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…
Even the old college seems happy about the new college, as are the Teaching Unions but will teachers be happy to join a Union, and a couple of colleges of teachers? Surely something will have to give. There are a growing number of teachers who seem not to bother to even join one of these organisations. If you look at what makes most teachers stressed it will be the organisation that does most to challenge the day to day drudgery of unnecessary paper work, pointless meetings, long hours chasing targets and sorting out bad behaviour that would be the one to join. Will this new college do that?
What is this new college for?
Ministers say they will provide the dosh for: “Evidence-based professional development, led by a network of more than 600 outstanding teaching schools”. Are ‘outstanding’ teaching schools fit for purpose? Do these teaching schools become superior partners in a College of Teaching? Can the imposition of leadership by a minority of schools be tolerated by an independent College of Teaching? Who said that these schools are outstanding? Ofsted? Do teachers trust Ofsted to make the judgement about these schools and who is to say that all the practice in these schools is ‘evidence based’ or, if some of it is, it is not affected by stuff that is not ‘evidence-based’? What is the measure by which evidence is obtained, who pays the Piper? If evidence is to be the tune to which we all must dance is the evidence based on current testing models? What happens if someone wants to challenge those models? Can teaching ever be ideology and value free? Would we want it to be? Should a College of Teaching have an ethics committee to raise concerns and ideas about the purpose of education? If the college is to be free of political interference does it also have to sign a Faustian pact: a pretence of political impartiality as it divests itself of ideology?
The Guardian sees the statements today by Morgan and Laws as an attempt to outflank Labour. Can a non-political organisation be set up in such circumstances? What stance will a College of Teaching take on political interference in education? Will it campaign against a National Curriculum? What relationship will it want with OfSTED and OfQual? What will it say when a PrimeMinister makes great play, as Cameron did yesterday, of ensuring that it is: “absolutely vital” to the country’s success that maths, science and computing are taught in the “modern way”… “This set of skills and this new way of teaching is for everyone”… The ‘modern way’? Is this evidence based? Cameron seems to think we are in a global race and that we must win! Is this race winnable? Where is the finish line? Will a college of teaching call the Government to task for hyperbole and, if so, what will be the role of Government in education in England, will it lead the College, follow the College, see it as a thorn in the side, ignore the College, or starve it to death financially if it becomes too troublesome… Or is the college meant to be meek and mild?
Morgan and Laws say that this body will “Allow teachers, like other professions, to set their own high standards for their members.” What happens if a teacher doesn’t want to join? The College of Teaching is to be voluntary but if a teacher is ‘struck off’ does that mean they will no longer be employable? What is the difference between a teacher who has been struck off and one who doesn’t want to join, will they have a similar status? Will schools be urged to only employ teachers who are members? Will someone who is struck off have to divulge as to why they have been struck off and will they have legal recourse to the decision and, importantly, will they have access to legal aid?
Michael Gove made much of the idea of allowing Academies to employ people who aren’t qualified as teachers as teachers, could this create a further problem? Will it be possible to discern whether someone is a teacher or not? Or will it be perfectly acceptable to say: ‘I teach, therefore I am…’ Could anyone come along and say, for example, I’m a teacher, I teach an adult class once a month in origami at the leisure centre and I want to join this college of teaching to raise my status and ensure I have access to an evidence base of the latest and most efficient paper folding techniques.
(One way to make the status of teachers as high as lawyers (how high is the status of lawyers , I wonder?) and doctors would be to pay us more and enable us to buy and drive to school in posher cars, wear posher clothes and bedeck ourselves in much bling. That would impress da kidz anyhow.)
If these problems can be overcome then a College of Teaching can’t do any harm.