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Catching Up With The College Of Teaching

May 13, 2016

As you may recall, plans for a new professional body for teachers have been hijacked by a group of vested interests who, with the promise of taxpayers’ money, have begun setting up their own body which seems to have a lot of interest in those who already have power in education, and very little interest in those working in classrooms,

It’s been a while since I last commented on them, and some new developments have taken place, so I guess it’s time for another post.

Firstly, you may recall that I pointed out that the “teachers” among the trustees of the College consisted of 3 heads, 3 middle or senior managers, and a grand total of 2 unpromoted teachers. At the time, one of the managers complained that although he was head of English, he did teach almost a full time table:

This did not deal with the complaint that the trustees were already people with a position of power over teachers, it did suggest he might be on the side of building an organisation that was of use to classroom teachers, rather than their bosses. Unfortunately, it says here:

Victoria Walker, Teacher and Head of English at Addey and Stanhope School in London, is joining the Board of Trustees. Victoria has been a teacher for the past 10 years and is a Teacher Leader at the Prince’s Teaching Institute and a member of University College Oxford’s Student Support and Access Committee.

Victoria replaces Simon Dowling, Head of English at Colchester Royal Grammar School, who has made the difficult decision to step down due to increases in his teaching commitments for the remainder of the academic year.

So much for that then.

Secondly, two of the teachers were appointed chair and vice-chair of the College of Teaching and this is announced on the Claim Your College website:

College of Teaching outlines key governance appointments

4th December – Teacher led and teacher driven – College of Teaching outlines key governance appointments

As Founding Trustees prepare to gather in London tomorrow (Saturday 5th December), the meeting marks a number of developments in the governance of the College of Teaching.

Classroom teachers are leading and driving the College forward with the appointment of Claire Dockar and Victoria McDowell as Chair and Vice Chair (respectively).

Incredibly, no such prominence was given to the appointment of the third vice chair. I happened to notice the following section on a 4 year timeline of the College’s development:

Screenshot 2016-04-07 at 22.23.12

In case you missed that: “Sonia Blandford, Founding Trustee, joins Vicky McDowell as Vice Chair of the College”. Why was this not announced with a headline? The most likely reason is because unlike the chair and vice chair, Sonia Blandford is one of the non-teaching trustees. If you recall, the College Of Teaching was at this point meant to have been consulting with teachers about whether non-teachers could, as originally agreed, be members. Yet, somehow, they decided to go ahead and appoint a non-teacher to a leadership position while the consultation was still happening. And they did it discreetly, while trumpeting the appointment of teachers. And, as if it couldn’t get worse, when I pointed out what they’d done, they changed the website to say:

Sonia Blandford, Founding Trustee, joins Vicky McDowell as a Vice Chair of the board to the College of Teaching.

The distinction between leading the trustee board and leading the College had not been made previously. And generally hasn’t been made elsewhere, particularly when they were appointing teachers to similar positions. At the very least, they are aware enough of what they are doing to try to conceal it.

Thirdly, and this one still staggers me, there was a regional conference. It happened last week, details here. Now remember, this is an organisation that is meant to be for teachers, and would presumably deny that they have continually prioritised the involvement of non-teachers such as educationalists, and managers over ordinary classroom teachers. This is the sort of event they decided to hold:

  1. An event at 2pm on a school day.
  2. An event in a university education department.
  3. An event held during the Key Stage 1 testing period, a few days before Key Stage 2 tests, and in the month where Key Stage 4 and Key Stage 5 exams start.
  4. An event advertised for ” teachers, headteachers, Teaching Schools and Academy Trust representatives and system leaders” [my emphasis].

And it’s not as if they haven’t been criticised enough times previously for events on school days. I count myself among those who first gave up on the College Of Teaching when its launch was announced at an event on a school day.

And one last thing, just in case you thought this organisation is just a way of conning the government out of money that could be spent supporting teachers, but which won’t actually have any power over teachers, Schools Week reported today just what powers the educationalists, SMT and CPD providers behind this are seeking to gain:

The proposed College of Teaching wants to be the “gatekeeper of standards for teacher training”, Angela McFarlane, a founding trustee of the fledgling organisation, has told professionals.

Speaking at a Westminster Education Forum event on Tuesday about the future of teaching, McFarlane said she hoped the organisation would be in a position to take over the regulation of teacher training providers from the government.

Responding to a question from a member of the audience on what the college could take responsibility for from the Department for Education, McFarlane said: “My personal view is that I would love to see the profession in a place where the criteria for entry is actually set by a professional body run by experts in that profession.”

I can’t have been the only one to wonder whether “experts in the profession” means “experts who are part of the profession” or “experts in telling the profession what to do”.

10 comments

  1. An excellent article. I particularly like the forensic analysis of how a pointless, self-serving quango comes into existence, devoid of any real relationship with the original aims trumpeted to the media. I hope the Guardian pick it up. Send them a link!


    • Please the Guardian would love it – all those progressives just wanting to impose their ideas – sorry – help teachers reclaim their profession. The Education Departments are lapping it up already. That is a bad sign if there was one.


  2. I agree with much of your criticism of the fledgling CoT. You have to recognise that there’s a real difficulty with getting classroom teachers involved. They don’t have any time. The only way this can work if if they get released from their teaching duties (perhaps a couple of days a week) to be part of the CoT. Ironic that we have a government attacking union facility time (for people elected to their roles) whilst getting excited about a CoT that can’t possibly involve “ordinary” teachers without some similar arrangement, and with a set of people leading it that no teachers voted for.


  3. Why the Guardian? They are surely the progressives’ friend.

    Great article thanks for keeping us informed.


  4. Very interesting. I’d like to think the CoT could be something along the lines of the British Dental Association, or the General Medical Council that would represent teachers, be free from politics and raise the status of our profession. In order for this to happen, teacher representatives from across the UK need to be at its heart. Indeed, teachers are busy, so the suggestion of secondments makes a lot of sense. A rolling programme of secondments would be even better. Another quango is not the solution.


  5. I’ve got hazy memories of England in Mexico 1970…Bank’s save…Geoff Astle. England have been disappointing me for so long, I’ve grown to depend on it. We all know what happens. We know Roy Hodgson will come out looking over cautious or reckless or technically inept or just fundamentally lacking basic nous and judgement. We all know this because everyone knows the England manager’s job so much better than he does. You have to feel sorry for him…seriously. He may end up ‘turniped’, ‘oranged’, ridiculed, professionally belittled and debased. You’d be heartless not to feel for what he’s going to go through.

    Well, maybe you don’t if you’re a teacher. The England manager gets it every two years at most. With teachers it’s all the time. Everyone knows my business better than me. That’s why I’m delighted there are such a lot of vaguely tangentially kinda educational non-entities on the board. They’ll definitely know ‘what’s to be done’.


  6. Whilst your insistence on highlighting the sham nature of this soi-disant “College of Teaching” is most commendable, I remain convinced that the point which I first made more than 12 months ago in response to a previous blog on the same general issue remains valid:

    “The failure to reflect on why the “other” British GTCs, most especially the GTC (Scotland), currently ploughing steadily forward towards its 50th anniversary, should have taken firm root whilst the GTC(E) remains little more than a sour historical footnote is striking.

    Well it is for me.”


  7. Reblogged this on The Echo Chamber.


  8. If the point is to discover and spread better teaching methods, perhaps we ought to require teacher training insituitions to open their own free schools. If one of them can run a school as well as, say, Mossbourne, we will know to take what it says seriously. If one can’t, why should anyone go to it to learn how to teach?


  9. Over the past few days I have been bombarded with emails from the admin team at The College of Teaching: a survey (which I duly completed), a newsletter, an up-date on what’s happening, a list of seminars (mostly in London) and various other gems. I’ve added the sender to my junk mail list as I’ve already lost interest.



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