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What Would Make Me Join A College Of Teaching?

December 18, 2014

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In my last, but one, post I showed how a professional organisation had in the past ended up as an enforcer for progressive education. In my most recent post, I described how my preferred option for a College of Teaching would be that no one ideological tendency could dominate and why I didn’t think evidence or research could resolve disputes between different tendencies. However, I have yet to describe what can be done practically to ensure that no particular ideology or faction dominates. In order to achieve this I think there are three key principles that must be followed:

  1. The College Of Teaching must be based around classroom teachers. And, by that, I mean people who are employed to regularly teach a class in a classroom. Not to lecture in university halls. Not to give private tuition in people’s homes or online. Not to produce teaching resources. Not to tell teachers how to teach, or otherwise coach or train them. Not to run an educational charity. Not to write educational books. Not to inspect schools. Not working for a local authority. Not working full-time for a trade union. Even retired teachers should be out. It must be exclusively for those working as a teacher (or lecturer) in a school or college, for some part of the working week. The various categories of people who are in education but not actually teaching classes are, in my experience, far more likely to be progressive ideologues than actual teachers. They also don’t need more representation than they already have.
  2. It must be dependent on classroom teachers. The GTCE had no legitimacy because it was widely suspected that most of us would have rather have kept our money. If the College Of Teaching can attract only a handful of people, then it is not doing its job. Worse, if it has sources of income beyond membership fees then there will be an incentive to pursue objectives related to those sources of income, rather than to respond to what its members actually want.
  3. The College Of Teaching must not be dominated by senior managers, or even aspiring senior managers. I’m aware that (particularly in primary schools) SMT may have a full teaching load and even in secondary many will teach more than a part-timer like me, and this is not a claim that SMT are not teachers. But organisations and events dominated by SMT have a very different flavour and culture to those dominated by the rank and file because of different priorities and different freedoms to act.

The following describes what I would suggest needs to be done to implement these principles. Those parts in bold are what I currently think are the minimum requirements  for creating the sort of organisation that I would want to be part of.

To ensure that the College of Teaching is based around classroom teachers, it is necessary for the entire membership of The College Of Teaching to be currently employed as teachers. No associate members, no reduced rates for the retired. While drawing the line between FE and HE is not always easy, those who teach in HE cannot be allowed to joinIf people who are employed only in university education departments, other forms of teacher training, or as consultants, can join, it’s over before we have even begun. No classroom teacher can compete with their connections and ability to organise along party lines. Some (and of course I acknowledge it is only some) of the people in this category are people who can organise letters to newspapers pushing progressive education with hundreds of signatures. The networks are there and will be used to crowd out opposing views.

As well as the members, those running it must not be divorced from teaching. Those with governing responsibilities must all be current teachers. Those with executive responsibilities must be teachers on a (time-limited) sabbatical, not outsiders. If any non-teachers are employed it must be in administrative capacity, not an executive one. Ideally anyone employed as permanent staff would be paid less than a teacher would be, so as not to attract people to leave teaching to take such a position. Similarly the organisation must not be given formal responsibilities (like teacher licensing or oath-swearing) by government. The power structures must be built around reserving the greatest influence of those closest to the classroom, which brings me to the second point about dependence on members. An organisation with income from an endowment will be a prize to be captured by a faction. Working directly with other funding organisations will also compromise independence. The only significant ongoing source of income must be from membership fees. If any outside income is needed, perhaps to start the organisation up, it should be in the form of a subsidy for membership fees, i.e. a reduction in how much teachers pay for membership, not an alternative to membership income. This may make the organisation far more modest in scale than some would like, but we really don’t need glossy magazines, or conferences in hotels, or officers with large expense accounts.

Finally, and this may be the tricky one, the organisation must not be taken over by SMT or aspiring SMT. It is there to help and represent teachers not to help manage teachers or help anyone up the career ladder. There is too much education discourse as it is where heads are treated as the voice of teachers. A big role for those who are not SMT could be one of the most important distinguishing features of the College Of Teaching. Of course, it cannot exclude SMT either, most SMT do teach, but if it is organised around the needs of SMT it will be a very different organisation and the structures should reflect that. All meetings and events must, unless there are good reasons for exceptions, be held outside of the school day. Only teachers with more than ordinary amounts of power or influence in a school can get away during the week on a regular basis and there is little point in setting up an organisation to represent those who are already powerful. 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. I would also suggest, as a further way of establishing that the organisation is not about representing the already powerful, that anybody employed by the College Of Teaching in any kind of executive role, be paid a salary similar to that of an experienced teacher, but not a manager or AST.

I should probably acknowledge this as a provisional list. I can be talked around on issues, although I’m not going to be receptive to the argument that teachers cannot manage to organise without help or that a College run by headteachers would be fine. I haven’t suggested a way forward on the issue of research and evidence, despite raising the problems with it earlier, as I think that might take another blogpost some time in the future.

Finally, can I encourage everybody to go to this meeting to express their views. It would be great to have an event full of teachers trying to influence the debate. I think that even those of us who have been as cynical about a College Of Teaching as I’ve been, should at least have a shot at making it work. At the very least, I don’t doubt the sincerity of those hoping to make this work.

12 comments

  1. Reblogged this on The Echo Chamber.


  2. Reblogged this on BB2 Collaborative.


  3. Hi Andrew. I do have a small reservation about your comments re SLT. What would be gained from a separate ballot for SLT and teachers? I consider myself a teacher first and a leader second. In a CoT I would be representing myself as a teacher. Why should my vote be counted differently?
    Other than that I agree with the whole post. Very strong, powerful points made.
    Cherryl


    • The biggest problem is really with heads being used to represent all teachers, which happens a lot in educational organisations and debate. I don’t think there is an issue with heads being under-represented in educational debate and so I see no need for the CoT to give them more voice. I am worried that the CoT could end up dominated by headteachers, as are many educational organisations (particularly those that meet on school days). The suggestion of separate representation for SLT within the CoT was my answer as to how this could be stopped. It may be possible to go even further, say, electing people to represent heads, non-heads in SLT, NQTs and other categories separately. But I think it important we avoid a situation where a classroom teacher on a full teaching load, unable to leave school on a week day, could be standing for election against, say, a headteacher with no teaching load, who is prominent in multiple educational organisations already. I am aware that the people who will be squeezed in the middle by what I am suggesting, are people who are SLT with high teaching loads (and I know that in small primaries this is a particular issue), but I can’t think of another way round this. I do think we have to address the issue of how to avoid a CoT dominated by heads or SLT.


  4. I thought I would jump in and offer my thoughts on this as I have read quite a lot of discussions on Twitter and elsewhere about the composition of the College of Teaching and I would hope that my 30+ years in education, working with pupils aged 3 and upwards, including adults, may give me a little insight into the realities of teaching.

    I have placed my comments underneath those of Andrew since they directly address his thoughts. My comments are surrounded by the *************************** identifiers.

    1. The College Of Teaching must be based around classroom teachers. And, by that, I mean people who are employed to regularly teach a class in a classroom. Not to lectures in university halls. Not to give private tuition in people’s homes or online. Not to produce teaching resources. Not to tell teachers how to teach, or otherwise coach or train them. Not to run an educational charity. Not to write educational books. Not to inspect schools. Not working for a local authority. Not working full-time for a trade union. Even retired teachers should be out. It must be exclusively for those working as a teacher (or lecturer) in a school or college, for some part of the working week. The various categories of people who are in education but not actually teaching classes are, in my experience, far more likely to be progressive ideologues than actual teachers. They also don’t need more representation than they already have.

    ***************************
    If the college was called the College of Teachers I would definitely agree with Andrew here BUT after the reply given to @PingAnOriental from @AEMcFarlane confirming that the college is to be called the College of Teaching then the paragraph above just fails to recognise that many different people have something valuable to contribute to the development of teaching as a profession. Teaching is not just about Teachers (again, thanks for the comment from @PingAnOriental) it is about the process of helping learners learn and many more people have a direct affect on this in a professional context.

    I have always been supported by colleagues, whether they were lab technicians, IT technicians, University lecturers, etc. in helping me develop as a teacher and without their contribution I would have been a poorer practitioner. Without the dialogue I had with them I would not have had the chance to develop personally and professionally. I also guess I am one of those ‘progressive ideologues’ that Andrew seems to reject but that does not mean that I do not value and celebrate those with a more traditional approach. Again, teaching is about supporting and developing great learning and to me I value the learning outcomes that arise from good teaching no matter what approach is taken. If the ‘progressive ideologues managed to get their voices heard more loudly than those with different views then that seems more of a failure on the part of the traditionalists (realists?).

    So yes, it is important to provide a College of Teaching where all voices are heard and where the realities of everyday classroom teaching are recognised (I once taught 500 pupils as well as managing the timetable and cover which was a nightmare!!) but this should include all those who can help move the profession forward.
    ***************************

    2. It must be dependent on classroom teachers. The GTCE had no legitimacy because it was widely suspected that most of us would have rather have kept our money. If the College Of Teaching can attract only a handful of people, then it is not doing it’s job. Worse, if it has sources of income beyond membership fees then there will be an incentive to pursue objectives related to those sources of income, rather than to respond to what its members actually want.

    ***************************
    I think Andrew has a big point here. Other organisations have been ‘distracted’ by the need to ‘attract’ sponsorship of different kinds and have largely lost their way and hence their relevance because of the need to feed the monetary needs of the administration rather than supporting the members. How will a College of Teaching AD VALUE to a classroom teacher above and beyond the value that they get from their chosen union or other professional organisation such as the ASE?
    ***************************

    3. The College Of Teaching must not be dominated by senior managers, or even aspiring senior managers. I’m aware that (particularly in primary schools) SMT may have a full teaching load and even in secondary many will teach more than a part-timer like me, and this is not a claim that SMT are not teachers. But organisations and events dominated by SMT have a very different flavour and culture to those dominated by the rank and file because of different priorities and different freedoms to act.

    ***************************
    Depends on the SMT really doesn’t it? I have met many SMT members who, when supported by a good Head, are perfectly able and willing to champion the needs of the classroom teacher. In schools where this does not happen then no College of Teaching will change it. SMT are generally there because they have put n the time, effort and energy to get where they are and these are the people we need to have fighting for our profession.
    ***************************

    The following describes what I would suggest needs to be done to implement these principles. Those parts in bold are what I currently think are the minimum requirements  for creating the sort of organisation that I would want to be part of.

    To ensure that the College of Teaching is based around classroom teachers, it is necessary for the entire membership of The College Of Teaching to be currently employed as teachers. No associate members, no reduced rates for the retired. While drawing the line between FE and HE is not always easy, those who teach in HE cannot be allowed to join. If people who are employed only in university education departments, other forms of teacher training, or as consultants, can join, it’s over before we have even begun. No classroom teacher can compete with their connections and ability to organise along party lines. Some (and of course I acknowledge it is only some) of the people in this category are people who can organise letters to newspapers pushing progressive education with hundreds of signatures. The networks are there and will be used to crowd out opposing views.

    ***************************
    The above paragraph is simply not practical on a basic level. Take those lecturers who work in institutions who offer both FE and HE course and therefore teach both, or the teachers who teach part time in school and part time in Universities or the those colleagues who teach pupils who are not in schools or colleges. What about colleagues who coach sport in school but do not have recognised ‘teaching’ credentials? Such professional apartheid would be largely unworkable and suicidal in terms of moving the profession forward.
    ***************************

    As well as the members, those running it must not be divorced from teaching. Those with governing responsibilities must all be current teachers. Those with executive responsibilities must be teachers on a (time-limited) sabbatical, not outsiders. If any non-teachers are employed it must be in administrative capacity, not an executive one. Ideally anyone employed as permanent staff would be paid less than a teacher would be, so as not to attract people to leave teaching to take such a position. Similarly the organisation must not be given formal responsibilities (like teacher licensing or oath-swearing) by government. The power structures must be built around reserving the greatest influence of those closest to the classroom, which brings me to the second point about dependence on members. An organisation with income from an endowment will be a prize to be captured by a faction. Working directly with other funding organisations will also compromise independence. The only significant ongoing source of income must be from membership fees. If any outside income is needed, perhaps to start the organisation up, it should be in the form of a subsidy for membership fees, i.e. a reduction in how much teachers pay for membership, not an alternative to membership income. This may make the organisation far more modest in scale than some would like, but we really don’t need glossy magazines, or conferences in hotels, or officers with large expense accounts.

    ***************************
    I’m torn here. I really can see where Andrew is coming from and my mind drifts towards the non-organisation organisation of things such as TeachMeets where ad-hoc meetings bring together people with great ideas. But really, to be treated seriously as a professional organisation then advocacy, management and professionalism must be embedded in the very DNA of its structures. A balance has to be found and I’m not sure that what Andrew puts forward is the answer but then neither do I have the answer in my back pocket…….
    ***************************

    Finally, and this may be the tricky one, the organisation must not be taken over by SMT or aspiring SMT. It is there to help and represent teachers not to help manage teachers or help anyone up the career ladder. There is too much education discourse as it is where heads are treated as the voice of teachers. A big role for those who are not SMT could be one of the most important distinguishing features of the College Of Teaching. Of course, it cannot exclude SMT either, most SMT do teach, but if it is organised around the needs of SMT it will be a very different organisation and the structures should reflect that. All meetings and events must, unless there are good reasons for exceptions, be held outside of the school day. Only teachers with more than ordinary amounts of power or influence in a school can get away during the week on a regular basis and there is little point in setting up an organisation to represent those who are already powerful. 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. I would also suggest, as a further way of establishing that the organisation is not about representing the already powerful, that anybody employed by the College Of Teaching in any kind of executive role, be paid a salary similar to that of an experienced teacher, but not a manager or AST.

    ***************************
    Again, sounds a little like apartheid to me. If arguments and resolutions are made and votes taken on the merits of those arguments and proposals then surely the majority (who will not be SMT members since they are by their very nature a minority) should be allowed to prevail. It is up to those who wish to propose ideas to make their proposals heard through the force of their arguments and the validity of their ideas. Excluding important parts of the profession from the discourse and the voting process seems, to me, somewhat suspect.
    ***************************

    I should probably acknowledge this as a provisional list. I can be talked around on issues, although I’m not going to receptive to the argument that teachers cannot manage to organise without help or that a College run by headteachers would be fine. I haven’t suggested a way forward on the issue of research and evidence, despite raising the problems with it earlier, as I think that might take another blogpost some time in the future.

    Finally, can I encourage everybody to go to this meeting to express their views. It would be great to have an event full of teachers trying to influence the debate. I think that even those of us who have been as cynical about a College Of Teaching as I’ve been, should at least have a shot at making it work. At the very least, I don’t doubt the sincerity of those hoping to make this work.


  5. […] cynics stating that such a college is pointless as it will not represent ‘real teachers’ with some claiming that only teachers who have regular contact on a daily basis with teaching classes of children should have a say in how the profession is run. I […]


  6. I think it is a good thing to challenge the thinking of the college. A successful college will be able to stand up to the challenge, so it is good to read your thoughts.
    I do believe that staff involved in ITE should be able to join – I’m suspicious of the claim that they have “connections and can organise along party lines.”
    I’m also unsure of the claim that “The various categories of people who are in education but not actually teaching classes are, in my experience, far more likely to be progressive ideologues than actual teachers” I don’t know if anecdote is anything to base membership of this college on.


    • My experience goes beyond anecdotes. But tell you what, here’s the way you can prove that ITE staff are not as progressive as they appear. Find me a traditionalist equivalent to this.

      Presumably if there are as many traditionalists as progressives, and they are as well organised, then letters to the press signed by dozens of people arguing a partisan line can be found from both sides.


      • To clarify, your proof is a letter to the Telegraph? And this letter is not obviously ‘progressive’ or ‘anti-traditionalist’ but anti-Gove. I think that’s a very different thing. After all, what counts as traditional? When does it end a progressiveness begin? Was Vygotsky progressive (he believed in co-construction of knowledge) or traditional (he believed certain progress could only be made with the assistance of someone with a higher skill set).

        In my first year of teaching, a deputy head said to me, “There’s only on thing you need to know about teaching and learning. I teach it, and they learn it.” If that counts as traditionalism that I’ll be happy to be called a progressive.


        • No, not only is that letter to the Independent, but my evidence is your complete inability to find any example of ITT people arguing the opposite way in large numbers.

          Anyway, you appear to have moved into the territory of not knowing what is traditional and what is progressive, rather than actually being able to argue that ITT people aren’t progressive, so I’ll rest my case.


          • I suppose getting the newspaper wrong invalidates my argument. :)
            I think you are missing the point. You are arguing that the letter demonstrates that those 90 odd ITE people are progressive. I’m suggesting they are ‘anti-Gove’ and it’s not true that the two things are the same. I’ve just read it again – what makes you think it is coming from a progressive position?
            Your strawman argument appears convincing, until one reads the letter.
            So I think I’ll rest my case.


          • “Progressive” and “anti-Gove” are not incompatible. That letter is clearly both.



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