June 16, 2018

There is a lot of debate in teaching around who speaks for teachers. Classroom teachers are often given very little freedom to express opinions. At times, believing a particular ideology is treated as almost part of the job description. Often union leaders, educationalists and headteachers are treated as if they speak for the profession, even though there are often huge differences between their perspective and those of somebody teaching year 9 on a Friday afternoon.

At its absolute worst we have:

  • Attempts to silence teachers who dare express views that aren’t those of the education establishment.
  • Organisations who are set up to represent teachers, but are actually dominated by non-teachers and/or managers.
  • “Gatekeepers” who may allow teachers to play a part in public debate or in educational research, but only if they are the right sort of teachers.
  • A culture where leaving the classroom, or taking on other responsibilities, can be seen as evidence of having greater expertise about teaching than is possessed by those who have spent the most hours actually teaching.

I am very interested in what expertise we can find in the classroom, and particularly in those who are not seeking to leave the classroom, or to take on much in the way of management responsibilities. Often it is difficult to draw lines. Plenty of lower management positions involve only a minimal loss of teaching time. In a very small school, even senior management positions can be combined with an almost full time table. Yet at the same time, so much debate about teaching seems to have minimal input from the unpromoted teachers who make up the majority of the workforce. The debate over the role of non-teachers in the Chartered College of Teaching; the criticism of researchED for allowing ordinary teachers to speak, and the attempts to silence teachers on social media, all show many people in education believe that classroom teachers need “experts” to tell them what to do, and cannot be experts themselves.

I’ve been thinking for a while about ways to redress the balance. Even a one-off demonstration of what the plebs of the education system can contribute, might have an impact. As a result I recently suggested an “#Unpromoted” conference. This would be an education conference where anyone could attend, but only unpromoted teachers could speak. Those who have moved down from management positions would be welcome to speak, and such a format would not be intended to imply criticism of those who have taken on some management responsibility, or imply that even a TLR 2c makes one into a different species, but to redress a balance and to celebrate those whose only interest is the classroom. This is intended as an experiment, and hopefully as an example, rather than an ongoing series of events. If all it did is remind people that the unpromoted are out there and they matter, I would be happy.

I have a lot of other things to do in the next few weeks, but I would really like to start giving this some serious thought over the summer, with a view to organising it for the half term of summer term 2019. If you are an unpromoted teacher with some relevant expertise (not just as a potential speaker, but anything to do with conference organisation) please get in touch. Similarly, I’d love to hear from potential venues or sponsors.



  1. Reblogged this on DT & Engineering Teaching Resources and commented:

  2. What a great idea.

    Hattie was able to move some of the power from teachers to administrators and politicians by promoting his so-called evidence and using marketing and spin with trite slogans like,

    ‘statements without evidence are just opinions’.

    This belittled teacher experience and opinion and raised his evidence and rankings above them.

    Neo-liberals and administrators jumped on Hattie’s evidence as it favoured their agenda- ‘class size does not matter’ and the ‘teacher is to blame.’

    Scott Eacott in ‘School Leadership and the cult of the guru: the neo-Taylorism of Hattie’ lists this as one of the major reasons the evidence-based agenda has become so popular.

    Nick Rose and Susanna Eriksson-Lee in their excellent paper ‘Putting evidence to work’, quote an extension of this and more downgrading of teacher opinion, by Kevan Collins, Chief Executive of the EEF,

    ‘if you’re not using evidence to inform your decisions, you must be using prejudice.’

    As Greg Ashman said in his blog about this – ‘mere bloggers of the world unite!’

    • Too true. Having spent a bit of time looking at EEF ‘evidence’, I think that Greg Ashman’s comments about the bizarre selection of studies about self-regulation and metacognition apply to quite a few of their conclusions. In regard to sythetic phonics, they’ve effectively rejected the Rose Review and returned to the old National Literacy Strategy, mostly by virtue of rejecting the ‘simple view of reading’. I’ve recently become involved in early maths teaching, and once again their summaries run counter to most of the evidence emerging from the cognitive sciences.

  3. Back in 1999, I made the choice to stay in the classroom, becoming an AST. This allowed leadership pay, a voice in the local authority and the ability to stay in the classroom. 90% of the time it was incredibly rewarding and we helped to shape policy through representation on the various quangos that were in place at the time (Becta, QCA, TDA…). As soon as the national AST scheme ceased, the voice of the teacher did too. On the positive side, there is a resurgence in some MATs of ASTs and two of the three MATs I now work with have them. Their work is pivotal in shaping policy in those MATs. It is also cheaper per capita in terms of CPD, which is the main motivator to introduce them!

  4. I agreed with the basic premise of this, although #unpromoted feels a bit negative. How about #stayingintheclassroom or something like that. I have gone #backtotheclassroom after a year of doing Maths Hub leadership role. I think a big issue with engaging the masses is that a full timetable and set of classes is just so all consuming and it’s hard to lift your head from your day-to-day lessons during the busy week. I’ve certainly blogged and less read this year vs. last. But I think it’s a great idea and I’d like to help out in whatever way I can.

    • I also think #unpromoted seems to say “not good enough for promotion”. Which is not a good way to sell the concept.

      I have a trivially small role as 2nd in charge of a department, plus some small admin roles. I even get a hour a week of my load to do them. Am I promoted?

      Better to include everyone who teaches a nearly full load — say above 90% — regardless of rank.


  5. Not sure we’re at the bottom yet, but the universities are going down the gurgler in much the same way as the system below them.

    But then, it’s all being declared to be wonderful, with everyone being smarter than ever before, and that despite the demonstrable rise of illiteracy (in all areas).

    Maybe when it all burns to the ground, people will talk to an old codger/teacher and work out that they had a clue all along.

  6. Reblogged this on The Echo Chamber.

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