Archive for October, 2018

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The Chartered College Of Teaching and conflicts of interest

October 14, 2018

I had thought a conflict of interest was a well known concept. I googled it and Wikipedia said pretty much what I already thought:

conflict of interest (COI) is a situation in which a person or organization is involved in multiple interestsfinancial or otherwise, and serving one interest could involve working against another. Typically, this relates to situations in which the personal interest of an individual or organization might adversely affect a duty owed to make decisions for the benefit of a third party.

The presence of a conflict of interest is independent of the occurrence of impropriety. Therefore, a conflict of interest can be discovered and voluntarily defused before any corruption occurs. A conflict of interest exists if the circumstances are reasonably believed (on the basis of past experience and objective evidence) to create a risk that a decision may be unduly influenced by other, secondary interests, and not on whether a particular individual is actually influenced by a secondary interest.

A widely used definition is: “A conflict of interest is a set of circumstances that creates a risk that professional judgement or actions regarding a primary interest will be unduly influenced by a secondary interest.”[1] Primary interest refers to the principal goals of the profession or activity, such as the protection of clients, the health of patients, the integrity of research, and the duties of public officer. Secondary interest includes personal benefit and is not limited to only financial gain but also such motives as the desire for professional advancement, or the wish to do favours for family and friends. These secondary interests are not treated as wrong in and of themselves, but become objectionable when they are believed to have greater weight than the primary interests. Conflict of interest rules in the public sphere mainly focus on financial relationships since they are relatively more objective, fungible, and quantifiable, and usually involve the political, legal, and medical fields.

An absolutely key part of this is the idea that nobody has to do anything wrong, or be shown to have acted corruptly for a conflict of interest to occur. I thought everyone in education, particularly anyone involved in leadership or governance would know this.

Apparently not.

Last week I blogged about the elections to the council of the Chartered College Of Teaching. I noticed that, despite there being more than 30 000 schools in England, 2 council members were the executive headteacher and deputy head teacher of the same school. And then it emerged that this school had paid for teaching staff to join the College and, therefore, have a vote. Partly this concerns me because I have been arguing since 2014 that SMT would have an advantage over non-SMT if they were competing in the same elections. But there is also the more general question of whether elections are fair where some candidates can use public money to pay for dozens of people who know them to have a vote. And, there is also, a conflict of interest here, if a schools leaders can make the decision to spend the school’s money on College memberships, and benefit personally from the results of a vote of that membership. This was not an accusation of corruption, it was simply pointing out that this was a conflict of interest.

I was expecting people involved in the College to admit this was not ideal and to say it was not intentional and they’d look at it next time. Instead, the line of defence from one of the officers of the College was:

Yes, as long as the people given a free membership were not “pressured” to vote for the person they both knew and owed their membership to, there was no issue at all.

But worse was to come from the head of the school in question. A blog post appeared arguing not that the conflict of interest between being a head paying for memberships and being a candidate seeking votes didn’t exist, but that she was too honest to be criticised for the conflict of interest.

Professional Integrity is something I pride myself on. I am an ethical, moralistic person. I work hard for our community, I strive hard for our learners.

As a Headteacher, I do the right thing, I make the hard decisions, I stand up for what is right.

…..

A character tribute that some of my peers could do with developing.

My tenacity, my grit, my character, my resilience are what get we through the hard times.  So imagine how I felt when one of my colleagues after congratulating me for being elected on to the Chartered College of Teaching Council as a Fellow, asked me how I felt about Andrew’s Blog. I of course did not know what they meant, as the sub-tweeting and the sub-blogging had not tagged me to discuss, but had been done instead in a surreptitious way so that I could not respond.

Yes, staggeringly, the argument was that she was very honest, and that for me to criticise the elections of a publicly funded organisation without telling her personally (as if the argument was about her, not the Chartered College Of Teaching) was unfair.

It’s bad enough that nobody from the College is able to address why they have elections that run in such an unfair way. But it seems ridiculous that they cannot tell the difference between dodgy procedures and accusations of personal impropriety, a basic concept when talking about conflicts of interest.

During this, I remembered that the issue of conflicts of interest had come up before in discussion of the College. When it was being set up, the founding organisations were all CPD providers (including at least one private company) despite the fact that the College was going to be helping teachers access CPD. At that time I’d pointed out that this was a conflict of interest and again came across the argument that these were all good people and, therefore, it didn’t matter.

The CEO of one of the CPD organisations defended the organisations at the time.

If that tweet is familiar, it’s been shared before on my blog because David Weston who wrote it, subsequently forgot that he was stepping away, forgot that he had repeatedly said the College should be teacher led, and stood against teachers for a position on council and won.

Because the promise to be teacher led was broken, we now have a situation where there are people in charge of MATs, university education departments and charities that provide CPD, not to mention an actual consultant who presumably provides CPD as a private operator, holding officer positions in the College and sitting on the council. Presumably none of these people see this as a conflict of interest, despite the fact that the decisions the council makes will have significant impact on the CPD industry in this country.

And is that the end of it? Can we see any more conflicts of interest? Well just this week, I saw that the Chartered College of Teaching Wiltshire SEND and Inclusion Network were advertising an event (here and on the College’s website here) for an event where the keynote speaker is Andrew Hampton and the description accompanying this announcement is:

Girls on Board is an approach which helps girls, their parents and their teachers to understand the complexities and dynamics of girl friendships. The language, methods and ideas empower girls to solve their own friendship problems and recognises that they are usually the only ones who can. By empowering girls to find their own solutions, parents need worry less, schools can focus more on the curriculum and the girls learn more effectively – because they are happier. Dozens of schools and hundreds of teachers across the UK are now supporting thousands of girls in their friendships.

Girls on Board offers comprehensive training, both at face-to-face events and online, to enable teachers in school to adopt the approach. For more information visit [website and Twitter address]

The Girls on Board website shows that this it is a private company. How on earth can the College advertise the work of a private company in this way?

And this led me to look at the other local networks. Many are based around schools or universities. But a number of these are based around organisations that provide CPD. Now, as far as I can tell, those organisations with affiliated networks are charities, not private companies. But even charities that provide CPD have a direct financial interest in the CPD industry. If the Chartered College is making decisions that affect that industry, how can groups with such an interest affiliate directly in this way?

We are looking at an organisation which, with public money, has become a big player in CPD, and at every level, the potential for conflicts of interest with organisations and individuals providing CPD seems to have been ignored. And what makes it worse, is that teachers were repeatedly sidelined in favour of “experts” because teachers would not be able to set up an organisation that operates professionally. I genuinely believe that had the organisation been led by teachers, these conflicts of interest would have been spotted and prevented.

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The Chartered College of Teaching – A broken promise to teachers

October 6, 2018

Over the last few years I have been following the development of the Chartered College of Teaching, the successor organisation to the late, unlamented General Teaching Council of England, which was abolished by Michael Gove.

It was repeatedly promised by the politicians and organisers that it would a teacher led organisation, “run by teacher for teachers”. I quoted many of those promises in these two posts:

I have repeatedly warned that if we weren’t careful it would be taken over by non-teachers and headteachers. And I was repeatedly told that this wouldn’t happen. And yet at every step, actions were taken to increase the power of non-teachers, and diminish the role of those in the classroom. Most blatantly, most of the positions on the council, including all 4 of the officer positions, were restricted to “fellows”, a small minority of members who didn’t have to be teachers.

Well the results are now in. The leadership of the “teacher led” Chartered College of Teaching are:

Officers:

  • President: Stephen Munday – Elected unopposed, a MAT CEO.
  • Vice President (External): Professor Sam Twiselton. – Director of Sheffield Institute of Education. Before standing against teachers for this position she wrote an article describing the College as “a membership organisation by teachers, for teachers” and arguing: “The independence of the organisation will need to be ensured through the open election of teachers to a body that is led and overseen by teaching professionals…”
  • Vice President (Internal): Vivienne Porritt – Consultant.
  • Treasurer: Marcus Richards – Elected unopposed. Accountant.

It would appear to be the case that all four officers of this “teacher led” organisation are not actually teachers.

Council Member (Fellow): 

  • Wendy Pearmain – Science teacher and director of STEM.
  • Nicola Faulkner – Headteacher.
  • Gareth Alcott  – Assistant headteacher and teaching school director.
  • Hannah Wilson – Headteacher and executive headteacher.
  • Helen Blake –  Lead practitioner and director of geography.
  • Farah Ahmed – Former headteacher, now “oversees” the SLT of 2 schools.
  • Joan Deslandes – Headteacher.
  • David Weston – Chief executive of a CPD organisation. Before standing against teachers for this position, David had argued for many years that the College should be teacher led, at one point telling me that the non-teachers, such as himself, who helped set it up would be ” stepping out entirely, ensuring no influence, handing to teachers”.

Council Member (Member)

  • Aimee Tinkler – SLE, also working for LA and Teaching School Alliance.
  • Gethyn Jones – Teacher.
  • Will Grant – Teacher and leader.
  • Rebecca Nobes – Teacher.
  • Stephanie Burke – Senior manager.
  • Julie Hunter – Deputy headteacher.
  • Penny Barratt – CEO and executive headteacher of a MAT.
  • Ben Ward – AVP. (Which I assume means Assistant Vice Principal not Aliens Versus Predator).
  • Paul Barber – Barrister and chief executive of national charity. (I have no idea how he came to be eligible to stand in this section).

Key points:

  1. I was right to say non-teachers would take over. I was wrong to ever think it might be subtle or underhanded rather than blatant.
  2. I was right to say headteachers would have a huge advantage in elections and it would not be a fair contest if they could stand against those who are classroom based. Other advantages seem to be an involvement in #WomenED, where I count at least three of their organisers. Also, I see there are two people who are senior managers from the same school. I’d love to know if this is one of the schools that paid for all their teachers to join.
  3. There are some decent people involved here, including people who I recommended, who I know think the organisation should be teacher led. Perhaps change will come.

As things stand though, this is not a teacher led organisation. I don’t know whether the blatant breaking of multiple promises is down to premeditated dishonesty, or just opportunism resulting from a lack of oversight (I notice two of the MPs most associated with setting it up lost their seats last year). But I do think serious questions should be asked as to how an organisation given huge amounts of public money to be one thing, can end up being something else.

 

I will now spend some time RTing tweets where David Weston told everyone the organisation would be teacher led.

Because that’s how I roll.

Update (Also 6/10/2018):

A friend just found me these tweets. It would appear that Hannah Wilson’s school (I assume she is speaking for her school) did indeed pay membership fees. Both she (the executive headteacher) and Julie Hunter, her deputy head were elected. How can this kind of advantage, unavailable to classroom teachers, possibly be justified?

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Permanent exclusions are necessary

October 6, 2018

Back in May, I wrote a post, If we are not careful, history will repeat itself on exclusions, arguing that complaints about a rise in permanent exclusions were something we had seen before, and were misguided.

I made the following points:

  1. Exclusion is a last resort. No school casually uses permanent exclusions. Nobody who doesn’t work in a school needs to tell us this is how it should be. This is not the same as it being a bad thing or showing a school doesn’t care.
  2. Permanent exclusions are necessary for the safety of children and teachers. The stories of what happens when schools don’t exclude are horrific. Anyone suggesting exclusions should be reduced, should explain exactly why more assaults, vandalism, dangerous behaviour and disruption should be tolerated. And if they are not willing to work in a dangerous environment themselves, or send their own kids into one, they should explain why they think it’s okay for teachers and okay for everyone else’s children to be put at risk.
  3. There is no mystery about increased exclusions. Schools were given more power to protect their staff and students and used it. Ideologues suggesting that the rise in exclusions is an accidental side effect of strict discipline policies, school league tables or a more academic curriculum should be called out for their transparent attempt to use this issue to advance their own preexisting ideological concerns.
  4. Attempts to reduce exclusions were a disaster here, and they have been a disaster in other countries too (e.g. Australia and the U.S.). Any attempt to limit exclusions will simply result in more tolerance for dangerous and violent behaviour.
  5. Exclusions are for the benefit of the victims, not the perpetrators. It is not meant to be therapy. Exclusions are needed because nobody should go into school wondering if they will be assaulted or abused today and knowing that the perpetrators will not be stopped.
  6. If permanent exclusions are not allowed to happen through the official channels, there is every reason to think they will happen unofficially, with schools forcing kids out in other ways, which will have fewer safeguards and be less open to scrutiny. And this is not a sign that some school leaders are morally depraved and corrupt and hate children. This is because some school leaders will do anything to protect their staff and students.

I meant to write at greater length about other objections to exclusions, but I soon realised that so many of the objections to exclusions were actually ideological that instead I ended up writing about progressive views of behaviour.

These posts covered 3 main areas of belief:

  1. Children need to be liberated from adult authority.
  2. Bad behaviour is the result of unmet needs.
  3. Bad behaviour is the fault of teachers.

I think these beliefs are vital in understanding much of the opposition to exclusions. If you believe that children are natural saints, then exclusions are seen as:

  1. An attempt to oppress children.
  2. An alternative to meeting “unmet needs”.
  3. A sign that schools are not caring or competent enough.

These core positions seem to motivate almost all of the opposition to permanent exclusions. The argument will constantly be reframed in order to make one or other of these points. It has become necessary to explain why exclusions are needed and why schools should not be blamed for using them or obstructed from using them.

In this post I intend to explain why exclusions are actually necessary. There is one fact above all others that I throw in the face of the anti-exclusion lobby to explain why it is so important that schools be under adult authority, quoted here from the Daily Mirror;

Data last year showed 5,500 alleged sexual offences were recorded in UK schools – including more than 600 alleged rapes – over three years.

Another 4,000 alleged physical sexual assaults were recorded, the data revealed.

This is my starting point because it disrupts the narratives above. When teachers argue that rapes are bad, they are not being oppressive; they are being decent. When teachers argue that nobody has an “unmet need” that requires them to be a rapist, they are not being unsympathetic; they are showing sympathy for the victims. When teachers argue that rape is not caused by “bad relationships” or poor teaching, they are not excusing their own failings; they are arguing for order and safety in schools.

Once we have established that the progressive narratives fail and fail badly when we consider just how dangerous schools are, we can move on to a more sensible discussion. We can start with the position that our schools are not safe enough, and we can ask the obvious questions:

  1. Should we make our schools more safe or less safe?
  2. Does tolerating violent or out of control children make schools more safe or less safe?
  3. Who is best qualified to make decisions about making schools safe: appeals panels, bureaucrats and therapists, or headteachers?

I strongly believe that all reasonable people will argue that we need our schools to be as safe as possible. I think it requires only a moment’s thought to realise that safety requires zero tolerance of violence and for children not to be out of control. It’s also obvious that to prevent violence and to keep order in schools, headteachers should be able to make the decision to exclude without being demonised or obstructed by people who have no concern for the safety of the victims of bad behaviour.

Of course, the anti-exclusions lobby will attempt to reframe the debate. They will argue that the exclusions they wish to prevent are the “bad exclusions” that have nothing to do with making schools safe, which can only be done with “good exclusions” that they are not against. After all, they will say, we don’t want to keep rapists in school. However, they have to explain two things. Will they acknowledge that, while not all violent and out of control children are rapists, tolerating violent and out of control children will make it hard to keep children safe? Secondly, anyone saying that violent and out of control children should be kept in school, but rapists shouldn’t, needs to explain where they draw the line. Is sexual assault okay? How about repeated physical assaults? How about bringing in knives? How about rape threats? How about intimidation? How about a child who is just doing whatever they like and does not care if an adult says “stop”? Anyone accepting that some children should not be kept in school, needs to consider what they are prepared to tolerate, or rather what they are expecting the staff and children in schools to tolerate. How many would work in, or send their own child to, a school where they would not feel safe? The debate should not be about whether exclusions are good or bad, it is about what behaviour we, as a society, are willing to tolerate in schools.

This is not the whole argument. We still need to argue over whether current exclusion processes are fair, whether there are plausible alternatives to exclusion, or whether the right kids are excluded. But we should be doing so from a starting point that says: schools should be as safe as possible, and that if a child is violent or out of control, the dangers of doing nothing (or doing something that does not work) are potentially extreme. And if acting to keep schools safe means more exclusions, then that’s just fine.

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