You may recall that some time back I expressed concern that an attempt to set up a new professional body for teachers (the College Of Teaching) was being hijacked by non-teachers, vested interests and in one case a private company (SSAT) who sell consultancy services to schools. Particularly scandalous was the proposal to let anyone with an interest in education join the College Of Teaching, regardless of whether they were a teacher. Every so often they cross my radar again, although it’s been ages since I blogged about it, so I’ll catch up now.
The first bit of news (now somewhat out of date), is that the Claim Your College Coalition held an event last June to inform people about the College Of Teaching. Again SSAT were heavily involved. More surprising though was that, despite previous bad publicity, they decided to hold it on a school day. To be fair, they didn’t pretend this event was for teachers, and listed the intended audience as:
Those who work closely with local networks of teachers and schools, and who are keen to facilitate teacher and leader engagement with the College of Teaching discussions. For example, Chairs of Headteacher Associations and School Partnerships, Strategic Alliances, CEOs of MATs.
I suppose this could be interpreted in many ways. Perhaps we teachers love our bosses so much that they are the first people you would contact if you wanted to reach out to us. Or perhaps the intended audience of the College Of Teaching are those who control schools rather than those who teach in them. Or perhaps if you are a private company selling consultancy services to schools there are going to be much greater commercial opportunities in talking to headteachers and CEOs of MATs than talking to somebody who would spend their Wednesday in a classroom with children. Please feel free to suggest other explanations.
The second piece of news is that the make up of the board of trustees of the College of Teaching has just been announced. Remember, this is the body governing an organisation that is supposed to represent teachers. 5 of the trustees are non-teaching “experts”. This means a management type, a surgeon (with experience of professional bodies) and 3 people from existing educational charities. While I’m sure the idea is that these three will have the expertise needed to govern a new educational charity, it essentially means that far from representing a shift in power from existing institutions to a profession-led body, existing institutions are well represented in the new structure. Worse though is the selection of teachers. Of the 8 “teachers”, 3 are heads, 3 hold management positions (that could well be SLT) and only 2 are classroom teachers without a promoted post. None, as far as I can tell, are known for challenging the existing power structures in education (although perhaps the fact that one works in a special school is a positive development). Again, some are heavily involved in existing quangos, educational bodies and sources of “expertise”. Far from being a shift in power, this seems to be an attempt to replicate existing power structures. Those who currently tell teachers what to do are to dominate an organisation that was meant to help teachers reclaim their autonomy.
Yes, I am aware of the counter-arguments. Sure, it looks like only one of the trustees is a teacher with a full teaching timetable, but where would such teacher find the time? Sure, the committee is a bit management heavy, but aren’t the trustees meant to be managers? Sure some of the non-teaching experts are familiar establishment figures, but don’t you want people who know how to run a large educational charity? However, the problem with all these arguments is that they are not only assuming that frontline teachers do not have the capacity to govern a professional body for teachers, but that the sort of body that frontline teachers could not govern is the sort of body teachers should have representing them. If teachers cannot govern the professional body that all those vested interests designed, those vested interests got it wrong. Let’s try a different model. Or not try at all. Anything would be better than the professional body for teachers being governed on the basis of teachers not being professional enough to govern their own professional body. This cannot empower us or improve our status as professionals.
What both these bits of news have in common is the flawed thinking behind the plans for the College Of Teaching. People are signing off on the idea of professionalisation without realising that any autonomy given to teachers, any power given to the profession, has to be taken from somewhere. For us to regain our professionalism we have to be able to tell consultants that their expertise is not required; micro-managing bosses have to be told that some decisions are best left with autonomous professionals, and a whole bunch of vested interests have to be told that they do not speak for the frontline of the teaching profession. Instead of claiming more power for teachers, the current plans for the College Of Teaching are based on building around those who already have power over education and making sure they keep it within the new structure. A so-called “professional body” that actually just replicates existing power structures, while keeping teachers in their place, has been tried before; it was called the GTCE and it didn’t work. Until those behind the College Of Teaching stop trying to repeat the same errors, they can add nothing to our professionalism.