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.


  1. Reblogged this on DT & Engineering Teaching Resources (Michael Oyebode Limited) and commented:
    The “teacher led” College Of Teaching. Part 1

  2. Andrew–I do wish you’d turn your considerable talents to a worthwhile project. The Chartered College needs you rather like the SWP needed the NF.

    I’d go so far as to say that you’re inconsistent in arguing that teaching is actually a profession, at least the way things are now. The professional knowledge that distinguishes a chemistry teacher from a chemist is based on pedagogic practices and concepts promoted in ITT and CPD, and I think that we’d agree that most of them are about as valid as the four humours that governed medical practice until the 19th century. From what I’ve seen of the EEF Toolkit, this isn’t likely to change any time soon: its recommendations on beginning reading instruction take us right back to the National Literacy Strategy (if not the Bullock Report), and primary maths still centres on teaching ‘number sense’.

    Granted, teachers need to know the legal constraints and obligations they face, but so do plumbers and gasfitters. A friend–a mature entrant to teaching–admitted that the only useful knowledge he picked up in his PCGE was a legal restraint hold for violent pupils.

    Teaching the young is one of the most basic human instincts; as the Massachusetts School Board admitted in 1858 when they were ushering in mandatory teacher training,

    “For nearly two hundred years our system of free schools was sustained directly by the people, without special care or direct aid from the government…there was little completeness of detail, yet the results were worthy of all praise.”

  3. The big problem is that teachers are not seen as professionals in that as a group creative autonomy is absent. I recall in the 90s as a ‘trainee’ being told to “deliver the curriculum”. Where’s there’s no autonomy, there’s no respect either, certainly not from right-wing politicians, who simply want to make cash from the whole enterprise. Whether this autonomy is present in designing an appropriate curriculum, managing testing and evaluation, classroom behaviour, dealing with the ridiculous morphing lying ogre called Ofsted – it is simply not there, deliberately.

    • The real debates in education don’t splilt along a left-right or party-political divide, and attempts to portray them as such get us nowhere. In February 2017 we published a damning paper about Ofsted, ‘Free Schools for a Free Society’–but we admitted that all players in this sorry spectacle really do want the best for our children. And–recognising that school inspections will continue to be a political reality for some time to come, I’m perfectly happy to work pro bono for Ofsted to at least minimise the damage.

      Bear in mind that the profession shot itself in the foot when left-wing educators started little red schoolhouses like the Tyndale school; until then, the de jure freedoms that schools still largely enjoy were also defacto freedoms. James Callaghan’s Ruskin College speech set the stage for Kenneth Baker’s ill-advised interventions, which were continued with increasing vigour by New Labour. I’ve never voted Labour in my life, but the great majority of those of us who fought for synthetic phonics were Labour supporters, as–obviously–is Andrew. I can’t recall this ever entering our discussions or influencing our views about educational issues in any way whatever, as we share the belief that our intellectual heritage belongs to us all. As a Historian, I fully understand that we owe our freedoms to people across the political spectrum who believed that our differences had to be settled peacefully with respect to the rights of all.

      • Tom, I agree that real debates in education don’t split entirely along a left-right or party-political lines, but I have to say, as a Labour Party member, there is some correlation. The reason why it is more complex is because there are other equally stark divisions at play such as the those between the arts/humanities and science, or between the academic and vocational areas. But there is a common thread here.

        The Canadian academic Jordan Peterson claimed recently in a Telegraph interview that the modern left has gone from hating the rich to hating the successful and the competent. Personally I think this mindset has extended beyond the extreme left. You can see it in the anti-Oxbridge, anti-science, anti-exam, anti-intellectual, anti-academic polemics that appear regularly in our media and politics. And unfortunately you see it most worryingly within the teaching profession.

        This is because teaching is the only major profession that is dominated by those with the lowest qualifications, both in terms of numbers and position of influence. Just look at the number of PE teachers that run our schools, or the number of managers in FE who don’t even have GCSEs in maths and English. What proportion of teachers in this country have high quality academic degrees from Russell Group universities? I suspect it is less than 30%. It would be really interesting to see a breakdown of the academic qualifications and teaching subject background of all Ofsted inspectors. The problem is, in my experience, teachers and managers with low levels of academic achievement seem predisposed to antagonistic attitudes towards teachers with higher qualifications.

        This is one reason why teaching doesn’t command the respect that it should. And it is the reason why a teacher-led College of Teaching would still not work because it would look just the same as the current version, purely through weight of numbers.

  4. Three observations:

    This appears to be the first time that – because politicians and headteachers have said something should be done – you are determined that this should be done 😉

    More seriously – throughout the quotes above, the politicians persist in drawing a simple binary between it being run by politicians and it being run by teachers. I truly don’t believe that they were thinking as precisely as to mean ‘practising teachers’, but rather people from the teaching profession, rather than from Whitehall, otherwise they would have to gone further with their qualifications.

    Secondly, if the definition of ‘teacher-led’ was as you would have it, what would be the point of the fourth of the Claim your College proposals: “Subject to a governance model that ensures no single interest group can dominate….” What interest groups might they be talking about…? Might ‘unpromoted serving teachers’ count as an interest group in the teaching profession…?

    If we really wanted to, we could even have a field day with the first of the proposals – that it be “Independent” – without any qualification at all regarding what it be independent from. In other words, as legal declarations of intent, those proposals are too vague to mean anything other than represent general sentiments.

  5. […] There is a lot of fuss again about the Chartered College of Teaching, and most precisely whether – a year and a half into its existence – it has become exactly what appeared to have been pledged by politicians and working groups at its inception. To be precise, the fuss is almost single-handedly being fanned by @oldandrew, and you can read for yourself many of his recent thoughts about this here, here, here, here and here…! […]

    • A year and a half into its existence, the vast majority of teachers have still never heard of the College, let alone engaged with it. Membership is predominantly student based (free).

  6. […] right now in England about the relatively new Chartered College of Teaching. Andrew Old has been blogging about this debate and if you are unfamiliar with it then it is worth taking an interest. Why? […]

  7. As others have said, I think you are reading too much into the term “teacher-led”. I don’t think most of the politicians you quoted were envisaging a grass roots movement when they used the term. I suspect they were using the term “teacher” in its widest form and still expected any professional body to be dominated by those who are most senior within that profession – i.e. managers.

    Personally I have major concerns over the whole fundamental idea of a single professional body for all teachers. I don’t see how a single body can represent all teachers when the different branches of teaching cannot agree on pedagogy or even peacefully co-exist. The only profession that is arguably more intellectually divided than teaching is the economics profession. This is not surprising. Both professions have similarities in the way they postulate theories that are inherently untestable to advance political or ideological viewpoints, and then present incomplete data to justify them.

    If we look at other professions, the medical profession doesn’t have a single college for all branches of medicine, so why should teachers? The differences in professional skills and academic achievement are arguably much less between surgeons and GPs than they are between, say, teachers of A-level maths and science and someone teaching joinery or beauty therapy in FE or teaching at KS1 in a primary school. And as there are far more teachers than there are doctors there is the potential to be able to support more colleges for teachers. That is what you should be campaigning for, because the big risk of a single college is that instead of promoting professional independence for teachers, it could end up doing the opposite.

  8. […] Teaching in British schools « The “teacher led” College Of Teaching. Part 1 […]

  9. Reblogged this on The Echo Chamber.

  10. […] The “teacher led” College Of Teaching. Part 1 […]

  11. […] The “teacher led” College Of Teaching. Part 1 […]

  12. […] of Teaching. This was created by government policy (and government funding) to be an independent teacher led professional body, “run by teachers, for teachers”. In practice, it is run largely by […]

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