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Tristram Hunt proposes something which may just be worse than OFSTED

January 11, 2014

Teaching is an ideological battleground. It often feels like half the profession thinks the other half is completely useless. This is why nothing tends to cause more problems in teaching than the power one group of teachers or educationalists has over another. One example of this is OFSTED. Somebody who hasn’t taught in years can come into the classroom of somebody whose classes make good progress, and declare that the teaching is of the wrong sort. That’s also why there is a lot of conflict between frontline staff and SMT. Managers are not promoted because they are good at teaching. In fact many are terrible. However, over the years, they seem to have accumulated the power to stand in judgement over what is good or bad teaching. And again, those whose classes are learning well can be told by those with very few classes, or even none at all, that the lesson was not taught the correct way. This conflict, as opposed to a conflict between students and teachers is the reason for the name of my blog.

In practice, different opinions about how best to teach are not resolved by open debate or even by monitoring results, they are resolved by the exercise of power. Some people can spend their time pronouncing on the best way to teach, and exercise the power to make life miserable for anyone in their vicinity who disagrees. Others cannot even express their opinions out loud at work, or even blog those opinions under their own name, because their position is one of relative powerlessness. That’s the system we are in and while I cannot seriously argue that teachers should be accountable to nobody, I do feel we are subject to arbitrary and irrational demands that limit our autonomy. If there’s a message that can be taken home from my ongoing attempts to expose what OFSTED are up to, or for that matter my writing about bad management in schools, it’s that institutional power in the education system can be used to push particular ideologies and to obstruct teachers with the “wrong” beliefs or practices from doing their job.

There is no easy answer to the question of how much autonomy teachers should have, or to the question of how we can make those with positions of power in the education system accountable for how they exercise that power, but my opinion, and I think I speak for a lot of teachers, is that we are restrained too much at the frontline. There are too many managers, consultants and, in the worst case scenario, inspectors, telling us not only how to teach, but also making sure the consequences of teaching in unapproved ways, or without producing the correct paperwork, are unpleasant. However, what hadn’t occurred to me is that it could be worse.

I do see the system as utterly dysfunctional, but there is always hope. If a teacher is teaching in a school which makes ridiculous demands on them, they can, at least, look for another school. If a school’s demands are particularly ridiculous, they might even get helpful support form their union (but don’t count on it). If a teacher is criticised by OFSTED, they can, at least, find themselves protected if their employer appreciates what they do, although the more senior you are, the more serious the consequences of OFSTED criticism are likely to be. None of this is perfect, or even acceptable, but ambitions are wrecked more often than livelihoods and teachers often do get through their dark times and move on to something better. If all you want to do is teach then you will probably find somewhere, eventually, that allows you to do that. There are no shortage of tough times, but whatever doesn’t destroy you will probably make you stronger. I know teachers who have gone on to be happy in the job, despite breakdowns; despite terrible bullying; despite experiencing truly terrible schools.

What we don’t need is any more regulation. And what we don’t need is to raise the stakes even higher, so that any institution has the power to force anyone (but those completely beyond the pale) out of the profession for good. It is bad enough we have to conform to the whims of SMT or move on, or conceal how far we depart in our practices from the arbitrary demands of OFSTED. I don’t think we can cope with any further regulation and obstruction. I don’t think we can cope with any further threats to our autonomy. For this reason, I was gutted to read this (from the Times website):

Teachers will have to be licensed and will face the sack if they fail tough new checks on their abilities under plans drawn up by Labour.

They will need to show that they are teaching to a high standard and have refreshed their subject knowledge and skills through training. Those unable to demonstrate they had done so would be refused a new licence and effectively struck off from the profession, Tristram Hunt, the Shadow Education Secretary, has told The Times.

The controversial plan revives key elements of a proposal by the previous Labour administration to force teachers to renew a teaching licence every five years. The plan was dropped before the 2010 general election.

Mr Hunt held back from saying how often he would want teachers to be assessed, saying that he wanted to discuss implementing the policy with the profession in the coming months.

Somehow, Tristram Hunt has looked at a profession regulated into ineffectiveness by OFSTED and subject to a bombardment of bother by the bureaucrats in SMT, and decided that’s what’s really needed  is more regulation, more hassle and more hoops to jump through. Worse, the personal consequences of failing to meet the demands of whichever additional regulator will be put in charge of licensing seem steeper than ever. At best this policy will add to bureaucracy and be another waste of money like the GTC. At worst, it will give teachers a new master with more power than OFSTED and SMT combined.  Obviously the details aren’t clear. Some people on Twitter showed remarkable optimism that this new regulatory force will somehow be more enlightened and trustworthy than OFSTED. Some seemed to think it would be a Royal College of Teaching, concerned only with providing high quality training. However, given the conflicted nature of education debate, somebody is going to have the power and somebody isn’t, and the power will now extend to driving people out of the profession. My own nightmare scenario is being forced out for not doing enough groupwork or discovery learning because some office-johnny thinks that style of teaching encompasses the “skills” teachers should have. Other people will have different nightmares and, of course, one person’s dream scenario might well be another’s nightmare. However, if there’s one thing that’s guaranteed, it’s that this is the same old game of bureaucracy and interference in the classroom, but with higher stakes than ever. And more stress and more hassle, not to mention more hoops to jump through, will only make the job of teaching more unpleasant than ever.

All I can hope is that, for once, our unions get their act together and work to ensure that this could never come to pass. If it was clear that no teacher would cooperate, that nobody would apply to be licensed, then the scheme would not be worth considering. It is also up to us, as a profession, to make it clear to our unions that any union which doesn’t oppose this vigorously can expect to lose a lot of members.

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58 comments

  1. Reblogged this on The Echo Chamber.


  2. I’ve yet to delve into the Twitter debate surrounding this. It’s almost not worth it given the lack of information – there really is too much clarification required for any actual analysis of value. However, I did wonder if the format might follow this: underperforming teacher is recognised by HOD/SMT and they provide the usual support structures. No improvement, so this member of staff is passed onto our friend Tristram (or whatever the organisation will be). Following the ‘recommendation’ they are observed by said organisation and decision regarding continuation in profession is made. Sounds hideous really! Relaying my first thought before I venture Twitterwards tomorrow.


  3. Reblogged this on Primary Blogging.


  4. For me there are a few issues…

    As a replacement for Ofsted I think this would not be a bad idea. Fund decent CPD, get every teacher up to license level and maintain it. No need for Ofsted to check teachers as no license, no job.

    Who will do the assessment for renewal and how? Only licensed teachers would be able to test licensed teachers and many SMT probably would not pass in the first place let alone maintain their license.

    I worked with US teachers last 2 years and some of them were the worst teachers I have ever seen despite them believing that their system is gold standard.

    The whole thing is flawed for me. What they want from teachers, the levels of education and proficiency in such a wide range of areas.

    Parity with doctors and lawyers…haha. I thought we were trying to improve the system.

    I don’t believe there are half a million people out there who are willing and able to do the things on a daily basis that are required. TF is a symptom and a sticking plaster (small sticking plaster) but if TFers are what is needed, I would love to see the government find half a million every couple of years.

    At a time when the UK is thinking about dropping in the global league tables of power, authority and wealth, I wonder where the money will come from to pay for 500,000 teachers with parity with doctors/lawyers. There of course there will be the cut in hours to achieve parity.

    For me the whole thing is a sideshow.

    BTW…..I saw the union on the BBC at 8am giving the idea tentative support. They were quite positive.


    • “Fund decent CPD.”

      Now there’s the problem. Not the funding, the last government spent billions on “teacher training”.

      The problem is “who gets to decide what ‘decent CPD’ is?”.

      Under the last lot, ‘decent CPD’ meant endless consultants telling us that we had to give out worksheets in 17 different colours to support the various SENs imagined by the parents of the children we’re supposed to be teacher.

      It meant a three line whip to make sure we were implementing Brain Gym according to the rules.

      It meant providing paperwork to prove we were accounting for all ‘learning styles’ in our lessons.

      The last 2 at least were, of course, known to be utter nonsense according to the proper, research backed, peer reviewed, published material of proper psychologists. Yet hundreds of millions were spent (in the case of learning styles still is being spent) ensuring we stick to the policies.

      There is proper, peer reviewed, published research that indicates the best way to improve maths teachers is, you’ll never guess this – “teach them some more maths”.

      What chance that would ever be funded? (Or, if funded or not, actually recognised as ‘CPD’?)


  5. I wonder how Mr Hunt proposes to enable the thousands of supply teachers on agency books access to expensive CPD. Once the maths is done we’ll see this proposal shelved alongside the policy of making teaching a masters degree profession.


    • There are ways this could be done far far less expensively that eg OFSTED.


      • LOL


        • Not sure why you think this is funny? Do you think it can’t be done? Or are you laughing at the fact that it is pretty obvious it could be done and isn’t being done?


        • What I like about Ian’s suggestion is that takes a practical step in seizing an opportunity – which is surely more helpful then the somewhat childish SMT bad line of thinking.


          • We can have endless debates but in the end nothing will change without taking some initiative. If it was easy someone would have done it already. It might be a lot of work and come to nothing but that is the nature of innovation risk. Being a victim and moaning about it seems a lot less useful to me than trying to do something about it even if the outcome is uncertain. Psychologically I’d get depressed very quickly if I accepted all the doom and gloom, so it’s entirely selfish.


          • Would be interested to see your ideas – actually would be interested all ideas about how to move forward – perhaps Andrew you could host this on your blog? What are the aims? Where do we start?


          • The reason I started blogging was that I felt there was no other option for making profoundly-felt grassroots views known. Naively, little did I suspect how many others were already at it! If there is any ‘sense’ going to be brought to the scene, these voices need to be heard. I’m a reluctant union rep (nobody else would do it…) so I have seen how constrained *they* are.

            I’ve felt for ages that something needs to be founded right from the bottom up – and to be genuinely independent of all other interests. There’s a vain hope for a start…If teachers can’t agree amongst themselves even in small numbers on a blog forum what they stand for and what they (should?) be doing, what hope is there of really co-ordinating any kind of successful movement? It would be the union problem all over again.

            That’s not to say it’s not a good idea. I’m gad someone else mentioned it, though, or I’d believe I was just dreaming again…


    • “I wonder how Mr Hunt proposes to enable the thousands of supply teachers on agency books access to expensive CPD.”

      Why would you imagine Mr Hunt cares a jot about a load of freelancers?

      Supply teachers have to pay for their own DBS checks, they had to pay their own GTC(E) fees (no bump up of their pay to cover the charge) and would certainly be expected to fund their own CPD.

      In fact, supply teachers currently are expected to fund their own CPD..


  6. This is of course your blog but the tirade against SMT feels out of kilter with the rest of what you write which tends to be evidence based.

    The issue is as you acknowledge in the early part of this post the confrontational nature of the education debate – but your post adds to this. SMT are not some sort of destructive force -or, in a primary school certainly, removed from education.


    • What tirade against SMT?


      • ” Somebody who hasn’t taught in years can come into the classroom of somebody whose classes make good progress, and declare that the teaching is of the wrong sort. That’s also why there is a lot of conflict between frontline staff and SMT. Managers are not promoted because they are good at teaching. In fact many are terrible. ”

        There are two problems with this – firstly this is a convenient stereo type – which is reinforced by the use of “frontline” – what are the senior management team? The majority have teaching commitments.

        The second problem is the assertion that only somebody who teaches regusrly can know what a good or bad lesson looks like. What is the evidence for this?

        Also what is the evidence for your claim that many SMT are terrible teachers?


        • He hasn’t got any. Or if he has it’s purely anecdotal. I wonder whether he sees the irony in his criticising SMT and OFSTED for making subjective judgements on the ability of others to teach or whether it escapes him.


          • “Also what is the evidence for your claim that many SMT are terrible teachers?”

            …anecdotal probably but nonetheless true in my experience.


          • I do wonder why anybody thinks this them and us attitude is helpful or helps a school improve – the question regarding the “terrible teacher” comment is whose opinion? And what makes that opinion valid?


          • @solocontrotutti There are good SMT and bad SMT. There are good teachers and bad teachers. And there there are people who make ridiculous and unsubstantiated generalisations.


          • One persons anecdotal evidence is another persons primary research.


          • I would say around 30% of the Senior Leaders I have worked with have been terrible teachers. Most of them worked in the same school. All of the ones that were terrible were terrible for the same reason. Their behavior management was terrible. This wasn’t a barrier to their generally meteoric rise up the management ladder because the behavior in the school was generally terrible so being terrible at managing behavior didn’t set them apart from many of the staff.

            On a separate note, the complaints about a lack of evidence or the evidence being anecdotal are ludicrous. “Terrible teachers” is obviously a subjective term. Part of the problem with this whole notion is the subjective nature of observations. How on earth would someone evidence such a view point other than with anecdotal evidence?


          • @bigkid4 30%? That is terrible. Since we’re on numbers, can you tell me what percentage of their lessons you observed to make you say that? I’m only saying that because observations would provide the evidence required to make me stop thinking that you don’t know what you’re talking about.


          • Hm, a lot of blogging on the importance of evidence then sweeping statements without any. Are SMT members weaker teachers than the general pool of teachers? It seems unlikely based on the systems of promotion since there would tend to be bias towards selecting the better practitioners in any meritocratic system. Of course we have to define what we mean by a weak and a strong teacher. This thread shows the real problem of political vested interests and unfortunately the casualties are likely to be children at the bottom of the pecking order, not teachers or SMT members. Disaffected people moan about those with authority over them whether it is children complaining about their teachers, teachers complaining about management or managers complaining about politicians. Hardly evidence based and objective is it?


          • I suppose the most you could say is that there are examples of less effective practitioners in managerial roles – but this is hardly new or news in any walk of life.

            I would hazard a guess and say that if you were to survey all the teachers in any given country you would find an even distribution of those saying that the leadership in their school is poor or out of touch – but is this evidence which supports an assertion or evidence, as you suggest of dissatisfaction and disaffection? I suggest the latter.


          • So you think observations are the only way of determining whether someone can teach or not? That indicates to me that YOU don’t know what you’re talking about. you appear to be dismissing results and pupil voice as ways of determining whether someone can teach. I don’t. If someones results are terrible that reflects on their teaching wouldn’t you say? If pupils are constantly complaining that they can’t learn because the teacher cant control the class that isn’t a good sign.

            I will answer your question, silly though it is. My responsibilities over the years have required me to do a lot of observations and I have observed quite a few members of Senior Management. The percentage of their lessons I observed is obviously low. Most teachers have a low percentage of their lessons observed. I’m not sure what your point here is.

            On top of that for some years I didn’t have my own classroom. There were more teachers in my dept than classrooms. I taught in the next room to several members of SLT that were terrible during my travels. Constantly late, classrooms so loud their classes were disrupting mine, complete bedlam when I went in to ask them to keep their class a bit more quiet.

            Ultimately your opinion on whether I know what I’m talking about means nothing to me.


          • This is starting to get personal which is a shame (and also so easy to do when we respond to something we feel so passionate about – I am certainly guilty!) my point is not that there are not examples – surely there are, but that examples do not prove a rule.


          • @José Picardo Are you really saying that observations are the only evidence of teaching ability you accept?


          • @bigkid4 “Ultimately your opinion on whether I know what I’m talking about means nothing to me.”

            On the other hand, your opinion, now that you can provide some substantiation suddenly becomes worth listening to.

            I read sweeping statements about SMT all too often. There must be bad SMT, of course there are, as there are bad teachers. In my experience, however, most teachers and members of SLT are really good people who are very good at their jobs.

            I’m very sorry you have had such a bad experience. I really am.


          • @José Picardo Thanks. I agree that sweep generalizations about SLT are unhelpful but I don’t feel that is what I was doing. I think debating whether or not there are bad teachers among SLT is a bit pointless. There obviously will be some. In my experience there are too many.

            I think that my experience is colored by spending many years in failing and dysfunctional schools. I still feel a lot of anger towards the hopelessly inept, bullying SLT I worked with for many years even though I left that school a long time ago. That probably came across in my last post.

            You are right in that many SLT are nice people and many do a good job. The problem is that when a large part of your job is convincing and making people do things that they do not wish to do it is far too easy to not be nice. A lot of members of SLT that are nice people outside of work can be rather unpleasant in a work scenario.

            Some teachers that started teaching at the same time as me became less and less pleasant in school as they climbed the management ladder.

            What’s interesting to me is that a good number of the SLT members that were bad teachers were perfectly adequate managers. Similarly many of the worst managers I have worked with have been excellent teachers.

            I might blog on this later if I have time.


          • That would be great. Please share link when you do.


  7. The snag with teacher politics is that it seems to largely ignore what happens outside in the rest of the world. I’m probably not going to make myself popular in these forums by saying this but from an outside point of view it all seems very introspective.

    “Managers – are not promoted because they are good teachers.” Well perhaps not directly but I think there is little evidence that being a good teacher is not helpful in getting promoted. Probably demonstrating effectiveness as a manager will help too. Sure we can always quote anecdotal instances of the head who is bad in the classroom or led the school into special measures but that is not my experience generally. What is the evidence?

    So education is a massive bureaucracy and increasingly a political football. Get used to it because it’s not going to change until teachers at grass roots start politically out-smarting the politicians. The knowledgeable teachers have more knowledge so it should be no contest if knowledge is what matters. OK, some willingness learn the politics well enough to set a strategic direction that can actually work is need too. Of course the politicians understand emotion too and also have a degree of legislative and funding power but the fact is even in non-statutory areas, the SoS says jump and the profession responds with “how high?” And the most expensive part of the system is teachers themselves. Perhaps we are all products of a conformist education system from which we have been brainwashed to conform. Touch of irony there for those that think education is all about subject knowledge ;-). Attitudes and emotions matter too and in this case probably a lot more.

    It’s no good relying on the unions. What evidence is there that unions have made any real difference to pedagogy in the last 30 years? SoS has had more impact – oh the irony of that. The unions are large bureaucratic organisations fighting an agenda on pay and working hours – how successful has that been? Why? The politicians know the answer and it seems the unions don’t.

    For me there needs to be some radically different strategic thinking and enough people to take the risks needed for significant change. Otherwise it will be blogging talking shops Twitter favourites and retweets in a sort of massive group think but little real change. Well the negative vibes propagated will probably result in deeper depression for many. The internet offers opportunity – it has catalysed a few social revolutions already – but I guess the oppression needed to start that sort of revolution probably needs to be orders of magnitude greater than what we have here. Maybe, someone will prove me wrong, I rather hope so.


  8. Someone I knew of in County Council personnel used to say that she was glad when schools came off their books as it rid her of the most vitriolic, poisonous workplaces she had to deal with.

    A colleague who was ‘required to leave’ said that he loved teaching but hated being a teacher, a sentiment echoed by many more who are still around – and I suspect you too.

    I have little confidence that the unions will achieve much – they have to spend too much time sounding ‘right on’ even to retain the little influence they do still have.

    And despite my left-leaning sympathies, this kind of instinctive dirigisme is why I have never found it within me to support Labour.

    The profession is still too divided to be able to stand up to anybody – and only a grassroots movement really has much chance of garnering the kind of support you advocate. Edu-blogosphere is perhaps the place where this could begin – the problem is who will do it – and how?


    • Exactly the point. I made a practical suggestion at http://www.teacherdevelopmenttrust.org/teacher-re-licensing-pros-and-cons/


      • Some interesting thoughts there – thank you. I will visit again and read more. But I’m not sure you’re any closer than the rest of us to pinning down how to identify and quality-assure what are in effect millions of unique events that happen each and every week, each of which is determined by factors far more numerous than mere teacher ability. I agree that trust is essential – but how you create and retain it in such an uncertain field is less clear.


        • I’m not claiming to have a definitive answer, I’m identifying an opportunity to take practical grass roots action that can develop into something better than the alternatives likely to emerge. I believe actions speak louder than words, that is all.


  9. Reblogged this on History Bluff and commented:
    A thoughtful response to today’s announcement from Labour. We’ve yet to see clarification yet about what this all means, but it’s immediate impact is to demoralise and demonise teachers even further.


  10. I’m going to step out of that extended reply above which is indeed getting personal, but would like to point out that management and teaching are not the same thing and require different skills and aptitudes. I know classes require management and it is perhaps that which persuades people that they are cut out for *organisational* management when they may not be.

    For example, I can think of few organisations as big as schools that regularly delegate personnel matters to people with no personnel training or qualifications. I know NCSL or whatever it is currently called was set up to deal with issues like that, but the outcome only seems to have been a greater homogenisation of sometimes-bad practices.

    In reality, there is probably a fair balance of ability and attitude in SLT across the country – but that isn’t to say that people won’t have bad experiences – especially as like may well tend to recruit like. To my mind there are also inherent conflicts of interest in the poacher-turned-gamekeeper scenario that, however inevitable, will always create strong feeling.


  11. I am so glad I escaped from this poisonous profession! To sum up my experience of SMT – they are self serving bullies who convince themselves they are doing a good job. If they were so excellent why are not all schools excellent (we all know the reason – “leadership”, and according to recent research teaching itself, has a limited impact on the outcomes.
    I’ll be looking for a small private school to send my children to. The state is a poor excuse to provide a proper education.


    • Swap SMT for teacher or parent, transfer to a forum of disaffected children and what result would you expect?

      Useful forum for letting off steam, but let’s not kid ourselves it’s in any way a scientifically unbiased representation of what most people believe or experience, any more than a Daily Mail headline is a reliable indicator of the mood of the nation.


      • It’s true that there hasn’t been a scientific study completed on the quality of SLT but generally speaking if you read the various blogs or read The Secret Teacher columns in the Guardian then educational managers are held in very low esteem. Accusations of bullying and insidious behaviour are widespread.

        On the other hand OFSTED hand out grades that suggest that much educational management is good.

        I think the problem basically is that education has become dysfunctional.caught in between inept policy and a very complex social environment.

        I think what has happened is that educational institutions have been forced to become very compliant trying to interpret policy. This has meant that the kind of person that gets promoted has skills far removed from those required to succeed in teaching. Often they were not good teachers but much better at interpreting and managing policy.

        This worked under New Labour because New Labour gave up on teaching and learning and focused on policy (I think most people agree on that point).

        Unfortunately Gove has upset the apple cart and many who previously had been appointed for their policy and admin skills have suddenly found that the focus of attention is back on the learning environment.

        I think quite a number of SLT’s have reacted badly to the changes in the framework and that has caused much resentment.

        I think that much educational management is poor but I accept that I don”t base it on scientific evidence rather its based upon the the discourse of teachers and personal opinion.

        No doubt there are some inspirational educational leaders who are tarred with an unfortunate brush but that’s life in the education system sadly


        • Anecdote is all we mostly have to go on in education and that’s fine so long as it doesn’t make extravagant claims (yes, I ‘ve been reading Teacher Proof!). This anecdote seems as good as the next, and chimes at least a little with this teacher.


        • It’s true that there hasn’t been a scientific study completed on the quality of SLT but generally speaking if you read the various blogs or read The Secret Teacher columns in the Guardian then educational managers are held in very low esteem. Accusations of bullying and insidious behaviour are widespread.

          Alternative analysis.

          In any bureaucracy that is under pressure, there will be a significant minority of disaffected employees who will complain about the way they are managed. With over 20,000 schools it would be surprising if there were not 10s of thousands of individuals in this position and at least some will have good reason perhaps all. But it does not mean its a majority. The ones most likely to complain to the Guardian are most likely to be self-selecting from this group. OFSTED grades for management are mostly in line with those for teaching – at least its rather unusual for a school put into special measures for poor teaching and get praised for its management or vice versa.

          Education outputs are not massively different than they have been for years. Perhaps a failure when we consider how much money has been spent but difficult to say it’s at a critical point of dysfunction.

          Often the best teachers are the best managers and vice versa. This is not surprising because a lot of the personal characteristics required are similar. There are exceptions and since bad emotions and bad stereotypes are quicker to form and more resistant to disconfirmation than good ones, perception is not the same as the reality. A rather similar situation to believing in things like cogntive stages in learning because they fit what we want to think. The psychological research is unequivocal on the tendency for the brain to fix more on the bad – newspaper stories are like they are for a reason.

          The role of party politics is over-rated. Mostly it is to do with structures and finance not what constitutes effective teaching. If we define effective teaching as what gets good exam results why would it be in any SLT members interest not to be a good teacher? After all they are more likely to take the flack from a bad OFSTED than any other member of staff and selection to an SLT often involves having to teach a lesson and scrutiny of exam rusults achieved. The focus has been on getting results in SATS and GCSEs for at least the last 20 years. Gove is nothing new in that respect. The fact that it is not easy to get real gains in exam result output probably demonstrates that both teachers and their SLTs have very difficult jobs and it is not going to help to stir up divisions.

          Chances are that if education management is weak, probably so is teaching because the same people are doing both coming from a similar pool of talent with similar training backgrounds but with at least some filtering before getting to SLT. The salient question is how to make things better? By stirring up disquiet and infighting or loking for ways to work together to solve the problems? Or to go further and transfer the energy into taking back the professional initiative from politicians rather than squandering it on depression, negative thoughts and conflict?

          I have extensive experience teaching, (4 LAs and an independent school) being a member of SLT and inspecting but I don’t do any of those things now so I’m not in any “camp” just trying to be as rational as possible.


          • You eloquently put the alternative arguments.

            I read the Guardian and on most issues there is contention and disagreement. Not on teaching. The vast majority of posts are negative about leadership to the point where any reasonable individual would begin to think that the view was widespread.

            Again in my experience the best teachers want to remain in the classroom because they look at management and feel that there is not enough interaction with the learning environment to make it appealing. Often the pay differential is not that great either.

            As Wilshaw stated not so long ago the best teachers often have difficult tempraments; very demanding, tending to be autocratic, intolerant of compromise. They are not suitable to working in a bureaucracy that concerns itself with compliance and in my view mediocrity.

            However you could be right. We argue from anecdote.

            You make an important point here:

            “Or to go further and transfer the energy into taking back the professional initiative from politicians rather than squandering it on depression, negative thoughts and conflict?”

            My view is that SLT’s are trusted little more than OFSTED and that is a huge obstacle.

            If you are right then the petty bickering of the few is not going to matter. My guess is that you are at least a little bit aware that negativity about SLT’s is a lot more widespread than you care to admit.

            But the proof of the pudding is in the eating and the lack of trust of SLT’s is at the root of much of the antipathy towards any initiatives such as the one Tristram Hunt proposes. Creating a united profession means dealing with that problem.

            But that’s just my view – yours is equally valid.


          • I think anti-management views are probably widespread. Question is more widespread than before or in other industries? One other reason teaches might avoid management is v that they don’t want to take the responsibility or are not prepare tho do what it takes. We are where we are. How do we go from here to something better? There had never been a time as good for self determination. Why keep reacting to what some clueless politician decides is necessary reform?


  12. I would be fairly happy to see licensing of teachers as long as SMT/Heads who are passing judgement are themselves licensed.

    SMT/Heads should first be licensed as managers and leaders as well as teachers. Once licensed they should be able to pass judgement on teachers.

    How else could quality be assured.


  13. I call this one differently. Obviously, there are a lot of caveats – we don’t know the full proposals – but the notion that ‘the teaching profession’ should own teaching standards is fundamentally the improvement that is required. Right now, it may be the only way that teachers can begin to reclaim this territory from all those bodies that have sought to define teaching standards in their own (usually unhelpful) way.

    Your point about the spectrum of opinion and a who-shouts-loudest approach to defining standards is valid. My argument is that an RCT-type organisation would be a step towards what is needed and away from allowing any old idiot to define educational practice on a whim (the way things are headed).

    The ultimate aim has to be to push SMT/OFSTED back to the administrator/auditor roles they should have and allow professionals to collaborate to maintain standards and improve themselves.


    • That makes eminent sense to me. The trouble is, can teachers be relied up to regulate themselves any better than outside forces? History doesn’t give me hope. As always, those who shout loudest would win the day, and there would be no one to bang heads together at the top.

      I agree, it would be better in principle, but I can already think of so many shades of potentially conflicting opinion even within my own colleagues that it couldn’t be guaranteed to please everyone. No difference there from any collective effort, I suppose. The mark of a civilised society has been said to be in how it treats its minorities. That would be the test.


      • Things will never be perfect, the question to ask is will it be better than what is there now? If a regulated qualification is used as the basis of certification it has to be externally moderated and verified. In fact license to practice type qualifications are viewed by Ofqual as higher risk so they get greater scrutiny but there is much more scope for cooperative working than is the case with the current OFSTED arrangements. This is especially so if internet technologies are used to their potential.


      • It is not an unresolvable problem. Whilst arguments will run hot at the outset, this tension is probably necessary in order to drive the profession to find better way to resolve the arguments. If I’m being particularly optimistic, I imagine the use of proper evidence being key to this (at least in discrediting some of the worst blaggers).

        I believe that the longer teachers fail to grasp this, the further toward a de-skilled McJob teaching will become (regardless of the professionalism of indviduals).


        • I sincerely hope you’re both right. The principle has to be better than what we have now. But in order to command hearts and minds you have to make people feel *genuinely* included. Some of us already find that difficult simply because we dare to hold views at odds with many in the profession. My parents (also teachers) encountered the same. The big risk would be a splintering into factions – and then we would be back to square one. All academic at this point, I suppose, but I would certainly support any genuine attempt to establish such a body.


  14. Will this proposal replace ofsted or merely be another layer of stupidity to be piled on top of teachers?


    • That depends on teachers. The profession has an opportunity to take back control of teaching practice. This needs large numbers of teachers to recognise the need and ensure their views are represented. Ideally existing organisations – Unions, subject associations… – get their members behind it. Without this, it may well become like all the other QANGOs – staffed with suits and acting on behalf of whichever government currently hold sway.

      There would be real benefits for individual teachers – an external licence would be quite handy when under fire from slt/ofsted/random ‘consultants’. I’d also hope for an improvement in the quality of CPD for teachers.

      There must be an mechanism to audit schools, so OFSTED would almost certainly remain. It would actually be quite healthy if OFSTED and the RCT were slightly antagonistic – keeping each other in check.


  15. […] nightmare” by teacher unions, while among the fears voiced in the blogosphere is the claim that it will be used to force people out of the profession. This reaction has not been universal. […]


  16. […] nightmare” by teacher unions, while among the fears voiced in the blogosphere is the claim that it will be used to force people out of the profession. This reaction has not been universal. […]



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