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.