I’d love to be able to provide my unequivocal support for the proposed College of Teaching. Obviously I’m fully in favour of professionalising teaching, but while I’m convinced of the good intentions of those spearheading the campaign, I’m sceptical about the substance of the proposals.
Today sees the official launch of The profession’s new College of Teaching: A proposal for start-up by the organisations who have formed the Claim Your College coalition. The aims are lofty:
The new College will be committed to improving the education of children and young people by supporting teachers’ development and recognising excellence in teaching.
It will be led by teachers, enabling the teaching profession to take responsibility for its professional destiny, set its own aspirational standards and help teachers to challenge themselves to be ever better for those they serve.
It will be an autonomous, voluntary body, independent of government but working alongside and complementing it. It will also be independent of unions and will not seek to represent teachers on matters such as pay and conditions.
It will have parity with other chartered professional associations, enhancing the status of teaching. Its Charter will also provide full independence from government.
But, despite a willingness to consult teachers about how the College should be set up and what it should do, much of the advice and suggestions which I think might help realise these aims seems to have been ignored.
During the consultation event I attended, there was much discussion about who would be able to join the new College and in what capacity. While it was agreed that ‘full membership’ should only be open to actual terachers, there was little consensus on what constituted a teacher. Should membership only be open to practising teachers as suggested by Old Andrew? Or could anyone who had once been a teacher – people like me – be able to have a say in the governance and direction of the College? In the event, the proposal appears to have dismissed these concerns:
Membership will be open to all with an interest in education but chartered membership status will, in the first instance, be developed for and only available to practising classroom teachers.
While I don’t know this for a fact, I seriously doubt ‘all with an interest in the law’ are eligible for membership of the Law Society or that ‘all with an interest in surgery’ are encouraged to join the Royal College of Surgeons. I could be wrong, but I fail to see how this equates to ‘parity with other chartered associations’.
Why is this a big deal? Let’s take me as an example. I am a qualified teachers with over 15 years of classroom experience but I now work for myself providing training and consultancy to schools. While I have a definite ‘interest in education’, I have a clear vested interest in being able to continue working as a consultant. If people like me are allowed to use the time we have available and the influence we have accrued to shape the direction of the College will this really be in the best interests of practising teachers? Obviously in my case I would be a wise and benign dictator but what of other, less scrupulous types?
The problem of vested interest is huge. Despite being offered potential solutions to accusations of lack of transparency, the proposal enshrines vested interest into the College’s very fabric. Here’s how the leadership of the College will be decided:The process to appoint the Founding Directors will be managed by a recruitment company and a Selection Committee will select candidates. The Selection Committee will comprise six practising teachers and headteachers nominated by six of the main Unions: four practising teachers and headteachers nominated by organisations who have initiated the Claim Your College campaign; and six representatives from other key stakeholder groups (three heads nominated by the Local Government Association, the Independent Schools Commission and the Commission of Academy
The process to appoint the Founding Directors will be managed by a recruitment company and a Selection Committee will select candidates. The Selection Committee will comprise six practising teachers and headteachers nominated by six of the main Unions: four practising teachers and headteachers nominated by organisations who have initiated the Claim Your College campaign; and six representatives from other key stakeholder groups (three heads nominated by the Local Government Association, the Independent Schools Commission and the Commission of Academy Principals, and three Teacher Governors nominated by the National Governors’ Association). All teachers will have full delegated authority to act as individuals in this process. They will be representative of the profession with regards to phase, sector, gender, location, etc. These Founding Directors will become the first Trustees.
Teaching Unions – all of whom have their own agendas – are allowed to nominate six of Selection Committee members. The Prince’s Trust Initiative, SSAT, the Teacher Development Trust and the current Royal College of Teachers all get to nominate a member. The Local Government Association, the Independent Schools Commission and the Commission of Academy Principals are able to nominate a (serving?) headteacher, and three Teacher Governors will be nominated by the National Governors’ Association. Unless I’ve misunderstood something, this very shallow pool of 16 Selection Committee members (not all of whom must be serving teachers) will decide who is chosen as the the Founding Directors of the College.
Maybe we can rely on all these organisations not to wish to further their own ends and select individuals of the utmost probity and altruism, but why leave it so very much to chance? And why limit the potential pool of expertise so sharply?
To further ensure the College will be removed from the concerns of serving teachers, only seven of the fourteen Found Directors will be teachers – and it’s not clear that they actually have to serving teachers. That’s right, not even a majority of the Founding Directors (all of whom will go on to be Trustees) will be teachers. This doesn’t seem to best way to professionalise teaching
My suggestion would be that any teacher could nominate themselves to be one of the Selection Committee. Ideally they would then be chosen by lot, with no whiff of favour or prejudice. Maybe we’d get a couple of loons involved but we’d be far more likely to arrive at a body which truly represented the interests and concerns of ‘ordinary’ teachers. This Selection Committee should then have the job – with the support of recruitment professionals – to appoint the Founding Directors from applicants all of whom ought to be teachers – and ideally, serving teachers. As in the proposal document, there would need to be a stipulation that the Directors selected be “representative of the profession with regards to phase, sector, gender, location etc.”
It seems to me that if this approach were taken it would be far less likely less likely that the College would be dominated by those with concerns other than those of practising teachers, and correspondingly less open to suspicion and accusations of vested interest from the teachers it seeks to represent.
Having said all that, the best way to ensure the College doesn’t become the plaything of consultants and union activists is to show you care. Leave your comments, questions and concerns here.
Here’s Old Andrew’s view of the proposal: It Seems I Won’t Be Joining The College Of Teaching