It Seems I Won’t Be Joining The College Of Teaching

February 2, 2015

I feel conflicted because I have seen how many of the people involved in the project of creating a College Of Teaching have the best interests of the profession at heart. I also feel personally invested because so many of the teacher bloggers I respect are very hostile to the idea and I’ve tried to persuade them that we should at least give it a try. So none of what I’m about to say gives me any pleasure at all, but the latest proposal for the College of Teaching is pretty much the worst case scenario. Actually it’s worse than I ever imagined.

I had said I wouldn’t join if they let non-teachers in, and I included ex-teachers who are now consultants or teacher trainers in that. It’s turned out to be even worse than that. The proposal for setting up the College of Teaching says:

Membership will be open to all with an interest in education but chartered membership status will, in the first instance, be developed for and only available to practising classroom teachers.

And, in case, you think this is just some category for supporters with the “real members” being the chartered members, the plan is that the full chartered membership scheme will launch after four years. So that’s four years when literally anyone can get involved, and that’s when the millions in public money will be spent and when the structures will be set up.

How is this going to establish teachers as professionals? How is this anything other than an insult? How is the resulting organisation going to be anything other than a threat to the professional identity of teachers? I won’t be joining on this basis. I will be arguing against any public subsidy to such an organisation. I will be arguing against the existence of such an organisation. I will be arguing against any attempt on its part to speak for, assess, categorise or influence teachers.

In fact, the one thing that everyone agreed on, is that it should be independent of the politicians, hasn’t even been achieved. Under these terms the politicians could join. In fact, one wonders which organised groups with a political agenda relating to education will try to take over. Certainly, if there’s a real prospect of millions in public money in the hands of an organisation open to anyone with a beef about schools, why would we expect any of it to end up being spent on something that’s actually of benefit to teachers, the people with the least spare time to organise and the most reason not to trust such organisations?

The efforts to accommodate every vested interest in education have resulted in a plan that is not even about teachers, and may even be a threat to their professionalism. This is very disappointing. I hope the government have the sense not to fund it.



  1. Reblogged this on dancing princesses.

  2. Very interesting (series of) blogs about professionalism, thanks.

  3. Could you explain your reasons for excluding teachers who are now working in education but not in the classroom on a daily basis? I don’t understand that (as one). I believe there is no such thing as an ex-teacher…

    • You can’t create a professional body of teachers that isn’t made up of teachers. Particularly not one which is independent of outside interests.

      • “Education” is full of numpties who wouldn’t last 20 minutes in a classroom of any sort, but who earn a fat living pontificating about how to do it. Many of whom are ex (failed) teachers. They’d swarm round this like flies.

        • Chris Woodhead the prime example. Failed teacher (from former colleagues) whom the children hated and learned nothing. Slept with former pupils. …

          • Allegedly former.

    • I would be in that category … and could certainly understand the exclusion. Classrooms and the power dynamics have utterly changed since I was in a classroom. Hey, you can ask me what I think of things and I know a lot of stuff, but … I’m not a classroom teacher.

  4. I fear you are right. ‘Claim your college’ takes on a different meaning when ownership of said college has become a free-for-all.

  5. Schools as institutions are often (not always) too insular. Rejecting ‘outsiders’ no longer an option. Parents need to be more actively involved and others with broader experience who may have worked in dozens of schools in various capacities have different things to offer than a teacher who has stayed in one institution all their professional lives.
    I would say that as a ‘consultant’/ teacher trainer, but also a teacher.

    • If you want to set up an organisation for lasing between different educational stakeholders feel free. But that could not be a professional body for teachers.

  6. Wouldn’t it be funny if it ends up with only a tiny minority of members who are teachers?

    • Certainly seem yo be more non-teachers than teachers involved so far. However, there’s no guarantee they’ll even find out about whether members are teachers.

  7. As one ex-teacher consultant to another (and as one who argues that it is a mistake to see teachers as the only repository of pedagogical expertise), I completely agree that a College of Teachers *must* be composed of currently practising teachers. In fact, I would look for practical ways of putting the bar slightly higher than just standing in front of a class once in a while, or just having passed your PGCE. Something like three years full-time experience with no major blots on your copybook.

  8. While I agree that this phrase is a little too open, I am surprised that this initial weakness is enough to put you off this important development.

    Surely,once the COT is established you could join the many thousands of teachers who’d agree that this definition is too broad, and that it needs some tighter membership rules.

    You feel so strongly that the other aims are worth fighting for, right? SO get involved, be a member and help change it.

    As a membership organisation that is ONLY way to work.

    I also have reservations – but want to work to develop a better organisation as a member.

    Throwing brickbats from outside is easy – but building something is hard. It needs lots of good people with principles. You have those – and know how to express them clearly.

    Bring that to the college, be collegial, and help shape it as a member.

    • It’s not simply a weakness. It means that whatever is being set up, it is not a professional body for teachers. If it isn’t a body of teachers run by teachers, what’s the point?

  9. Ok – my starter for 10. This is a really tricky one and as you can imagine it has had a lot of thought and debate. And that is not over and nor should it be.
    One option – perhaps not best explained in the proposal – is that entry level membership is broad BUT chartered membership is only open to practising teachers. In most chartered organisations only chartered members have voting rights. So the College community is broad and diverse and benefits from all that expertise but the professional status of chartered teacher is only open to teachers.

    At the end of the day this has to be a membership organisation. So it will only work if enough people buy in to the model – literally. There is no coercion here.

  10. Andrew – as ever, you correctly highlight a challenging issue but, I would humbly suggest, miss alternative solutions to taking your ball home?
    A College of Teaching, to be a professional body, must indeed be composed of, lead and run by teachers. But there is an obvious and implicit catch 22 there – if you are a serving teacher you don’t have time to also run a College of Teachers, but if you leave to work at or for the College of Teachers, by your criteria you are no longer qualified to do so? Major Major is in, so he’s out.
    During my lengthy educational career I alternated between posts that were deemed to be teaching posts and ones that were deemed non-teaching – I have the damaged pension history to prove this :). Many in the profession still make similar career changes. People move in and out, have babies etc. There are many part-time posts. Teaching may be a calling, but it is no longer monastic? To suggest that only someone who is in full-time current teaching with a specific number of contact hours can be designated a teacher is no more realistic than allowing all and sundry in. A more nuanced solution is needed.
    One obvious approach would be an ‘associate membership’, ‘member’, ‘fellow’ type model, where you set thresholds for varying categories of member. Then you can have a truly collegiate structure where rules, polls etc can be adjusted as required to ensure that all voices are heard and represented, but that the true power and control of the profession remains firmly within the grasp of serving teachers? Student teachers, ex-teachers, retired teachers etc can embrace and be embraced by the profession, but not dominate it?
    Other professions manage this quite easily, I can’t believe that teachers are uniquely incapable of making such a model work? But I don agree that a completely open house for the initial four years would probably be sufficiently damaging to make the profession wary, and lead to another #fail to sit alongside the GTC.

  11. As ever, while I struggle to frame a response, Angela MacFarlane nips in and says the same thing but far better, and in far fewer words. Story of my professional career, but she has always been sharper, brighter and younger and it ain’t gonna change now :D

  12. What about people who work/teach students every day of the week but are not employed by schools? What defines a teacher? Will it be a College of Teaching that is run by headteachers where the classroom teacher (with very little time) gets barely a look in? I agree there is a wealth of experience from teacher trainers, consultants etc. but I also agree that chartered status should be for teachers only – whoever they may be.

    • Having retired, I’m building up tutorial work which may well end up as a daily occupation – but classroom teaching it ain’t, and justification for joining a COT it ain’t.

  13. […] Sneaking into next month’s edition, is my fourth blog, “It Seems I Won’t Be Joining The College Of Teaching” by @OldAndrewUK. Andrew quite rightly argues about the need for a College of Teaching to […]

  14. […] are two posts that oppose non-teachers joining the CoT by Andrew Old. I agree with his points about the 4 year […]

  15. I have to agree that the first four years will allow many members who are not necessarily focused on teaching but in-order to run this body we would need to have those who can dedicate their time to running such a body. Teachers and non-direct teachers are stretched in relation to time and assistance will be needed. If a headteacher decides to work at the body of membership that person will ultimately not full fill the criteria for membership. However, I do believe that the first four years are required to allow those with an interest in shaping the education system for the future to get involved. I do understand your viewpoint and agree but also slightly disagree but only on the minor elements of your arguments. I for one recognise the breadth of experience a teacher trainer potentially has and I for one would want those members to help shape the future and also take some of the pressure of the rest of us. Great post and I appreciate you sharing your views openly with the community.

    • No this is unethical, you cannot have a bunch of people who are not Dr’s running a College of Doctors because they are interested in Medicine and Dr’s are too busy…

      And then claim it is a professional organisation for Dr’s

      Teachers should not participate in a organisation where the key positions and membership are held by non-teachers, instead we should mount a legal challenge to it through our Unions and privately.

      • I understand your view point and I agree that we can not take this body seriously if those in top positions are not teachers. I believe my point was that we should allow others in who may not be teaching directly but offering valuable training to teachers. Yes, those at the top need to be active teachers and a tier system of membership is required just like those of the British Psychological Society. This would mean the majority of control and persuasion would be in the hands of active teachers within the field. We all know this new body is trying to accomplish two things which through current debates like this one, would not seem to be best practice. However, we have to start somewhere but the comment below referencing the TES article has some interesting points in relation to this debate. Clearly, this body is not going to fulfil its ambitions and therefor, we are ultimately going to require another body to provide the ultimate professionalism required for the industry. Thanks for reply Socrates.

        • I have no problem with interested people being in a junior non-voting tier, but at some point there needs to be a cut off.

          Old Andrew suggest that means only working teachers in Secondary and Primary , I concur, once you start diluting it in the way they have already done it will fail, other educationalists aka tutors Uni Lecturers etc should have a separate organisation.

          He fears correctly the paradigm and money will be hijacked by a ideological few.

  16. I’d recommend anyone interested in this debate read the TES piece below, for a superb explanation of where we really are: not where people think we are.

    • Thanks for sharing this article. It provides some interesting points in relation to this debate and the arguments about de-professionalising the teaching sector. Thanks for sharing JoeN.

  17. Reblogged this on The Echo Chamber.

  18. […] Teaching in British schools « It Seems I Won’t Be Joining The College Of Teaching […]

  19. […] teachers fear the body will be dominated by non-practitioners, such as academics and university lecturers, while […]

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