Nick Hassey’s Views on The College Of TeachingFebruary 5, 2015
Every so often there’s a comment posted on my blog that’s so brilliant, and so long, that it deserves to be a blogpost in its own right. This one from my last post is by Nick Hassey, who I assume is the researcher with that name who works for Teach First, rather than some completely different person with the same name. Apologies if I have got that wrong. Also, apologies if you have read this already. And thanks, Nick.
A college of teaching should be where school teachers set out what support and training they need, what that support should look like to be of most use to them, and for the college to then identify who can provide this support and training. It must be a voice from the front line because this is what is currently so lacking and so urgently needed. It’s absolutely true that universities and others have valuable insight into education and teaching, but the value of other royal colleges is that its where front line staff within a clearly defined field (say GPs) can say what they need undiluted and unfiltered through other organisations and then try and do something to address this need. Excluding people who aren’t teachers from the college isn’t to diminish their work or expertise in the slightest – it’s just to say they are not school teachers and their support and training needs will therefore be different to a professional teaching in a school.
Indeed this is how each of the medical colleges basically started. As medicine developed and became increasingly specialised new colleges were established out of existing ones to provide support and training to particular professionals who had distinct needs. They excluded other professionals not because they thought they were better but because they recognized that they needed specific types of support that the other professionals wouldn’t benefit from. School teachers require different training and support to those in universities and from consultants and from researchers. It’s not to say one is better than the others, just that this college of teaching isn’t the right body for them to receive training and support from. If university staff in education departments don’t feel properly supported in their training needs they should set up their own college.
Others with an interest in education would therefore still be involved, a college isn’t the Freemasons, it’s not all secret knocks and totally closed doors to anyone who isn’t in. Teachers would still debate these ideas with others – the college could even invite people like me to events or to debate with others, or to advise, and non members would probably deliver much of the training selected by the college. But they wouldn’t be in the college as members, because that must be reserved as a place for teachers, and teachers only, to say what their experience is telling them they need. The whole point is to establish teaching as a profession, where professionals set out what they need, not what someone else says they need, so when the decisions come it must come from a body that only consists of people from the profession.
In this sense not only does it have to consist only of teachers but it isn’t clear what anyone who wasn’t a school teacher would even want to be involved – if you’re not school teacher what would you benefit from getting training and support in how to be a teacher? Dealing with people who leave the classroom for a while are easy to deal with as they can just re-join when they return to the classroom.
It’s feasible you could set up a rather complicated constitution that allowed non school teachers to join but not vote but that’s complicated and it’s still not clear what benefit they’d get from being in the college so why would you bother asking them in in the first place? If it’s to keep their voice involved I’ve already explained how they can kept “involved” without the danger of providing membership. The only reason I can think of for why someone who wasn’t a teacher would want to be involved at that point would either because you want to be part of a cool club, in which case – become a teacher – or because you’d be worried somehow teachers on their own might pick the “wrong” type of support or training. However the whole point of a college of teaching is that it’s a body where teachers set out as a profession what they think they need – if you don’t think they’ll make the right choice as professionals then the whole idea of a college is redundant.