The College of Teaching popped up again today on social media.
I have blogged about this very many times. There has been a prolonged attempt by the education establishment to create a new professional body for teachers, following Michael Gove’s abolition of the last one, largely on the grounds that it was a quango that teachers had no time for.
Despite early suggestions that this new organisation might be led by the profession, it ended up being set up by CPD providers in such a way as to squeeze out frontline teachers in favour of educationalists, consultants and managers. This was done through holding events on weekdays in school time, proposing that “anybody with an interest in education” be allowed to join, and making sure that non-teachers and managers dominated the board of trustees. An attempt to crowd fund the organisation revealed a real lack of support from the profession, unfortunately politicians popped in to provide public money to get it going. There had been a few signs of hope: there was an invitation for more teachers to join the trustees and the fact that the issue of who could be a member was going to be considered by a consultation. But the signs were that the organisation had already decided that this was about non-teachers and SMT telling teachers what to do and since I last blogged about them they have asked for “teachers, head teachers and teacher trainers” to take part in focus groups for refining their “offer”, rather than just saying “teachers”.
Today they announced that the CEO would be Dame Alison Peacock, who is currently an executive headteacher, and well known for a willingness to sit on government committees and the boards of educational charities. She has been a headteacher since 2003 and Wikipedia lists 15 different boards, committees and advisory groups she is currently thought to be part of. You could not hope to find somebody who is more firmly ensconced in the education establishment and further removed from the life of a classroom teacher.
I’ve spent a lot of today seeing this decision justified. Much of the argument was based around assuming that the job was beyond a mere classroom teacher and that this does not suggest a problem with the organisation. People have referred to the organisation being “large” which given that it does not yet have members and its membership target is apparently a tiny 5000 members in two years suggests “large” refers to the budget provided by the taxpayer, which the College of Teaching claims may be be as high as £5 million (or £1000 for every member they need to reach their membership target). The plan appears to be to set up an education super-quango, not a grassroots organisation, and that cannot be trusted to an ordinary teacher.
This comes down to the problem that has been surfacing since the College Of Teaching was first suggested. A professional body for teachers sounds like a good idea, if it genuinely means developing teacher professionalism. But professionalism would mean trusting teachers, giving them more autonomy and reducing the number of people telling teachers what to do. Developing teacher professionalism would involve trimming the powers of education bureaucrats, heads, other managers and external training providers and giving power to teachers in the classroom. A professional body for teachers would be a body that sets out what teachers cannot be told to do, what they should not be held responsible for, and what they can be trusted to do.
The alternative vision, and the dominant one, is one where the education establishment loses no power to control teachers, but gains powers from government. Dame Peacock wrote a paper suggesting what power and influence a (Royal) College Of Teaching should seek. It included the following suggestions:
A new Royal College of Teaching could help to establish the core purposes and aspirations of education for all children in this country…
…There are a range of organisations that primary colleagues can choose to align with including, for example, federations and Trusts, faith schools, Teaching Schools and alliances academy groups , subject associations, CPR / ASPE / Whole Education local partnerships and trusts unions and professional associations HEIs and partnership schools. The importance of a Royal College of Teachers lies in the notion that such an organisation could form an over arching network within which smaller networks would flourish independently. It could be that smaller networks would seek affiliation with the RCoT in order to enhance their work.
…The role of the Royal College of Teachers would be to offer CPD that was inspired by evidence and independent of political influence. Course providers and subject associations could seek quality assurance from the RCoT in order that they could badge their CPD accordingly.
…The benefits to unions would be that the Royal College would provide a single united lobbying voice on behalf of chartered teachers… We need a national organisation to support schools against the current trend for initiatives linked to political imperatives and we need to avoid the exhaustion that comes with feeling powerless to resist…
…As a nationally recognised professional body of experts the RCoT could have influence on the appointment of HMCI. An important culture shift would be achieved if HMCI (a supposedly non political appointment) were to report regularly to the Royal College as a means of ensuring quality and accountability…
…This vision for a RCoT that is ambitious for all children, would represent the voice of English education across the world.
This is an incredible power grab. Power over CPD; over inspection; over school structures; over policy, would go to the College. It would also take on the role of representing the entire system and deciding what our education system is for. In this model, it is hard to see what role would be left with our elected representatives, other than getting to be lobbied by the College Of Teaching. For those unelected people who already have significant power in the education system – the educational establishment – this is a chance to squash all who might stand up to them. This has nothing to do with empowering the teacher in the classroom. This is about ensuring that those who already tell teachers what to do have less accountability and less democratic oversight. This is not going to increase our professionalism; it’s going to destroy it.