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#babygate

September 15, 2018

Every so often progressive edutwitter goes insane about something. Usually it is something that is obviously true.

The last time it happened was over this post. In it, I argued that children should be held responsible for their behaviour and pointed out they were “not insane”. Progressives deduced that if I thought we should hold children responsible for their behaviour because they were not insane, then I must be saying that children who are not responsible for their behaviour are insane. For some progressives, this is almost all children, particularly if they have SEN or are badly behaved and edutwitter filled with two arguments:

  1. He calls children/children with SEN/badly behaved children “insane”. He is a monster.
  2. He used the word “insane”. This is offensive to people with mental health problems. Nobody should ever use the word.

As ever, the argument could only get as far as it did by being dishonest. Anyone going back to the source would discover that I had said children were not insane. Anyone claiming that the word “insane” was inherently offensive would invariably turn out to have used the word “insane”, or “mad” or “crazy” themselves at some point because that’s a normal part of how almost everybody talks about irrationality.

It all died down eventually, with most of the damage being self-inflicted. However, the key argument, that when we start saying kids (or particular types of kids) aren’t responsible for their actions, we are treating them as if they were insane was lost in the fuss, which is a shame.

This incident sprang to mind, yesterday when David Didau also got attacked for saying something obviously true. In defending the position that intelligence is not innate (i.e. the position that we do have to learn in order to become smart) he pointed out:

And again, faced with that second sentence, something that, without serious misinterpretation, was obviously true, progressive edutwitter went insane… I mean…. no, I do mean insane.

The argument went something like this:

  1. If we define “stupid” to refer to the inability to learn well, or to refer only to comparison between children of the same age, then this isn’t true.
  2. I don’t like the tone.

Obviously, a moment’s consideration reveals that in all the ways relevant to what David was saying, babies are actually stupid. To object is to declare that either you know what he meant better than he does, or that you have unilaterally decided “stupid” cannot refer to ignorance, lack of ability at intellectual feats or anything else where babies compare badly with adults. This argument is hard to sustain, so we soon had personal attacks, claims from authority – “I  know more about babies/child development/what David meant than David does” – and general attempts to declare the word “stupid” offensive to babies, or some other category of people, in the same way that “insane” was.

I don’t think progressives using bad arguments is really news. Nor is it news that they will use a mix of manufactured outrage, personal attacks, and twitter pile-ons to get at people. But what fascinates me most in these two arguments is the way in which the original point was obviously correct in both cases. Babies are stupid. People who are not responsible for their actions are usually considered insane. I’ve long observed that inconvenient facts cause more controversy than actual debatable opinions. And this is what I see as dangerous. Truth is something we should be committed to. Unless a truth is something obviously personal (e.g. your mum is fat) or private, we should always hesitate to criticise somebody for saying what is true. It reflects badly on progressive edutwitter that so many were so outraged at something so obviously true.

When people object to truths then you really see which assumptions underlie their ideology. One of the longest standing themes of progressive education is the idea that children do not need to learn from adults, that all their intellectual gifts are contained within and just have to be drawn out. G.K. Chesterton satirised this over 100 years ago:

I know that certain crazy pedants have attempted to counter this difficulty by maintaining that education is not instruction at all, does not teach by authority at all. They present the process as coming, not from the outside, from the teacher, but entirely from inside the boy. Education, they say, is the Latin for leading out or drawing out the dormant faculties of each person. Somewhere far down in the dim boyish soul is a primordial yearning to learn Greek accents or to wear clean collars; and the schoolmaster only gently and tenderly liberates this imprisoned purpose. Sealed up in the newborn babe are the intrinsic secrets of how to eat asparagus and what was the date of Bannockburn. The educator only draws out the child’s own unapparent love of long division; only leads out the child’s slightly veiled preference for milk pudding to tarts. I am not sure that I believe in the derivation; I have heard the disgraceful suggestion that “educator,” if applied to a Roman schoolmaster, did not mean leading our young functions into freedom; but only meant taking out little boys for a walk. But I am much more certain that I do not agree with the doctrine; I think it would be about as sane to say that the baby’s milk comes from the baby as to say that the baby’s educational merits do. There is, indeed, in each living creature a collection of forces and functions; but education means producing these in particular shapes and training them to particular purposes, or it means nothing at all. Speaking is the most practical instance of the whole situation. You may indeed “draw out” squeals and grunts from the child by simply poking him and pulling him about, a pleasant but cruel pastime to which many psychologists are addicted. But you will wait and watch very patiently indeed before you draw the English language out of him. That you have got to put into him; and there is an end of the matter.

But the important point here is only that you cannot anyhow get rid of authority in education; it is not so much (as poor Conservatives say) that parental authority ought to be preserved, as that it cannot be destroyed. Mr. Bernard Shaw once said that he hated the idea of forming a child’s mind. In that case Mr. Bernard Shaw had better hang himself; for he hates something inseparable from human life. I only mentioned educere and the drawing out of the faculties in order to point out that even this mental trick does not avoid the inevitable idea of parental or scholastic authority. The educator drawing out is just as arbitrary and coercive as the instructor pouring in; for he draws out what he chooses. He decides what in the child shall be developed and what shall not be developed. He does not (I suppose) draw out the neglected faculty of forgery. He does not (so far at least) lead out, with timid steps, a shy talent for torture. The only result of all this pompous and precise distinction between the educator and the instructor is that the instructor pokes where he likes and the educator pulls where he likes. Exactly the same intellectual violence is done to the creature who is poked and pulled. Now we must all accept the responsibility of this intellectual violence. Education is violent; because it is creative. It is creative because it is human. It is as reckless as playing on the fiddle; as dogmatic as drawing a picture; as brutal as building a house. In short, it is what all human action is; it is an interference with life and growth. After that it is a trifling and even a jocular question whether we say of this tremendous tormentor, the artist Man, that he puts things into us like an apothecary, or draws things out of us, like a dentist.

I think most progressives would have said this addresses a straw man and was not their true position at all. But now we know that for many progressives, or at least for many of those who would deny that we are born stupid, it is not just their belief but an assumption that is so firmly ingrained they actually get angry when they hear it denied.

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A Guide To Scenes From The Battleground

September 2, 2018

I have updated this guide for the holidays.

This blog is about the state of secondary education. There is an introduction to it here:

And some reflections on it here:

Here is a summary of my main points:

Here are a few posts written purely for a laugh (although some of them perhaps make a point at the same time):

The following posts sum up what is typical in schools these days in various respects:

Behaviour:

Curriculum:

Teachers and Managers:

Special Needs:

School Life:

Miscellaneous:

As well as the advice for teachers included in many of the other posts, I have written advice specifically for new teachers:

These deal more directly with my own personal experiences, or the experiences of others:

I have also written a number of posts exploring and explaining how this situation came to be, discussing the arguments in education and suggesting what can be done.

Background:

Apologia and arguments:

Progressive Education:

Behaviour:

Initiatives:

Education Policy and Current Affairs:

Phonics

OFSTED:

The College of Teaching:

Children’s Mental Health

School shamings and witch hunts

Teaching and Teachers:

Educational Ethics and Philosophy:

Education Research and Academics

The Curriculum

Here are some videos I found on the internet which I thought were interesting, or relevant, enough to present in a blog post. Some will probably no longer be available, I hope to correct this where possible when I get the chance.

I wrote about some of the myths that are spread to teachers, often in INSET or during PGCEs:

I have also outlined what I would expect from schools willing to do put things right:

Here are my book recommendations:

This may be of interest if you are considering writing a blog or are looking for blogs to read:

You may also have found me…

Here’s an idea for using Twitter to advertise teaching jobs:

I have also written sections in the following three books:

Please let me know if any of the links don’t work.

Finally, I can be found on Facebook (please “friend” me) or Twitter (please “follow” me).

If you want to keep up with education blogging other than mine, or to see some of these same concerns discussed by others, then you should follow my sister blog, The Education Echo Chamber. The blog is here. The twitter feed is here. The sister blog to the sister blog is The Echo Chamber Uncut which automatically shares all UK education blogs. The blog is here. The twitter feed is here. There are details of some “mini Echo Chambers” here.

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The “teacher led” College Of Teaching. Part 2

August 4, 2018

I’ve been writing recently about how promises that the Chartered College of Teaching would be teacher led have been broken. In my most recent blogpost I wrote about how the politicians who supported the creation of a College OF Teaching, and the coalition of CPD providers who set it up, repeatedly insisted that it would be “teacher led”.

It wasn’t just them. The phrase was widely used to describe the project.

As it became clear that non-teachers would be allowed to join in some capacity (which does not appear to have been in the original blueprint) the phrase “teacher led” began to be used to emphasise who would be in charge.

For example:

As a teacher-led movement for change, the Chartered College has a growing network of over 1,300 regional Advocates

From  the Chartered College website.

It aims to be a voluntary, teacher-led organisation which will support professional development, promote and share evidence-informed practice, and recognise excellence.

From a TES article announcing the opening of the Chartered College.

The College will promote teaching as a teacher-led, independent profession that envisions its own destiny.

From a TES article explaining why the College won’t be like the GTCE.

Another couple of phrases were also used to say the same thing. “run by teachers for teachers” was used to describe the College here, here and here. “led by teachers for teachers” was used here and here. Clearly the words “by teachers for teachers” couldn’t be abandoned, as when the election of the council to lead the College was announced on the Chartered College Of Teaching Website these were retained, but rather blatantly the phrase was now “driven by teachers for teachers”, which suggests that those organising the elections were well aware of what had been promised, and of the need to backtrack.

I had been opposed to allowing non-teachers to join the College, in case they did try to take over. Because of the debate over this issue, supporters of the College had made repeated claims that being led by teachers was non-negotiable. This has led to some remarkable changes of position by supporters of the College. Here’s some of the most remarkable.

From blogger “TeacherToolkit”

In 2016:

I do believe membership should be open to applicants who are teaching in classrooms only. Yes, when asked about role with the College of Teaching and asked about ‘what you do’, your first response should be; ‘I’m a teacher’ and not anything else.

A board of non-practising teachers just makes validity of any college contradictory [sic].  Of course, running such a large-scale institution, led by full-time classroom teachers makes it almost very difficult to manage , but it is not impossible.

In 2018 (here and here):

The notion that a @CharteredColl should only be made up of “teachers” is a sign of cognitive dissonance….

…I stand by what I said.

If teachers believe that “only teachers” can be part of @CharteredColl then a) that’s an insular view and b) it’s a sure sign of cognitive dissonance.

From blogger Tom Sherrington:

In 2015:

Any College of Teaching that ended up not being led by teachers for teachers would fail because few people would join; everyone involved knows this and, therefore, they will make sure that at every opportunity decisions are made to ensure this is what we get.

In 2018:

 Isn’t it in the name? Chartered College of Teaching? It’s not the Chartered College of Teachers.  To me, that’s a significant difference.  We already have unions – with vast memberships – giving teachers a voice as teachers and leaders a voice as leaders.   But the College is for teaching – it’s teaching as a profession that needs an independent, professional voice spanning across roles so that teaching has a collective voice in the political landscape.  This, to me, is more than word play.  There are plenty of people with a role in making teaching an effective evidence-informed confident profession – including people who run schools or groups of schools and whose main work is to train teachers rather than teach students.

But most incredible are those who have gone from a position of defending the College of Teaching on the basis that it would be teacher led, to standing for positions on the board, despite not being teachers. Two of the current candidates stand out in this regard. Professor Sam Twiselton had argued in 2015:

But I think to view the College of Teaching – a membership organisation by teachers, for teachers – as part of a “web of control” is wide of the mark. The independence of the organisation will need to be ensured through the open election of teachers to a body that is led and overseen by teaching professionals, not government officials.

Some may question whether the College will have any real power if it is not able to set policy or operate as a regulatory body – but we need to remember that there are other professions, mainly in medicine, where chartered status is an accepted standard.

As a teacher-led independent body, it’s actually more likely than not to be quite fiercely independent. There is often talk of trusting teachers, but little follow-through. The College presents a great opportunity to do that and do that well. I see no reason to doubt that this body cannot work in this way if the profession has an appetite to take it seriously – and there are early signs that it does.

But the person who stands out for having made the most repeated commitments to the idea that any College Of Teaching be teacher led, and who is now standing against teachers to be on the board, is David Weston.

Also worth listening to this debate here:

A lot of the response I’ve had to raising this, has been people arguing that non-teachers should be allowed to run the professional body for teachers or that “teacher” means “anyone who once qualified to teach” or “anyone whose job involves some teaching”. To even address those would be to reopen a debate that has already happened. It was settled that the College Of Teaching was teacher led. It was settled that teachers were “employed to teach children or young people 0-19 yrs”.

The issue is not that old debate, the issue is the broken promises. A professional body is meant to have ethical responsibilities and it is meant to help improve the standing of the profession. The current Chartered College Of Teaching is one big broken promise. It simply cannot be our professional body when ethically, it is dodgy as hell. And it cannot improve our standing when it has not treated the profession with respect.

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The “teacher led” College Of Teaching. Part 1

July 21, 2018

I’ve been writing recently about how the Chartered College Of Teaching, the new government funded professional body for teachers, is not to be teacher led after all. It has been suggested that, as people change their minds, and plans changed, this is not a big deal. So I thought I’d write here about how integral to this whole project was the idea that any new body be led by teachers.

The politician who first suggested there be a new professional body to replace the GTCE, was Neil Carmichael, then a member of the education select committee. In January 2012 he raised the idea with a number of people interviewed by the committee [my emphasis].

Neil Carmichael: That is a really interesting point that you have just raised about the parallel between teachers and doctors, and indeed lawyers. The one thing that teachers do not have, which the others do have, is a professional body to represent them and effectively corral the very things you are talking about. Have either of you thought about the fact that the teaching profession might benefit from having an effective professional body looking at the issue of training and professionalism and career development on their behalf for them, rather than allowing teachers effectively to be subjected to a huge variety of options and possibilities, as currently happens?

 

Neil Carmichael: You are making the assumption that this would be something created by Government for teachers. It does not necessarily need to be, and perhaps should not be, created by Government. It should arise from teachers wanting to have a professional body to look after their profession, in their interests, and obviously, as Graham quite rightly pointed out, the interests of pupils too. Fundamentally, this is a question of how teachers themselves want to see things happen.

 

Neil Carmichael: We seem to be heading in the right direction, because there is a strong consensus developing that we do need to go down a professional approach to teaching, and a professional body to represent teachers. It would be best if that were organic through teachers.

And at a later session he asked the schools minister, Nick Gibb about the idea, who replied:

I think generally professional bodies are better if they emerge from within the profession-the royal colleges. My own professional body before I became a Member of Parliament, the Institute of Chartered Accountants, arose from within the profession itself. Should such a body arise from within the teaching profession, that can only be beneficial.

For some reason, many supporters of the College have tended not to emphasise the fact that it was suggested by politicians, and have instead emphasised the fact that one of the main points of discussion at the Princes Trust Headteachers Conference in 2012 was:

It is time to demonstrate that, like other professions, teachers are capable of self-accountability that is robust and responsible. … A logical extension of this idea of professional autonomy would be the creation of something like a Royal College of Teaching that was not a government agency but was run on the same principles as The Prince’s Teaching Institute: by teachers for teachers.

For a time it looked like a College might be set up without government support, but after crowdfunding failed, the government stepped in offering support to “Claim Your College” (a coalition of CPD providing organisations who, apparently unaware of the huge conflict of interest, took on the task of founding the college).

In December 2014, education secretary Nicky Morgan wrote about her support for the idea of a new College of Teaching, saying:

It is crucial that this body should be created and led by teachers,…

In March 2015 David Cameron said:

I’m delighted to announce that we will be working with the Claim Your College consortium in support of its proposal to establish a brand new, teacher-led College of Teaching

The government announced that they would:

… mak[e] significant funding available to the ‘claim your college’ consortium – a coalition of leading organisations in the education sector – to support them in their endeavour to establish an independent college of teaching, which will be owned and led by the teaching profession

and also wrote:

It is remarkable that teaching remains one of the only professions in this country whose members cannot benefit from being part of a professional body promoting high standards of practice and development. We, along with many teachers and school leaders, believe that this situation should be rectified – by teachers for teachers, but with Government support where appropriate.

We are therefore delighted to be able to support the establishment of a new teacher-led, College of Teaching – fully independent of Government – through the “Claim Your College” consortium of leading educational organisations. The College of Teaching is expected to be fully independent of Government, established and led by teachers.

And when Claim Your College published proposals for what was to be founded they said:

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…

…There is widespread agreement that a College of Teaching must be:
• Independent.
• Voluntary.
Run by teachers for the ultimate benefit of learners.
• Subject to a governance model that ensures no single interest group can dominate….

…We share a determination that this campaign is just a stepping stone to a teacher-led future and that we will not allow anything or anyone (including ourselves) to impose their will on the long term future of what must be a profession-led College.

Schools minister, Nick Gibb, was asked about the College Of Teaching by the Education Committee in late 2015. His response echoed his previous comments.

Mr Gibb: Yes. It is important to have a similar professional body that reflects the type of qualities and institutions they have in other professions. It is important that it is a profession-led organisation and not a Government-led organisation. We had the problem with the GTCE previously, and the reason why that did not succeed in the end was that it was simply part of the Government’s machinery. All the other professions have these royal colleges which were established centuries ago. That is what makes them successful; they have come from within the profession. That is what I hope will happen with the College of Teachers.

The politicians committed themselves to a teacher led College Of Teaching. The proposal they supported also said it clearly. Promises have been broken.

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Another note on those Chartered College Of Teaching elections

July 15, 2018

Just a quick post here, but something on Twitter reminded me of another problem I’d talked about when the College of Teaching was proposed.

Back when discussions were underway about the Chartered College Of Teaching, one thing I argued for was more controversial than all the others although, of course, even the things that were more clear cut were completely ignored by the non-teachers who set up the Chartered College. This controversial suggestion was that senior managers be treated differently to teachers who weren’t senior managers. I didn’t mean excluded completely. Of course, they should be involved, but I was particularly concerned that the College would end up dominated by headteachers, not the frontline. I thought it vital that there would be some positions, indeed a majority of positions that heads couldn’t run for. I thought the best way of drawing the line would be to have some positions where only senior managers could stand and some where senior managers couldn’t stand. This is in no way a perfect solution. The nature of being a senior manager (or even a head) varies massively between schools. In small primary schools, headteachers, let alone deputy heads and assistant heads, can have a basically full teaching load. But I cannot and still cannot see any way it can ever be fair for a full time teacher to have to compete with a headteacher in an election. The opportunities to campaign, to network and to raise one’s own profile are just not the same. In a post entitled What Would Make Me Join A College Of Teaching? I argued:

Distinction should be made between involvement of SMT and non-SMT in decision-making and representation. So ballots of members should record votes from SMT members and non-SMT members separately. Positions in the organisation should be elected on separate ballots for SMT and non-SMT. This is not a minor point, or SMT-bashing, it is just an observation that there are some SMT (obviously not all) who seem to have such flexible working arrangements and great connections, that no classroom teacher could ever compete fairly against them in an election. Ending up with domination, not just by SMT, but by headteachers, is a a very real possibility and the structures of the organisation should take this into account.

Of course, this concern is perhaps a minor one now that non-teachers have been not only permitted to stand, but massively advantaged in the structures of the College and two non-teachers are now going to be elected unopposed to the two most important positions. But I thought back to this when I read the following reply to me on Twitter yesterday from a headteacher who is standing:

That’s right. This headteacher’s school has paid for all the teachers he is in charge of to join the Chartered College. I am not saying this is corrupt; there is no guarantee they’d vote for him (although people generally tend to like voting for people they know) and if the vote is not close it probably won’t make a difference.

However, this is not a level playing field. An ordinary classroom teacher cannot ensure that all their colleagues join the college for free. If this is allowed, heads have a significant advantage. I suspect that this will be nothing compared to some of the unfair advantages the non-teachers have, and it is obviously better to elect a headteacher than a non-teacher. But this can only serve to make it harder for classroom teachers to have a say. And it raises other questions. How many of the headteachers standing did this? Did any of the MAT CEOs standing pay for all the staff in their MAT to join? Given that the Chartered College has utterly failed to meet its membership targets, how many of the small number of teachers who joined were actually signed up by their schools? And, following other parts of my conversation with this candidate, it’s hard not to wonder how many of the headteachers standing don’t teach a single lesson.

There is a very real danger that the leadership  of the “teacher led” College Of Teaching will be utterly dominated by people who already have a platform; already have power over teachers, and don’t teach a single lesson in the average week.

The government needs to think about empowering teachers, not spending millions on giving a new platform to those who already tell teachers what to do.

 

 

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I was wrong about the Chartered College Of Teaching. It’s worse than I thought it would be.

July 13, 2018

 

I keep resolving not to blog about the Chartered College Of Teaching. Obscurity will probably stop them getting public money faster than infamy will. Then some new information comes out, or they do something, that I cannot ignore. It’s now three posts in a row about them, but I couldn’t ignore this.

Just to remind you, this was meant to be a new professional association for teachers. It was made clear right from the start that it was meant to be teacher led, with David Cameron as prime minister promising:

…we will be working with the Claim Your College consortium in support of its proposal to establish a brand new, teacher-led College of Teaching

The heavy involvement of CPD providers in how it was set up always seemed suspicious. Lots of non-teachers were allowed to hold interim positions before there were elections. But the promise always was that eventually it would be teacher led.

My position was that a new professional association could only develop us as professionals if it empowered ordinary classroom teachers, rather than simply giving another platform for those who already tell us what to do. I thought there were real dangers that it would end up formally run mainly by teachers who were senior managers (and particularly heads) and that the non-teacher associates would be able to build up a lot of informal influence, through networking and through encouraging teachers they have influence over to get involved.

I was wrong. The take over by the education establishment has been far more blatant than that.

First non-teachers were appointed to the board of trustees. Then a category of members called “fellows”, which included non-teachers, was created. Then the majority of the positions on the ruling council were reserved for fellows.

And this is where we are now. The organisation that was meant to re-establish us as professionals, is selecting its officers and council members under rules that favour non-teachers.

The candidates list is here. It’s remarkable how far away the Chartered College is from being a teacher led professional association for teachers.

The position of president (reserved for fellows) has one candidate. That candidate is the chief executive of a MAT and an executive principal.

The position of treasurer (there was some confusion over whether this was reserved for fellows or not) has one candidate who is an accountant and makes no mention of ever having been a teacher (and no, I don’t know how that is possible under the rules).

The position of internal vice president (reserved for fellows) has 4 candidates who based on their own descriptions are:

  • The founder of a MAT who implies they are not currently teaching.
  • The managing director of a school improvement company who makes no mention of ever having taught.
  • An author and founder of an education organisation (which appears to be another consultancy). This one I think is a teacher, assuming that’s what they mean by “I am an accomplished member of the Senior Leadership Team” but that’s inferred rather than stated clearly.
  • A leadership consultant.

The position of external vice president has 7 candidates who, based on their own descriptions, are:

  • The CEO of a MAT.
  • A National Leader of Education/Headteacher/director of a MAT.
  • Somebody who has been a school leader and implies they might still be.
  • The Executive Director of ITT for 126 primary and special schools.
  • Somebody who doesn’t state what job they do but implies they are involved in research (they are actually a professor of education).
  • A teacher.
  • A Lead Practitioner and Research Lead in a school.

The other 8 positions reserved for fellows on the council has 60 candidates who, based on their own descriptions, are:

  • 12 working in ITT/education research/lecturing in education and either not school based or not based in a single school
  • 8 members of SMT (but not headteachers)
  • 1 barrister
  • 2 consultants
  • 11 headteachers/principals
  • 1 director of music at a school
  • 3 CEOs of MATs/executive headteachers who aren’t identified as being headteachers as well
  • 1 retired teacher
  • 1 teacher/ITT lead for a teaching school
  • 11 teachers (mostly in promoted posts, but not obviously SMT)
  • 1 founder of a MAT
  • 1 “works across” a MAT
  • 1 former headteacher
  • 4 unclear (including 1 who explicitly says they are no longer a teacher)
  • 1 professor in a teaching hospital
  • 1 CEO of a (CPD) charity

There are 33 candidates for the 10 members’ positions. Again, this is SMT heavy and there are a few in there who don’t actually appear to be what you would normally call “teachers”, but it is a bit more reflective of the profession than the other categories.

But looking across the candidates, this is not looking like an organisation that will enable teachers to reclaim their professionalism. This looks like an organisation run by people who already tell teachers what to do. Beyond that, there is the issue of people who are allowed to stand because they are fellows, who seem to have very little connection at all to teaching, while actual teachers who aren’t fellows would be banned from standing. Worst of all, there can be no excuse for consultants, people who have an explicit commercial interest in CPD, being able to vote, let alone stand, in these elections. This is an organisation receiving substantial public funds to spend on CPD. That seems like a clear conflict of interest.

We already know that the top two leadership positions will go to non-teachers. It will be up to the electorate to decide the rest. But there is no clear path from this mess to a genuinely teacher led organisation that is based on advancing teacher autonomy. Worse, those of us who remember the GTCE will live in fear of politicians giving this education establishment quango some real power and claiming they are giving it to teachers.

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The Chartered College of Getting It Wrong

July 7, 2018

Last week I wrote about how, after repeated promises that the new professional body for teachers would be teacher led, the upcoming election to its council would not only allow non-teachers to stand (and to vote) if they were “fellows”, but that most of the positions on the council, including that of president, were restricted to fellows. A category of membership that includes non-teachers is being advantaged over ordinary teachers.

There were a variety of responses. As ever there were plenty of people who aren’t currently teachers asking to be recognised as teachers which perhaps says something about the strange culture of education. There were people who interpreted any suggestion that non-teachers shouldn’t be fully involved in the professional body for teachers as representing personal antipathy towards non-teachers. To them, it was a personal insult that teachers could ever ask for something to themselves or to be treated as a distinct profession. Perhaps most bizarrely of all, were those who suggested that all organisations were flawed and so objecting to the flaws in this one – one that is being subsidised by government to the tune of £5 million – was unnecessary.

None of this seems to adequately explain the fact that by removing any expectation that the organisation be teacher led the College has abandoned a key commitment. As far as I can tell it seems to have done so without any consultation with its members. When I was criticising the College for allowing non-teachers to join, I was repeatedly told by enthusiasts for the College that they would only be non-voting “associates”. None of the people who told me that have apologised for misleading me, although I think some have said that they do object to the new system and have promised to vote for teachers in the elections.

The Chartered College Twitter account did start a thread on Twitter defending its position, and explicitly arguing that the powers and privileges of fellows are about “recognising their contribution to their profession”. Of course, this makes sense if the point of the Chartered College was to recognise the great and the good in the education sector, but originally the purpose was to empower ordinary teachers, not recognise those who already had power and influence.

During this thread, the account pointed out that:

The Council is going to be split with 10 Members & 8 Fellows. While the President and two Vice Presidents will be a Fellow, the Treasurer can be a Member or a Fellow

This is about the most positive spin that can be put on a system that means 13 positions for fellows, 10 positions for ordinary teachers, and 1 position that can be either. Previously I had been under the impression that the treasurer also had to be a fellow, so I asked if this was a change and was told it wasn’t.

It does indeed say in one place on the website that the treasurer can be a member. However, this also contradicts what was being said by the twitter account a week earlier.

Q) How many positions will be elected?

A) Council will be made up of 10 members, 4 elected officers (who must be Fellows – President, 2 Vice Presidents and Treasurer) and 8 other Fellows

And on another page on the website it said.

To be honest, it doesn’t really matter whether the split between fellows and ordinary teachers is 13:11 or 14:10. Muddling up the rules in an election where the rules are already outrageously biased against ordinary teachers, is a minor mistake. But again, and again, one of the justifications for giving non-teachers a role in running the Chartered College has been that they have “expertise” in running organisations that teachers don’t have. Yet under the control of the experts, the College seems particularly error prone. As well as messing up communication of the rules for its own elections, it has badly missed its membership targets and the peer review system for its journal turned into a farce. I would have thought these were the sort of things that outside experts would get right, even if they failed to represent the profession the College was set up for. At the moment, we seem to have the worst of both worlds. Teachers are sidelined for not having the expertise to run their own professional association, but those who do run it are making amateur mistakes anyway.

It will be interesting to see who runs for the council positions, and who wins. There seems to be an optimism among teachers in the membership that they might be able to gain control, at least for the first year. And no doubt, if plenty of the elected fellows are teachers, people will say that the organisation is teacher led after all. However, this is still a system where most teachers who are members were excluded from leadership positions and those who weren’t excluded will have been pre-approved as fellows by the College and had to stand in elections where non-teachers could stand. Even if every position is held by a teacher, this will still not be about empowering teachers; this will be teachers asking for permission to be treated as a profession.

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