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The College Of Not-Actually-Teaching

March 14, 2015

An article in the Independent yesterday reported that:

Mr Laws [the schools minister] said funding for a Royal College of Teaching would be announced before the election, to put teaching on an equal footing with professions such as law and medicine. “This has the potential to finally give the teaching profession the recognition, respect and high status it deserves,” he said.

It has always been a likely prospect that clueless, but publicity-hungry, politicians would be making announcements about this in the run up to the election, although there is some irony that that plans to subsidise the education establishment were announced in an article claiming that Michael Gove still had lots of influence over education policy.

I’ve argued repeatedly against the latest plans for a College of Teaching, largely on the basis that they are plans for a body that non-teachers can join which would, nevertheless, seek to speak for or even regulate, the profession. The latest plans seem to have been built around the idea that any group currently involved in CPD, including trade unions and at least one private company, should be involved in the initial structure, and that any recognition of current practising teachers should be put off for at least 4 years and only apply to some subsection of teachers approved by those setting the organisation up.

There are several reasons such an organisation cannot be trusted to spend money intended for the professional development of teachers.

1) The College of Teaching needs to be free to argue for, and organise, changes in how professional development for teachers is provided even if that does not fit the agenda of those already involved in the CPD industry. That cannot happen if the organisation is full of appointees of current vested interests. The involvement of SSAT, a private company providing CPD, is particularly suspect. Imagine if a pharmaceutical company had set up the Royal Society of Medicine. This is not an independent body.

2) The College of Teaching needs to be able to speak for those actually teaching in schools and colleges. It is that lack of power and a voice from the frontline that has deprofessionalised us. If the membership is dominated by educationalists, consultants and non-teaching headteachers it will do the exact opposite of what it is meant to do. It will reinforce our powerlessness.

3) The model of professional development being put forward is one that, I believe, many teachers will object to. It is currently being suggested that teachers be assessed and classified as associates, chartered members, or fellows. This is the old model, where teachers were considered experts depending on where their game playing had got them, i.e their position as managers, ASTs, or even as “outstanding/good/requires improvement/inadequate” teachers based on their latest appraisal. This is not what teacher expertise looks like. We should be recognised for our different types of expertise in different areas, not ranked. The only teachers who would join an organisation dedicated to saying that one teacher is a better teacher than another, are those who think they are better than their peers, or who are chasing promotions or other opportunities to teach less. It will have no appeal to those who actually just want to get better at teaching. And this problem would have been utterly obvious if the movement to set up a College Of Teaching had been teacher-led, not led by vested interests.

Of course, without public subsidy or a means to coerce teachers to join, this organisation will get nowhere in its present form. But if politicians are looking for the appearance of supporting teachers without any of the substance, they are going to throw money at this. So let’s be ready to say loudly and publicly that money paid to the proposed College Of Teaching is money spent undermining, not supporting, the teaching profession. Let politicians know they will face difficult questions if they throw public money at this proposed quango and then claim they are doing something for teachers.

21 comments

  1. I think the give-away is in the name: College of TeachING, not College of TeachERS.


    • To be fair, the name had originally been justified as being down to “Royal College of Teachers” already being taken. It was still meant to be a professional body for teachers. And even though I was cynical about how “teachers” would end up being defined, I really wasn’t expecting membership to be open to all and sundry.


  2. “We should be recognised for our different types of expertise in different areas, not ranked.”

    I think for me this gets right to the heart of how this organisation should be a completely new thing for teaching in England, Andrew, and why I increasingly think your opposition is important.

    Thanks


  3. Reblogged this on Apprenticeship, Skills & Employability..


  4. Reblogged this on The Echo Chamber.


  5. Hi Andrew,

    As always, thank you for continuing your scrutiny of the process to create a College of Teaching. The fact that you and others are able to identify areas of concern is welcomed by the Claim Your College team (of which I am a member) as we want to make sure we’re continuing to address all concerns as the body is set up.

    I don’t yet know if the government will announce support for our coalition, but I’m going to write the rest of the post based on the hope that it is our plans that go forward. Even if the government doesn’t announce funding for us then we’re confident we can move a little further forward, in any case, with other sources of funding, even if it would be tougher.

    To take your concerns one at a time. I hope I am interpreting you correctly to say that it seems that a major concern is that this body will not be representative of the teaching profession, that it will be dominated by non-teachers, and that it will have vested interests set in from the outset.

    I can assure you that this same concern dominates our discussions and plans, and that we are at pains to act transparently and clearly such that this never becomes the case, building in future mechanisms to ensure that members could act swiftly to correct the problem if it ever did become the case in future. That said, we are also highly aware that as much as we would like to suggest rules and regulations it is not our place to impose these, and that it is only the founding Trustees, acting with significant consultation with members and the wider profession, who should make such decisions. Indeed, we have taken hard decisions to slow a number of processes down as we’re taking great care to not do anything that would tie the hands of future members and Trustees.

    We agree, for example, that rules about the sorts of CPD encouraged should most certainly not be set by the four organisations who started the Claim Your College coalition. Three of the organisations currently do provide some CPD services and one (the TDT) is a body that works with providers, so we have all agreed that clearly we cannot set any rules or seek to influence in this area, while we have any influence. If, in the future, our organisations are completely disassociated with the governance and running of a future College, only then would be it appropriate for us to approach those who run the organisation to seek to offer our services. It would be entirely up to Trustees and the management as to whether they would choose to engage with any other organisation – there would be absolutely no special privileges for anyone involved in the Claim Your College coalition.

    Only one person from the current College of Teachers will, initially, have a place guaranteed on the Board of Trustees, as they need to be part of the process of dissolving their own organisation and handing over the Royal Charter to the new body. When the new College of Teaching is up and running then the current College of Teachers will no longer exist, so they also do not stand to gain commercially from any influence.

    As laid out in our proposal, safeguards are also in place to ensure that the bodies who propose teachers for the Selection Committee also do not have control over the Trustees. No one group has a majority of representatives on the Selection Committee, and anyone who stands on the Selection Committee will be unable to stand as a Trustee. The process of recruiting Trustees will be through an open process and the Selection Committee has been set up to produce a group that is representative of the teaching profession and that also contains the necessary skills to run a sustainable, independent and respect body.

    Once the body is up and running, we’ve suggested (but cannot impose the idea) that there should be a non-voting category of membership open to the wider education sector, with voting membership restricted to practising classroom teachers. I know this is not something you would choose to do – we’ve had a real mixture of inputs on this with a slight majority seemingly in favour of an open category of non-voting member. However, it will be up to Trustees to make the decision on this, not us, so keep lobbying your views.

    Eventually, as with most Chartered bodies, we would expect that Chartered professionals are the ones who carry the ability to vote. We would like to be able to offer more clarity about who will be given a vote before this but, again, it’s not for our four organisations to attempt to impose our will on this. Our non-binding recommendation to Trustees will be that, until such time as there are sufficient Chartered members, they could restrict voting to non-chartered practising teacher members – but it will be entirely up to them to make this decision. For this reason it is important that you (and others) continue to make your case about what the rules should be when the Trustees are in place and making such decisions.

    Your point about divisive levels of membership is an interesting one. Again, this seems to be an area of some disagreement but the majority we have spoken to thus far are in favour of some sort of ladder, as long as it is truly on merit and absolutely not on the basis of currying favour. Our plans that we will put forward to Trustees will include this sort of model, and we shall recommend that any new accreditation process is robustly piloted and evaluated to make sure that it is fair, valid and respected. Again, we cannot ultimately make any decisions on what will or will not happen – this is for the Trustees to decide, not us. We have merely put together recommendations and financial plans which can be accepted, amended or rejected as necessary but members and Trustees. They may well decide to reject our plans and adopt a different model – that will be up to them.

    I personally hope we don’t see anything like ‘ranking’ of teachers, but we do see recognition and development of specialist excellence as well as ‘general practice’ excellence. I also fear the possibility of any future certification becoming hoop-jumping and bureacratic, so our plans make recommendations that we believe will avoid this, along with extensive piloting and checking to make sure of this.

    The College absolutely needs to appeal directly to those who want to get ever better at teaching without having to move in to management. I’ve argued for a long time that this is an enormous issue in our current profession, and this point is one of the key reasons that I and my organisation (the Teacher Development Trust) are strongly supporting this idea. There is certainly a place for those who wish to move in to leadership, but it shouldn’t be the only route to grow and develop, nor the only way to achieve recognition and opportunities to support others.

    Ultimately, this College will be a voluntary body. If teachers don’t like what it stands for then they will not join and it will simply wither away. This is the ultimate safeguard. Unless the profession feels this body represents them as is winning them over, it cannot succeed.

    I hope you feel I’ve addressed some of your concerns. As always, what I am hoping to have conveyed may not be the way you interpret my words. I’d be happy to discuss and clarify this further, as much to make sure I understand your concerns (which of course I could have easily misconstrued). I welcome your continued critique and challenge to help us sharpen our own thinking and do what we can to build further safeguards against capture and vested interests, and to launch this organisation as one that is truly owned by practising teachers around the country.

    Best wishes,

    David


  6. It’s good that you have taken the time to read the comments here and on other social media and provide a response.

    (1) The structural issues I appreciate you are trying to resolve. Namely to ensure the body is controlled by and for classroom teachers. How many of the trustees that are will determine that.

    I would guess the majority need to be classroom teachers probably part time and not part of management.

    I think that should be a rule.

    Otherwise decisions are made by those not at the chalk-face / cutting edge and will invariably be couched in management style language and be irrelevant to the classroom teacher.

    (2) It’s good to see voting rights restricted to the classroom teacher, i.e I would hope full or part time staff who spend more than at least 2/3,4/5 or 3/4 of their time in classrooms teaching. The fraction to be determined, but not less?

    (3) “but we do see recognition and development of specialist excellence as well as ‘general practice’ excellence”

    I would suggest that this appraisal process is placed on ice, until the body is set up and the voting systems are in place and in use, it could always be time capsuled to say 1 year after start up.

    The worry is that ideological and this means primarily progressive teaching approaches, un-evidenced and contradicted by science (Cog Sci as well as Biology) end up informing that appraisal.

    Such an inclusion of progressive ideology would be a disaster as it’s the root cause of the excessive workload and consequent bullying in the school system and of the periodical recruitment and retention crises.

    Its penchant for fads such as differentiation have sky-rocketed the time needed to plan and assess and its intellectual roots in Piaget and Vygotsky (both scientifically & experimentally discredited) led to disaster of Constructivism.

    Otherwise we could end up repeating 50 or more years of the wrong / bad ideas that dominated state education. See here for a history of them:

    http://www.civitas.org.uk/education/PW.php

    Appraisal of what constitutes good teaching needs to be evidenced right down to the scientific research papers and randomised controlled trials and not rely on expert testimony.

    The real experts can supply these, the rest are charlatans.

    I am particularly interested that the trustees and voting members are classroom teachers clearly state their pedagogical stance and the evidence for it. (Via references to papers books etc)

    I am really impressed that you have taken the time to respond in detail and it’s a lot clearer as to what you intend to form via your post – I would be convinced once I see the mechanics in writing of how this is going to happen.

    I can only say which way I would provide support or not once the pertinent points you have raised have been specified in writing for us to read.

    Thank you for taking the time to respond.


  7. I think I agree with Andrew that a different approach would be better.

    I think David’s response is excellent and must admit that in the world of ‘creating new professional bodies’ this might actually be the only way to do it.

    A last word for Socrates who at least made me laugh by mentioning rigorous evidence and a Civitas book in one sentence. Although I would not deny anyone to be a member of a professional body, I think it is a righteous stance like his (or her) that also contributed to the situation we’re in.


    • Andrew Old wrote the foreword to the very same book that made you laugh.

      Saying it’s not rigorous just because Civitas published it without providing any evidence is disingenuous.

      Click on the link below and you can Read Andrew’s foreword.

      https://teachingbattleground.wordpress.com/2014/04/28/progressively-worse-a-subversive-text/

      .


      • I’m not sure what the first line has to do with it, hopefully not that you’re saying that if Andrew Old supports it and I support Andrew Old, I must support the book, because that’s a flawed argument.

        No, the book is not non-rigorous because Civitas published it (Although I must repeat they have a political agenda, they are quite open about that, because aimed at ‘free enterprise’ and liberalism, exactly the type of organization you don’t want having a big influence on a College of teaching) but because they do not produce the ‘scientific research papers and randomised controlled trials’ you (understandably) want. The book itself is a pretty good read, but not scientific, and quite political. I do not see it as my duty to prove it’s not rigorous, rather that you prove it is. Otherwise anyone can just state something and upon criticism proclaim “Prove it’s NOT the case!”. If this the line of arguing you want then I’ll gladly state that God exists and ask you to prove this is not the case. Good luck.

        Last response by the way because I must repeat that I’m with Andrew on this, have sympathy for David and find your comment mildly amusing. Thanks.


        • Just trying to understand your post

          “I’m not sure what the first line has to do with it, hopefully not that you’re saying that if Andrew Old supports it and I support Andrew Old, I must support the book, because that’s a flawed argument.”

          Merely that Andrew Old supports the arguments made in the book, as do I and that this means the end of the progressive paradigm in education that is one of the reasons he wants a different approach, that would include preventing it from gaining solace and support from a College of Teaching dominated by progressive ideologues.

          “No, the book is not non-rigorous because Civitas published it (Although I must repeat they have a political agenda, they are quite open about that, because aimed at ‘free enterprise’ and liberalism, exactly the type of organization you don’t want having a big influence on a College of teaching)”

          It would be helpful to explain why free enterprise and liberalism would make a poor influence on the CoT. Private schools are institutional expressions of both and have done a great deal to preserve British culture and the love of learning for its own sake.

          “but because they do not produce the ‘scientific research papers and randomised controlled trials’ you (understandably) want. The book itself is a pretty good read, but not scientific, and quite political.”

          Sure history is not a science however that does not mean that it does not provide evidence that is sufficient to make predictions and explain the actions and inactions of previous generations and their damaging legacy on UK education.

          “I do not see it as my duty to prove it’s not rigorous, rather that you prove it is. Otherwise anyone can just state something and upon criticism proclaim “Prove it’s NOT the case!”. If this the line of arguing you want then I’ll gladly state that God exists and ask you to prove this is not the case. Good luck.”

          The burden of proof rests on the person making the claim. I made the claim and used the book as my proof.

          You claimed that it’s not rigorous but offered none other than it’s not scientific – in which case that excludes most literary text, however if that is your submission of proof so be it.

          Last response by the way because I must repeat that I’m with Andrew on this, have sympathy for David and find your comment mildly amusing. Thanks.

          No worries, though I am still at loss as to why Robert Peal’s book is not a valid and reasonable account and criticism of progressivism in education.

          Not elsewhere where progressive values have had many beneficial impacts – our welfare state and NHS as well as much of employment law for example.

          Have a nice evening.


  8. I think it’s very good that Andrew is taking the time to ensure the teacher voice is heard in this debate. I was a teacher but now work in education in the private business area. I would love to be some sort of associate member of the College but I would not EXPECT to be unless there was a way to be a silent member. My views should not count but as I intend to go back to the classroom one day I would like to be able to join to take advantage of any CPD etc before returning to teaching full time.
    However if membership such as what I am proposing would stop some current teachers from joining then my membership should not exist. It has to be for teachers.

    One concern I have though and it is a wider concern anyway, is that teachers feel their own SLTs should not be involved at all. I have worked for a terrible SLT and wonder if these experiences colour the view of many which is understandable. But I think what needs fixing is the relationship between SLT and teachers rather than segregating the two even further. They SHOULD work together and in great schools I have seen that they do. A lack of teaching timetable does not always mean a lack of understanding. Many great SLT always fight for the voice of their teachers above their own.


  9. I leave others who are better placed to answer the teaching specific points, but I would ask that all those criticising the College of Teaching proposals take some time to look at how other professions and their professional bodies handle these issues? Education can tend to be inward-looking, and this is an area where there is a lot to learn from other professions.

    Teaching is perhaps unique as a profession in not having a professional body that is owned, led and run by the profession. Doctors, lawyers, chemical engineers, accountants… all have managed to achieve this successfully, whilst the teaching profession’s inability to do so has left some challenging whether it is really a profession at all? If teachers want to be taken seriously as a profession, they really do need to achieve this, and there has never been a better opportunity to do so during my lifetime.

    Considering Andrew’s main complaints above, let’s see how they stack up in other professions? If one looks at, for example, the Royal College of Physicians, two things stand out immediately. Firstly, the amount of continuing professional development that is involved. Unsurprisingly many of those most actively involved in the RCP are actively involved in professional development. Not because it generates income, though that is undoubtedly an essential part of the package, but because it is what professional bodies do. It is hardly surprising, therefore, that among those trying to set up a Royal College are those whose existing concern is with continuing professional development. There is an undertone in this piece that an existing involvement in CPD this must mean the motives are dishonourable and commercial. The possibility that some people are positively motivated to try and help a profession share practice and raise its game and this is their main driver, rather than commercial greed, appears unconsidered. From my experience, the CPD providers pushing for the RCoT are driven by their desire to support the profession, not make a profit. Though running professional bodies takes funds, and CPD is an excellent source for such funds.

    The second aspect of the RCP that stands out are the categories of membership that are on offer to address any individual’s current status within the profession. The RCP does not have criteria about how many hours surgeons must spend up to their elbows inside patients, or how many patients a GP must see a week before gaining admission. That really isn’t how professions work. Instead it has a range of membership arrangements to take care of everyone, whatever their current situation. Students just joining the profession, those taking career breaks, retired members with expertise still to share, all are welcomed into the fold, with differing categories of membership to cater for this, student, associate, full, fellow etc. A true profession embraces all, and ensures that practitioner interests are sustained by the way these various membership categories are allowed a say in various aspects.

    Go look at any other professional bodies and you will see a similar pattern. Retired surgeons alongside those still working, physicians working overseas alongside those in GP practice here. And I have yet to hear any of the RCoT naysayers be able to explain rationally why teaching is *uniquely different* to any other profession in its ability to do likewise.

    Indeed, maybe it is the sad inability of the profession to handle this which is why we find ourselves in this current quandary. And yes, I do say ‘we’, even though I am not on 35 hours contact time with under-16 students in batches of 30 for 180 days per year which would appear to be for some the only criterion which allows one to be considered to be a ‘teacher’?

    If you want a body that defends the employment rights and practices of those in the daily grind against management, join a trades union – they exist already, and do a good job. A Royal College of Teaching representing all the aspects of the profession would be something else again.


    • Thank you for detailed and interesting comment, the difference in teaching is that CPD has been dominated for some 50 years or more by an ideology called progressivism that practised pseudoscience in order to insulate itself from criticism and change.

      The examples you gave are either informed by Science or by a legal philosophy.

      A good argument can be made that accounting principles are legally and fundamentally psychopathic as they seek to externalise costs onto society, the environment, customers and suppliers.

      http://www.telegraph.co.uk/finance/comment/10934713/How-debt-the-sociopath-used-its-seductive-charms-to-kill-innocent-equity-provider-of-social-justice.html

      The argument that is raging, and it is raging primarily through social media is to create a CoT that is protected from the ravages of progressive ideologues and rooted in science and experience of the classroom teacher.

      Drs are expected to be practising medicine and doing so on a regular basis to participate in the design of CPD, they spend the bulk of their time doing this.

      We have SLT/ELT that do not. And by being removed from the pressure of the mainstream classroom there is little sense of the time pressures classroom teachers are under – hence the ofsted policy interpretation that has lead to an explosion of workload to almost no gain in results.

      There are many good SLT, I work with many of them, reasonable people who have not forgotten these pressures – they are rare and rarer still in the corporate academy environment that is the current paradigm. Hence there are recruitment and retention crises, that keep recurring.

      The worry is that people with lots of spare time, due to their light teaching load and progressive in their ideology will capture the CoT and use its revenue stream to design CPD to promote it’s ideology onto teacher trainees as was the case in UK university education departments running PGCE and Bed programmes.

      And has already and still happens in Economics see here for an example

      Keen Krugman Debate on RT’s Capital Account

      So until structures that can be set up that prevent this from happening then many will remain sceptical.

      By making these arguments / worries clear through social media we hope to influence things that this then does not come to pass and the models you have given as examples specifically medicine can be used safely.


      • The irony here is that we both want to see more evidence-informed education. Whilst I see a College of Teaching as a way to help achieve this, you fight shy of one in case it doesn’t!

        If we have truly had 50 years of ‘ravaging by progressive ideologues’, I am still not quite sure why you think the development of a College of Teaching, along similar lines to those successful for other professions, would make matters worse? And the body of practising teachers would always greatly outnumber the senior leaders, and teacher trainers like myself, to prevent us subverting the cause as you seem to suggest would happen? You shouldn’t fear democracy if your cause is just? And, as in life, there would be room inside a College of Teaching for traditional and progressive alike.


        • Thank you for taking the time to respond to me.
          Please let me respond to your points as per below.

          “The irony here is that we both want to see more evidence-informed education.

          Whilst I see a College of Teaching as a way to help achieve this, you fight shy of one in case it doesn’t!”

          [1] I’m not against a CoT if it meets the requirements regarding progressive teaching i.e. it does not support it or promote it and actively seeks to undermine it – given its a pseudoscience.

          “If we have truly had 50 years of ‘ravaging by progressive ideologues’, I am still not quite sure why you think the development of a College of Teaching, along similar lines to those successful for other professions, would make matters worse? ”

          [2] If [1] above happens then I’m all for it, if the opposite then it will be disaster of the first magnitude.

          “And the body of practising teachers would always greatly outnumber the senior leaders, and teacher trainers like myself, to prevent us subverting the cause as you seem to suggest would happen?”

          [3] Numbers matter little, influence matters more, and the subversion has already occurred; transferable skills, teaching thinking (including critical), VAK, Brain Gym, Differentiation, Rote learning, student led lessons, inquiry/discovery/problem based learning, SEALs, PLT’s, cross-curricular skills, BLOOM’s I can on and on.

          All pseudo-science and all contradicted by human mental biology aka cognitive science.

          “You shouldn’t fear democracy if your cause is just? And, as in life, there would be room inside a College of Teaching for traditional and progressive alike.”

          I would like both to wither away and be replaced by science (cognitive) we don’t have ideologies in medicine and there should not be in any in Education, all we should be interested in the fulfilment of human potential in the humanities and the sciences to produce a rational, loving, compassionate and responsible human being through scientific means.

          Now that’s not an ideology but a species survival evolutionary necessity or we become extinct and in the process take a lot animal and plant life with us.

          I’m old school (Eisenhower) Republican by instinct and knowledge which makes me to the left of modern day Democrats and UK parties.

          I would prefer elected representatives rather than direct democracy until our computing power is up to job of direct expression without fraud,

          Here is a good explanation of my position.

          Hence I want progressives corralled and kept out of the decision making process unless, and until, they provide scientific evidence for their claims. The stakes are too high and too many lives and life chances are in the balance to risk a repeat of the last 50 years.


  10. […] that has no mandate from the profession, only one from vested interests including (as I pointed out here) at least one private company selling professional development […]


  11. Reblogged this on Education Web Gems.


  12. […] of Teachers but after some brief exchanges on Twitter with David Weston and Gareth Alcott about a blogpost by Andrew Old I’ve reached the point where I have some particular questions and Twitter just […]


  13. […] critical look at curriculum by those who teach it is about as good as it’s going to get. Like others I am cynical about educational democracy bought and paid for by government funded quangos. I see […]



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