I’m sure a lot of people have heard of professional, non-political bodies such as the Royal College of Nursing etc, but a notable absence among the lists which, in my opinion, needs to be addressed is that of a College of Teachers.
Well the BBC have hinted that this may actually be happening, and plans are under way. The idea is that this College of Teaching is to set out responsibilities such as setting the standards (a political buzzword) and sharing research. Membership of the group would be voluntary and thus play no role in disciplinary hearings or the setting of pay. The only condition is that members need to have Qualified Teacher Status (QTS), which means that those unqualified teachers who are employed by free schools and academies can’t join it in the conventional sense, but they could join as an ‘associate’ member, which acts a bit like a stepping stone to becoming a member, but not actually becoming a full member. The proposal is that you cannot be an ‘associate’ member for more than 3 years (interestingly enough time to get a degree and become a fully qualified teacher, not at all dropping hints).
The blueprint for an independent, professional body for teaching has been produced by a commission set up by the Prince’s Teaching Institute. The commission included head teachers, teachers, academy providers, academics and teachers’ unions. The teaching institute, which has the Prince of Wales as president, has been acting as broker for talks about setting up a professional body since September 2012.
The college would be designed to be funded by membership subscriptions, which the college says could range between £30 to £130 per year. This would cover anticipated running costs of £11m to £14m per year.
Chris Pope, chairman of the commission and co-director of the Prince’s Teaching Institute, says: “The breadth of technical, intellectual and personal capabilities that we expect from teachers is extraordinary. Yet teaching remains a major profession with no independent body to set standards for the profession.”
Russell Hobby, leader of the National Association of Head Teachers, backed the plan for a college. “If teachers want professional respect and freedom from interference, they need a body like this to strengthen their voice,” he said.
Christine Blower, leader of the National Union of Teachers, warned that membership costs could concern teachers. And she argued that it will “need to show that it can contribute positively to the professional discourse, in particular at a time when the government’s attacks on teachers and education are causing teachers to leave the profession”.
Mary Bousted, head of the ATL teachers’ union, welcomed the idea of a college but said it needed to support teachers rather than government policy. “For the college to achieve its aims, it must get buy-in from the profession and prove itself to reflect teachers’ professional aims and concerns.”
Chris Keates, leader of the NASUWT teachers’ union, warned of “diverse and often contradictory ambitions for the college”. She questioned “the credibility of a college created in an environment where teaching has become an effectively deregulated profession as a result of the policies of the secretary of state”.
So we’re back to this old chestnut again, should our education be governed by politics? Well if the last century or so has proved anything with it’s succession of Education Acts, The Great Education Debate and more recently the Academies Act among others, it’s that our current education is for the government, not for our children. Successive governments constantly tinker with the education system like supercharging an old banger of a car in the vague hope that they find something that improves it, which is potentially risking the future prospects of our children, and thus potentially damaging the economy, which is broken enough as it is.
I would love to see an age where education is governed by the people who dedicate their lives to it, whether it be teachers or headteachers or even possibly unions. Politics may have become intertwined with education in recent times, but there is no reason for it to continue that way if it is not working. We can see our education system slipping down the PISA ranking system whilst countries perhaps even less economically developed as we are are creeping ahead of us like the tortoise in the hare and tortoise story.