Archive for July, 2018

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The “teacher led” College Of Teaching. Part 1

July 21, 2018

I’ve been writing recently about how the Chartered College Of Teaching, the new government funded professional body for teachers, is not to be teacher led after all. It has been suggested that, as people change their minds, and plans changed, this is not a big deal. So I thought I’d write here about how integral to this whole project was the idea that any new body be led by teachers.

The politician who first suggested there be a new professional body to replace the GTCE, was Neil Carmichael, then a member of the education select committee. In January 2012 he raised the idea with a number of people interviewed by the committee [my emphasis].

Neil Carmichael: That is a really interesting point that you have just raised about the parallel between teachers and doctors, and indeed lawyers. The one thing that teachers do not have, which the others do have, is a professional body to represent them and effectively corral the very things you are talking about. Have either of you thought about the fact that the teaching profession might benefit from having an effective professional body looking at the issue of training and professionalism and career development on their behalf for them, rather than allowing teachers effectively to be subjected to a huge variety of options and possibilities, as currently happens?

 

Neil Carmichael: You are making the assumption that this would be something created by Government for teachers. It does not necessarily need to be, and perhaps should not be, created by Government. It should arise from teachers wanting to have a professional body to look after their profession, in their interests, and obviously, as Graham quite rightly pointed out, the interests of pupils too. Fundamentally, this is a question of how teachers themselves want to see things happen.

 

Neil Carmichael: We seem to be heading in the right direction, because there is a strong consensus developing that we do need to go down a professional approach to teaching, and a professional body to represent teachers. It would be best if that were organic through teachers.

And at a later session he asked the schools minister, Nick Gibb about the idea, who replied:

I think generally professional bodies are better if they emerge from within the profession-the royal colleges. My own professional body before I became a Member of Parliament, the Institute of Chartered Accountants, arose from within the profession itself. Should such a body arise from within the teaching profession, that can only be beneficial.

For some reason, many supporters of the College have tended not to emphasise the fact that it was suggested by politicians, and have instead emphasised the fact that one of the main points of discussion at the Princes Trust Headteachers Conference in 2012 was:

It is time to demonstrate that, like other professions, teachers are capable of self-accountability that is robust and responsible. … A logical extension of this idea of professional autonomy would be the creation of something like a Royal College of Teaching that was not a government agency but was run on the same principles as The Prince’s Teaching Institute: by teachers for teachers.

For a time it looked like a College might be set up without government support, but after crowdfunding failed, the government stepped in offering support to “Claim Your College” (a coalition of CPD providing organisations who, apparently unaware of the huge conflict of interest, took on the task of founding the college).

In December 2014, education secretary Nicky Morgan wrote about her support for the idea of a new College of Teaching, saying:

It is crucial that this body should be created and led by teachers,…

In March 2015 David Cameron said:

I’m delighted to announce that we will be working with the Claim Your College consortium in support of its proposal to establish a brand new, teacher-led College of Teaching

The government announced that they would:

… mak[e] significant funding available to the ‘claim your college’ consortium – a coalition of leading organisations in the education sector – to support them in their endeavour to establish an independent college of teaching, which will be owned and led by the teaching profession

and also wrote:

It is remarkable that teaching remains one of the only professions in this country whose members cannot benefit from being part of a professional body promoting high standards of practice and development. We, along with many teachers and school leaders, believe that this situation should be rectified – by teachers for teachers, but with Government support where appropriate.

We are therefore delighted to be able to support the establishment of a new teacher-led, College of Teaching – fully independent of Government – through the “Claim Your College” consortium of leading educational organisations. The College of Teaching is expected to be fully independent of Government, established and led by teachers.

And when Claim Your College published proposals for what was to be founded they said:

It will be led by teachers, enabling the teaching profession to take responsibility for its professional destiny, set its own aspirational standards and help teachers to challenge themselves to be ever better for those they serve…

…There is widespread agreement that a College of Teaching must be:
• Independent.
• Voluntary.
Run by teachers for the ultimate benefit of learners.
• Subject to a governance model that ensures no single interest group can dominate….

…We share a determination that this campaign is just a stepping stone to a teacher-led future and that we will not allow anything or anyone (including ourselves) to impose their will on the long term future of what must be a profession-led College.

Schools minister, Nick Gibb, was asked about the College Of Teaching by the Education Committee in late 2015. His response echoed his previous comments.

Mr Gibb: Yes. It is important to have a similar professional body that reflects the type of qualities and institutions they have in other professions. It is important that it is a profession-led organisation and not a Government-led organisation. We had the problem with the GTCE previously, and the reason why that did not succeed in the end was that it was simply part of the Government’s machinery. All the other professions have these royal colleges which were established centuries ago. That is what makes them successful; they have come from within the profession. That is what I hope will happen with the College of Teachers.

The politicians committed themselves to a teacher led College Of Teaching. The proposal they supported also said it clearly. Promises have been broken.

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Another note on those Chartered College Of Teaching elections

July 15, 2018

Just a quick post here, but something on Twitter reminded me of another problem I’d talked about when the College of Teaching was proposed.

Back when discussions were underway about the Chartered College Of Teaching, one thing I argued for was more controversial than all the others although, of course, even the things that were more clear cut were completely ignored by the non-teachers who set up the Chartered College. This controversial suggestion was that senior managers be treated differently to teachers who weren’t senior managers. I didn’t mean excluded completely. Of course, they should be involved, but I was particularly concerned that the College would end up dominated by headteachers, not the frontline. I thought it vital that there would be some positions, indeed a majority of positions that heads couldn’t run for. I thought the best way of drawing the line would be to have some positions where only senior managers could stand and some where senior managers couldn’t stand. This is in no way a perfect solution. The nature of being a senior manager (or even a head) varies massively between schools. In small primary schools, headteachers, let alone deputy heads and assistant heads, can have a basically full teaching load. But I cannot and still cannot see any way it can ever be fair for a full time teacher to have to compete with a headteacher in an election. The opportunities to campaign, to network and to raise one’s own profile are just not the same. In a post entitled What Would Make Me Join A College Of Teaching? I argued:

Distinction should be made between involvement of SMT and non-SMT in decision-making and representation. So ballots of members should record votes from SMT members and non-SMT members separately. Positions in the organisation should be elected on separate ballots for SMT and non-SMT. This is not a minor point, or SMT-bashing, it is just an observation that there are some SMT (obviously not all) who seem to have such flexible working arrangements and great connections, that no classroom teacher could ever compete fairly against them in an election. Ending up with domination, not just by SMT, but by headteachers, is a a very real possibility and the structures of the organisation should take this into account.

Of course, this concern is perhaps a minor one now that non-teachers have been not only permitted to stand, but massively advantaged in the structures of the College and two non-teachers are now going to be elected unopposed to the two most important positions. But I thought back to this when I read the following reply to me on Twitter yesterday from a headteacher who is standing:

That’s right. This headteacher’s school has paid for all the teachers he is in charge of to join the Chartered College. I am not saying this is corrupt; there is no guarantee they’d vote for him (although people generally tend to like voting for people they know) and if the vote is not close it probably won’t make a difference.

However, this is not a level playing field. An ordinary classroom teacher cannot ensure that all their colleagues join the college for free. If this is allowed, heads have a significant advantage. I suspect that this will be nothing compared to some of the unfair advantages the non-teachers have, and it is obviously better to elect a headteacher than a non-teacher. But this can only serve to make it harder for classroom teachers to have a say. And it raises other questions. How many of the headteachers standing did this? Did any of the MAT CEOs standing pay for all the staff in their MAT to join? Given that the Chartered College has utterly failed to meet its membership targets, how many of the small number of teachers who joined were actually signed up by their schools? And, following other parts of my conversation with this candidate, it’s hard not to wonder how many of the headteachers standing don’t teach a single lesson.

There is a very real danger that the leadership  of the “teacher led” College Of Teaching will be utterly dominated by people who already have a platform; already have power over teachers, and don’t teach a single lesson in the average week.

The government needs to think about empowering teachers, not spending millions on giving a new platform to those who already tell teachers what to do.

 

 

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I was wrong about the Chartered College Of Teaching. It’s worse than I thought it would be.

July 13, 2018

 

I keep resolving not to blog about the Chartered College Of Teaching. Obscurity will probably stop them getting public money faster than infamy will. Then some new information comes out, or they do something, that I cannot ignore. It’s now three posts in a row about them, but I couldn’t ignore this.

Just to remind you, this was meant to be a new professional association for teachers. It was made clear right from the start that it was meant to be teacher led, with David Cameron as prime minister promising:

…we will be working with the Claim Your College consortium in support of its proposal to establish a brand new, teacher-led College of Teaching

The heavy involvement of CPD providers in how it was set up always seemed suspicious. Lots of non-teachers were allowed to hold interim positions before there were elections. But the promise always was that eventually it would be teacher led.

My position was that a new professional association could only develop us as professionals if it empowered ordinary classroom teachers, rather than simply giving another platform for those who already tell us what to do. I thought there were real dangers that it would end up formally run mainly by teachers who were senior managers (and particularly heads) and that the non-teacher associates would be able to build up a lot of informal influence, through networking and through encouraging teachers they have influence over to get involved.

I was wrong. The take over by the education establishment has been far more blatant than that.

First non-teachers were appointed to the board of trustees. Then a category of members called “fellows”, which included non-teachers, was created. Then the majority of the positions on the ruling council were reserved for fellows.

And this is where we are now. The organisation that was meant to re-establish us as professionals, is selecting its officers and council members under rules that favour non-teachers.

The candidates list is here. It’s remarkable how far away the Chartered College is from being a teacher led professional association for teachers.

The position of president (reserved for fellows) has one candidate. That candidate is the chief executive of a MAT and an executive principal.

The position of treasurer (there was some confusion over whether this was reserved for fellows or not) has one candidate who is an accountant and makes no mention of ever having been a teacher (and no, I don’t know how that is possible under the rules).

The position of internal vice president (reserved for fellows) has 4 candidates who based on their own descriptions are:

  • The founder of a MAT who implies they are not currently teaching.
  • The managing director of a school improvement company who makes no mention of ever having taught.
  • An author and founder of an education organisation (which appears to be another consultancy). This one I think is a teacher, assuming that’s what they mean by “I am an accomplished member of the Senior Leadership Team” but that’s inferred rather than stated clearly.
  • A leadership consultant.

The position of external vice president has 7 candidates who, based on their own descriptions, are:

  • The CEO of a MAT.
  • A National Leader of Education/Headteacher/director of a MAT.
  • Somebody who has been a school leader and implies they might still be.
  • The Executive Director of ITT for 126 primary and special schools.
  • Somebody who doesn’t state what job they do but implies they are involved in research (they are actually a professor of education).
  • A teacher.
  • A Lead Practitioner and Research Lead in a school.

The other 8 positions reserved for fellows on the council has 60 candidates who, based on their own descriptions, are:

  • 12 working in ITT/education research/lecturing in education and either not school based or not based in a single school
  • 8 members of SMT (but not headteachers)
  • 1 barrister
  • 2 consultants
  • 11 headteachers/principals
  • 1 director of music at a school
  • 3 CEOs of MATs/executive headteachers who aren’t identified as being headteachers as well
  • 1 retired teacher
  • 1 teacher/ITT lead for a teaching school
  • 11 teachers (mostly in promoted posts, but not obviously SMT)
  • 1 founder of a MAT
  • 1 “works across” a MAT
  • 1 former headteacher
  • 4 unclear (including 1 who explicitly says they are no longer a teacher)
  • 1 professor in a teaching hospital
  • 1 CEO of a (CPD) charity

There are 33 candidates for the 10 members’ positions. Again, this is SMT heavy and there are a few in there who don’t actually appear to be what you would normally call “teachers”, but it is a bit more reflective of the profession than the other categories.

But looking across the candidates, this is not looking like an organisation that will enable teachers to reclaim their professionalism. This looks like an organisation run by people who already tell teachers what to do. Beyond that, there is the issue of people who are allowed to stand because they are fellows, who seem to have very little connection at all to teaching, while actual teachers who aren’t fellows would be banned from standing. Worst of all, there can be no excuse for consultants, people who have an explicit commercial interest in CPD, being able to vote, let alone stand, in these elections. This is an organisation receiving substantial public funds to spend on CPD. That seems like a clear conflict of interest.

We already know that the top two leadership positions will go to non-teachers. It will be up to the electorate to decide the rest. But there is no clear path from this mess to a genuinely teacher led organisation that is based on advancing teacher autonomy. Worse, those of us who remember the GTCE will live in fear of politicians giving this education establishment quango some real power and claiming they are giving it to teachers.

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The Chartered College of Getting It Wrong

July 7, 2018

Last week I wrote about how, after repeated promises that the new professional body for teachers would be teacher led, the upcoming election to its council would not only allow non-teachers to stand (and to vote) if they were “fellows”, but that most of the positions on the council, including that of president, were restricted to fellows. A category of membership that includes non-teachers is being advantaged over ordinary teachers.

There were a variety of responses. As ever there were plenty of people who aren’t currently teachers asking to be recognised as teachers which perhaps says something about the strange culture of education. There were people who interpreted any suggestion that non-teachers shouldn’t be fully involved in the professional body for teachers as representing personal antipathy towards non-teachers. To them, it was a personal insult that teachers could ever ask for something to themselves or to be treated as a distinct profession. Perhaps most bizarrely of all, were those who suggested that all organisations were flawed and so objecting to the flaws in this one – one that is being subsidised by government to the tune of £5 million – was unnecessary.

None of this seems to adequately explain the fact that by removing any expectation that the organisation be teacher led the College has abandoned a key commitment. As far as I can tell it seems to have done so without any consultation with its members. When I was criticising the College for allowing non-teachers to join, I was repeatedly told by enthusiasts for the College that they would only be non-voting “associates”. None of the people who told me that have apologised for misleading me, although I think some have said that they do object to the new system and have promised to vote for teachers in the elections.

The Chartered College Twitter account did start a thread on Twitter defending its position, and explicitly arguing that the powers and privileges of fellows are about “recognising their contribution to their profession”. Of course, this makes sense if the point of the Chartered College was to recognise the great and the good in the education sector, but originally the purpose was to empower ordinary teachers, not recognise those who already had power and influence.

During this thread, the account pointed out that:

The Council is going to be split with 10 Members & 8 Fellows. While the President and two Vice Presidents will be a Fellow, the Treasurer can be a Member or a Fellow

This is about the most positive spin that can be put on a system that means 13 positions for fellows, 10 positions for ordinary teachers, and 1 position that can be either. Previously I had been under the impression that the treasurer also had to be a fellow, so I asked if this was a change and was told it wasn’t.

It does indeed say in one place on the website that the treasurer can be a member. However, this also contradicts what was being said by the twitter account a week earlier.

Q) How many positions will be elected?

A) Council will be made up of 10 members, 4 elected officers (who must be Fellows – President, 2 Vice Presidents and Treasurer) and 8 other Fellows

And on another page on the website it said.

To be honest, it doesn’t really matter whether the split between fellows and ordinary teachers is 13:11 or 14:10. Muddling up the rules in an election where the rules are already outrageously biased against ordinary teachers, is a minor mistake. But again, and again, one of the justifications for giving non-teachers a role in running the Chartered College has been that they have “expertise” in running organisations that teachers don’t have. Yet under the control of the experts, the College seems particularly error prone. As well as messing up communication of the rules for its own elections, it has badly missed its membership targets and the peer review system for its journal turned into a farce. I would have thought these were the sort of things that outside experts would get right, even if they failed to represent the profession the College was set up for. At the moment, we seem to have the worst of both worlds. Teachers are sidelined for not having the expertise to run their own professional association, but those who do run it are making amateur mistakes anyway.

It will be interesting to see who runs for the council positions, and who wins. There seems to be an optimism among teachers in the membership that they might be able to gain control, at least for the first year. And no doubt, if plenty of the elected fellows are teachers, people will say that the organisation is teacher led after all. However, this is still a system where most teachers who are members were excluded from leadership positions and those who weren’t excluded will have been pre-approved as fellows by the College and had to stand in elections where non-teachers could stand. Even if every position is held by a teacher, this will still not be about empowering teachers; this will be teachers asking for permission to be treated as a profession.

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