Archive for the ‘Commentary’ Category


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.


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:


  • 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?


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.


The EEF revisits ability grouping

September 29, 2018

Earlier this year I wrote a couple of posts about the Education Endowment Foundation’s summary of the research on ability grouping.

In a summary of the meta-analyses, they had claimed an average effect size of -0.09 for setting/streaming, which was at odds with Hattie’s claim of a positive effect size of 0.12 for ability grouping and a more recent analysis (Steenbergen-Hu et al, 2016) finding a positive effect size between 0.04 and 0.06.

It took two posts because there were so many odd practices and little errors that it was difficult to find out what had actually gone wrong. Two main ones that I identified were that:

  • Within-class ability grouping (i.e. something that would normally be considered a form of mixed ability teaching) was included because it was “ability grouping” even though the figure was being presented as a figure for “setting and streaming”.
  • A positive figure had been calculated originally based on all the meta-analyses, but so had a negative figure for low attaining students (based on just 2 meta-analyses) and at some point this figure had become used instead.

At the time, schools minister Nick Gibb shared my blogpost on Twitter, and as a result, I was condemned by a variety of educationalists for daring to disagree with the experts. After all, we all know that a mere teacher could not be right about a technical matter?

But the EEF did look at its figures again, and guess what they realised they had got wrong?

  • Within-class ability grouping (i.e. something that would normally be considered a form of mixed ability teaching) was included because it was “ability grouping” even though the figure was being presented as a figure for “setting and streaming”.
  • A positive figure had been calculated originally based on all the meta-analyses, but so had a negative figure for low attaining students (based on just 2 meta-analyses) and at some point this figure had become used instead.

They have now separated out the results for in class ability grouping, stopped using the figure for low attainers and reduced the “security rating” for their results. Obviously I am expecting those educationalists mentioned earlier to apologise immediately for dismissing me on a matter where I turned out to be right.

Unfortunately, there still seem to be issues with the new figure which is still negative and still way off the figures from Hattie and Steenbergen-Hu et al. The EEF result is based on the following meta-analyses:

Meta-analyses Effect size
Henderson, N. D., (1989)
Kulik, J. A., & Kulik, C. C. , (1992)
Rui, N., (2009)
Slavin, R. E., (1987)
Slavin, R. E., (1993)
Slavin, R. E., (1990)
Effect size (weighted mean) -0.08

So we have one study, Henderson (1989) in there that is an extreme outlier. It is an unpublished dissertation cited in Steenbergen-Hu et al, but hardly anywhere else. The only reference to it I could find elsewhere claimed that it it “found no achievement difference between students who had been ability-grouped and those who had been heterogeneously grouped”. Without this study, I suspect the overall effect size would be very close to 0.

Additionally, 2 studies by Kulik and Kulik that had been cited by Steenbergen-Hu et al and the previous EEF analysis that both found positive effect sizes of 0.1 have been removed because in both cases “The 2018 update revealed that this study was superseded by Kulik and Kulik 1992”. It is, of course, the case that more up to date meta-analyses by the same authors are to be preferred, but this sort of decision seems inconsistent with the approach of listing all meta-analyses and even more surprising when another author, (Slavin, R.E.) is allowed to have 3 studies considered without the newer ones superceding the older ones.

Perhaps I’m now just picking up on flaws with the entire “meta-meta-analysis” approach rather than just this review. Maybe it’s normal for really major differences to arise from highly contestable decisions and this will always be the case. And certainly I have a bias against mixed ability so I find myself looking far more closely at decisions to include negative studies or exclude positive ones than at the decisions to include positives ones and exclude negative ones. For instance, I also find myself wondering why Rui’s review of “detracking” (changing the academic program for different ability groups) is included, but Gutierrez, R., & Slavin, R. E. (1992)’s study of setting across age groups is excluded. Aren’t both studies in the same category of saying something about ability grouping but not exactly to do with setting and streaming as we use it in our schools? But while I am biased, might the author of the toolkit have a bias towards getting a result that was as close as possible to the previous flawed result? A published academic article might justify some of these decisions I’ve questioned, whereas a “toolkit” for teachers can’t be expected to. But if a peer-reviewed, published academic article is the standard required then Sternbergen-Hu et al (2016) is the only result we should listen to (and I’d still have questions about their use of Henderson (1989)).

At the very least, I think the priority of the EEF should be to sort out these issues, perhaps even conducting their own meta-analyses in a case like this, rather than leaving teachers to wonder whether they should listen to Hattie, Sternbergen et al or the EEF who between them have now come up with 3 completely different answers to the same question.



September 15, 2018

Every so often progressive edutwitter goes insane about something. Usually it is something that is obviously true.

The last time it happened was over this post. In it, I argued that children should be held responsible for their behaviour and pointed out they were “not insane”. Progressives deduced that if I thought we should hold children responsible for their behaviour because they were not insane, then I must be saying that children who are not responsible for their behaviour are insane. For some progressives, this is almost all children, particularly if they have SEN or are badly behaved and edutwitter filled with two arguments:

  1. He calls children/children with SEN/badly behaved children “insane”. He is a monster.
  2. He used the word “insane”. This is offensive to people with mental health problems. Nobody should ever use the word.

As ever, the argument could only get as far as it did by being dishonest. Anyone going back to the source would discover that I had said children were not insane. Anyone claiming that the word “insane” was inherently offensive would invariably turn out to have used the word “insane”, or “mad” or “crazy” themselves at some point because that’s a normal part of how almost everybody talks about irrationality.

It all died down eventually, with most of the damage being self-inflicted. However, the key argument, that when we start saying kids (or particular types of kids) aren’t responsible for their actions, we are treating them as if they were insane was lost in the fuss, which is a shame.

This incident sprang to mind, yesterday when David Didau also got attacked for saying something obviously true. In defending the position that intelligence is not innate (i.e. the position that we do have to learn in order to become smart) he pointed out:

And again, faced with that second sentence, something that, without serious misinterpretation, was obviously true, progressive edutwitter went insane… I mean…. no, I do mean insane.

The argument went something like this:

  1. If we define “stupid” to refer to the inability to learn well, or to refer only to comparison between children of the same age, then this isn’t true.
  2. I don’t like the tone.

Obviously, a moment’s consideration reveals that in all the ways relevant to what David was saying, babies are actually stupid. To object is to declare that either you know what he meant better than he does, or that you have unilaterally decided “stupid” cannot refer to ignorance, lack of ability at intellectual feats or anything else where babies compare badly with adults. This argument is hard to sustain, so we soon had personal attacks, claims from authority – “I  know more about babies/child development/what David meant than David does” – and general attempts to declare the word “stupid” offensive to babies, or some other category of people, in the same way that “insane” was.

I don’t think progressives using bad arguments is really news. Nor is it news that they will use a mix of manufactured outrage, personal attacks, and twitter pile-ons to get at people. But what fascinates me most in these two arguments is the way in which the original point was obviously correct in both cases. Babies are stupid. People who are not responsible for their actions are usually considered insane. I’ve long observed that inconvenient facts cause more controversy than actual debatable opinions. And this is what I see as dangerous. Truth is something we should be committed to. Unless a truth is something obviously personal (e.g. your mum is fat) or private, we should always hesitate to criticise somebody for saying what is true. It reflects badly on progressive edutwitter that so many were so outraged at something so obviously true.

When people object to truths then you really see which assumptions underlie their ideology. One of the longest standing themes of progressive education is the idea that children do not need to learn from adults, that all their intellectual gifts are contained within and just have to be drawn out. G.K. Chesterton satirised this over 100 years ago:

I know that certain crazy pedants have attempted to counter this difficulty by maintaining that education is not instruction at all, does not teach by authority at all. They present the process as coming, not from the outside, from the teacher, but entirely from inside the boy. Education, they say, is the Latin for leading out or drawing out the dormant faculties of each person. Somewhere far down in the dim boyish soul is a primordial yearning to learn Greek accents or to wear clean collars; and the schoolmaster only gently and tenderly liberates this imprisoned purpose. Sealed up in the newborn babe are the intrinsic secrets of how to eat asparagus and what was the date of Bannockburn. The educator only draws out the child’s own unapparent love of long division; only leads out the child’s slightly veiled preference for milk pudding to tarts. I am not sure that I believe in the derivation; I have heard the disgraceful suggestion that “educator,” if applied to a Roman schoolmaster, did not mean leading our young functions into freedom; but only meant taking out little boys for a walk. But I am much more certain that I do not agree with the doctrine; I think it would be about as sane to say that the baby’s milk comes from the baby as to say that the baby’s educational merits do. There is, indeed, in each living creature a collection of forces and functions; but education means producing these in particular shapes and training them to particular purposes, or it means nothing at all. Speaking is the most practical instance of the whole situation. You may indeed “draw out” squeals and grunts from the child by simply poking him and pulling him about, a pleasant but cruel pastime to which many psychologists are addicted. But you will wait and watch very patiently indeed before you draw the English language out of him. That you have got to put into him; and there is an end of the matter.

But the important point here is only that you cannot anyhow get rid of authority in education; it is not so much (as poor Conservatives say) that parental authority ought to be preserved, as that it cannot be destroyed. Mr. Bernard Shaw once said that he hated the idea of forming a child’s mind. In that case Mr. Bernard Shaw had better hang himself; for he hates something inseparable from human life. I only mentioned educere and the drawing out of the faculties in order to point out that even this mental trick does not avoid the inevitable idea of parental or scholastic authority. The educator drawing out is just as arbitrary and coercive as the instructor pouring in; for he draws out what he chooses. He decides what in the child shall be developed and what shall not be developed. He does not (I suppose) draw out the neglected faculty of forgery. He does not (so far at least) lead out, with timid steps, a shy talent for torture. The only result of all this pompous and precise distinction between the educator and the instructor is that the instructor pokes where he likes and the educator pulls where he likes. Exactly the same intellectual violence is done to the creature who is poked and pulled. Now we must all accept the responsibility of this intellectual violence. Education is violent; because it is creative. It is creative because it is human. It is as reckless as playing on the fiddle; as dogmatic as drawing a picture; as brutal as building a house. In short, it is what all human action is; it is an interference with life and growth. After that it is a trifling and even a jocular question whether we say of this tremendous tormentor, the artist Man, that he puts things into us like an apothecary, or draws things out of us, like a dentist.

I think most progressives would have said this addresses a straw man and was not their true position at all. But now we know that for many progressives, or at least for many of those who would deny that we are born stupid, it is not just their belief but an assumption that is so firmly ingrained they actually get angry when they hear it denied.


The “teacher led” College Of Teaching. Part 2

August 4, 2018

I’ve been writing recently about how promises that the Chartered College of Teaching would be teacher led have been broken. In my most recent blogpost I wrote about how the politicians who supported the creation of a College OF Teaching, and the coalition of CPD providers who set it up, repeatedly insisted that it would be “teacher led”.

It wasn’t just them. The phrase was widely used to describe the project.

As it became clear that non-teachers would be allowed to join in some capacity (which does not appear to have been in the original blueprint) the phrase “teacher led” began to be used to emphasise who would be in charge.

For example:

As a teacher-led movement for change, the Chartered College has a growing network of over 1,300 regional Advocates

From  the Chartered College website.

It aims to be a voluntary, teacher-led organisation which will support professional development, promote and share evidence-informed practice, and recognise excellence.

From a TES article announcing the opening of the Chartered College.

The College will promote teaching as a teacher-led, independent profession that envisions its own destiny.

From a TES article explaining why the College won’t be like the GTCE.

Another couple of phrases were also used to say the same thing. “run by teachers for teachers” was used to describe the College here, here and here. “led by teachers for teachers” was used here and here. Clearly the words “by teachers for teachers” couldn’t be abandoned, as when the election of the council to lead the College was announced on the Chartered College Of Teaching Website these were retained, but rather blatantly the phrase was now “driven by teachers for teachers”, which suggests that those organising the elections were well aware of what had been promised, and of the need to backtrack.

I had been opposed to allowing non-teachers to join the College, in case they did try to take over. Because of the debate over this issue, supporters of the College had made repeated claims that being led by teachers was non-negotiable. This has led to some remarkable changes of position by supporters of the College. Here’s some of the most remarkable.

From blogger “TeacherToolkit”

In 2016:

I do believe membership should be open to applicants who are teaching in classrooms only. Yes, when asked about role with the College of Teaching and asked about ‘what you do’, your first response should be; ‘I’m a teacher’ and not anything else.

A board of non-practising teachers just makes validity of any college contradictory [sic].  Of course, running such a large-scale institution, led by full-time classroom teachers makes it almost very difficult to manage , but it is not impossible.

In 2018 (here and here):

The notion that a @CharteredColl should only be made up of “teachers” is a sign of cognitive dissonance….

…I stand by what I said.

If teachers believe that “only teachers” can be part of @CharteredColl then a) that’s an insular view and b) it’s a sure sign of cognitive dissonance.

From blogger Tom Sherrington:

In 2015:

Any College of Teaching that ended up not being led by teachers for teachers would fail because few people would join; everyone involved knows this and, therefore, they will make sure that at every opportunity decisions are made to ensure this is what we get.

In 2018:

 Isn’t it in the name? Chartered College of Teaching? It’s not the Chartered College of Teachers.  To me, that’s a significant difference.  We already have unions – with vast memberships – giving teachers a voice as teachers and leaders a voice as leaders.   But the College is for teaching – it’s teaching as a profession that needs an independent, professional voice spanning across roles so that teaching has a collective voice in the political landscape.  This, to me, is more than word play.  There are plenty of people with a role in making teaching an effective evidence-informed confident profession – including people who run schools or groups of schools and whose main work is to train teachers rather than teach students.

But most incredible are those who have gone from a position of defending the College of Teaching on the basis that it would be teacher led, to standing for positions on the board, despite not being teachers. Two of the current candidates stand out in this regard. Professor Sam Twiselton had argued in 2015:

But I think to view the College of Teaching – a membership organisation by teachers, for teachers – as part of a “web of control” is wide of the mark. 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, not government officials.

Some may question whether the College will have any real power if it is not able to set policy or operate as a regulatory body – but we need to remember that there are other professions, mainly in medicine, where chartered status is an accepted standard.

As a teacher-led independent body, it’s actually more likely than not to be quite fiercely independent. There is often talk of trusting teachers, but little follow-through. The College presents a great opportunity to do that and do that well. I see no reason to doubt that this body cannot work in this way if the profession has an appetite to take it seriously – and there are early signs that it does.

But the person who stands out for having made the most repeated commitments to the idea that any College Of Teaching be teacher led, and who is now standing against teachers to be on the board, is David Weston.

Also worth listening to this debate here:

A lot of the response I’ve had to raising this, has been people arguing that non-teachers should be allowed to run the professional body for teachers or that “teacher” means “anyone who once qualified to teach” or “anyone whose job involves some teaching”. To even address those would be to reopen a debate that has already happened. It was settled that the College Of Teaching was teacher led. It was settled that teachers were “employed to teach children or young people 0-19 yrs”.

The issue is not that old debate, the issue is the broken promises. A professional body is meant to have ethical responsibilities and it is meant to help improve the standing of the profession. The current Chartered College Of Teaching is one big broken promise. It simply cannot be our professional body when ethically, it is dodgy as hell. And it cannot improve our standing when it has not treated the profession with respect.


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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