writers, peace-keepers, attention-demanders, support-givers, peer-coaches, resource-creators, corridor-patrollers, skill-assessors, development-encouragers. We’re the devil’s advocate in that niggly departmental meeting, the arbitration service between testy parents, we’re life coaches for the angst-ridden and reality-checkers in the face of new management initiatives. Many of us, in addition to the satisfaction of watching the progress of our own pupils, contribute to the development of staff peers and gain enormous satisfaction from working in partnerships. Some teachers seem tireless in their enthusiasm to offer assistance, resources, time and emotional support to other teachers just because they are teachers. Because they care about teaching.

And yet the extent to which there is both the need for peer support, and personal investment in order to offer it, can sometimes be humbling. A couple of days ago, this appeal came through the twittersphere


…and a while ago I noticed this update, among others…


Here’s a situation where an acute shortage of teaching staff could seriously jeopardise children’s opportunities, and where busy, yet selfless, people with skill and compassion, have come together to chip away at a pressing problem.

In other circumstances, teachers are often pushed into defensive positions. PRP and the culture of punishing target-setting might cause us to shut down, guard our own ideas for fear they benefit someone else at our expense. League tables and local comparisons, fear for our reputations and competition for pupils, might lead each school’s teachers into territoriality and ivory towers. Yet time and again, we see commitment to Teachmeets, partnerships, alliances, subject groups or special interest Saturday conferences. Teachers are givers. Teachers say thank you. Teachers are committed to the collective improvement of learning and opportunity for the benefit of all young people in a community, not merely to their own status or results.

In recent years, education has become increasingly fragmented. Some schools are still schools, while some are colleges; some are academies, free-standing or chain-linked like daisies; some schools are ‘free’, some ‘controlled’; some aided and some independent. Some fell away from Local Authorities, some were pushed; some select few and some select all. It would be easy, given the numerous boundaries and barriers between us, to build up our guard, to resent the comments of those from different contexts or to reject offers of collaboration from those with different experiences.  It would be understandable to proclaim that we couldn’t come together to support each other’s different priorities. In the midst of the fragmentation of the system, is the teacher. Teaching itself, purpose-driven, lesson by lesson, pupil by pupil, binds us, sans frontiers.

Often at our individual best when we work together, often most productive when resources are limited, most ingenious when restrained, teachers create and inhabit their professionalism every day. Teaching is an art and an abstraction – it is based on fine relationships yet grounded in a reality of snot, red pen and exam results. Teaching is a partnership of differences with a central aim. Teaching is collegiate.

Maybe there is a need for one organisation – a College of Teaching – to be able to stand for us all, regardless of political, procedural or pedagogic divisions, to support us to nurture each other and encourage us all, in spite of conflicting claims on our time and attention, to keep the teaching at the heart of what we do.

One profession, together.


I don’t know. That’s why I want to find out.

What could a College of Teaching do for Teachers?

I first published this in early Jan 2015. Since then, the Claim Your College proposals have been submitted – and accepted. The College of Teaching IS going to be a reality. Now it really is up to teachers to shape the future of the profession.



Original post –

I have a lot of questions about the proposed College of Teaching. There’s a lot we don’t yet know. But as a teacher, I think I should be getting involved in this discussion, and be finding out.

Since the first mentions of the development of a new body, a College of Teaching, there has been discussion and speculation about the various forms and functions such a body might operate, and the approach to teaching, and teachers, it might take.

The composition of the College has been one topic under discussion. It is not yet known who, in the future, might lead the working body of the College or what sort of committee structure might be exercised, or what democratic structures would exist, or how membership will be promoted, or how the College will be funded, either in the initial start-up phase, or later when it might become self-funding through sponsorships, charitable donations and subscriptions. These issues are to be dealt with during the two to three year start up phase that is just underway. It is less contested, however, that teachers themselves should be at the centre of the organisation. Many academic, training, political and other commentators will have their own value to add, of course, but a College of Teaching needs to revolve and evolve around current members of the profession.

There are a number of key reasons for this:

Early information asserts quite strongly that the College is not taking the place of any teaching unions. Neither is it to take part in pay and conditions negotiations. It could be there to voice teachers’ interests, opinions and concerns, though, in the light of policy decisions, media appraisals and inspectorate judgements. It could also mediate between the world of academic research and the day-to-day world of schools, and could aim to ensure that communication and cooperation exists between these two fields of experience for the good of ongoing developments in classroom practice. As time goes on, the College, representing the expertise of its membership, might exert more influence over curriculum design or assessment models. Teachers work with the realities of the educational world – the temporal and social contexts, the school priorities and local populations – so information gathered from them and their experiences could enable workable projects to move teaching and learning forward. Allowing teachers this contribution into national strategy feels very different from the work of recent years. But if teachers want to see such possibilities, they need to engage in College of Teaching discussions.

Career development
Long-term improvement in teaching performance is an aim of any organisation associated with providing the best opportunities for children. Recent reports have highlighted the importance, not of technology, or of particular ideological stances, but of straightforward teacher quality in ensuring effective experiences for pupils. There are still some differences of opinion in terms of whether subject -specific or general pedagogy is the key determiner of effectiveness, but to enable teachers to move on after initial qualification it makes sense to allow for development in both routes. Comments have been made about points in a teaching career where developmental ‘plateaux’ occur and about what can be done to ensure that developed performance through improved classroom strategy is consistent throughout a teacher’s career. Retention within the profession is also key here, with many new entrants into the profession not staying as long as their older colleagues. Teachers need to take the time to discuss, as the College is being developed, whether a long-term career map can be outlined, particularly one which continues to develop and reward teachers who remain in the classroom rather than moving into management positions. A further consideration is the manner in which this career progression would be reflected in the membership structure of the organisation through levels such as ‘member’, ‘associate’ or ‘fellow’, each with its own qualifications, or, perhaps, responsibilities to contribute to the professional development of others. As yet, these issues are undiscussed. Teachers should watch out for opportunities to engage in consultations in their local areas, through social networking and though national consultations as time goes on.


The recent government consultation document claims that the establishment of a College of Teaching would help us become a “world-class teaching profession”. But how do we judge the ‘class’ of our profession? By Ofsted Quality of Teaching judgements? By GCSE and A level results, as shifting as those goalposts are, or by international measures such as PISA with its attendant statistical and cultural quirks? Or do we set our own standards, the standards of the College, and therefore the profession, itself? And if so, who does the setting, and what qualities do they prioritise? Comparisons are often made between teaching in the UK and in other countries. Finland is a well-noted example, yet the status of teachers is higher than in the UK, and it is estimated that it could take over thirty years for the UK to match Finland in this respect. Where we might prefer to look would be at the status of teachers within our own communities.

The first question, ‘What could a College of Teaching do for a Teachers?’ might after all be the wrong one. Maybe ‘What can teachers do for teachers, for teaching, for schools and for the generations of pupils to come?’ should be considered with the College acting as a vehicle through which teachers themselves can become agents of change for the future of the profession.

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.



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.