Category Archives: Reblogged

Rich Davies (@Enrich_Ed): A Royal College; towards democratic Professionalism

This blog was originally published on the Enrich_Ed blog


Rich Davies (@Enrich_Ed)

The concept of a Royal College of Teaching has been mooted for some time and could, arguably, have been said to exist in the shape of the now defunct General Teaching Council. There is, however, a new momentum building in the education sector within schools, Parliament[1], and think-tanks such as the Prince’s Teaching Institute[2] and The New Visions for Education Group[3] – but what is the rationale and why now?

Teacher Effectiveness

Teacher effectiveness: at the very core

Against an increasingly globalised backdrop in which pupils will require more complex and analytical skills to both succeed in their own careers and also provide the economy with a sufficient workforce to compete in the global knowledge economy, teachers themselves must learn in ways that develop higher-order thinking and performance[4]. This, however, is at odds with the current status quo of Continuing Professional Development (CPD) in schools comprising a handful of non-teaching training days where broad spectrum and prescriptive pedagogy and policies are delivered. Given the dramatic transformations sweeping through the education landscape, especially the proliferation of academies with no statutory obligation to employ qualified teachers, surely there has never been a better time to establish a bipartisan Royal College of Teachers with the explicit mandate of facilitating teachers themselves to coordinate professional learning, beyond the artificial horizons of a particular school or college, free from undue political interference?

Since the 1960’s there have, broadly, been four phases of reform to the education system[5]:

  • Uninformed professionalism – the period prior to the 1980s, often regarded as the golden age of teacher autonomy but when teachers lacked appropriate knowledge, skills and attitudes for a modern society
  • Uninformed prescription – the period following the election of Margaret Thatcher’s Conservative government in 1979 and, in particular, its imposition of a National Curriculum in 1988 for political rather than educational reasons
  • Informed prescription – the period following the election of Tony Blair’s New Labour government in 1997, bringing with it ‘evidence-based’ policies such as the Literacy and Numeracy Strategies and Standards-based teacher training
  • Informed professionalism – a new phase, just beginning, when teachers will have appropriate knowledge, skills and attitudes so that the government can grant them a greater degree of licensed autonomy to manage their own affairs.

It is this new phase in which the teaching profession currently finds itself and although, in theory, the ‘greater degree of licensed autonomy’ is an exciting prospect, it is something which, hitherto, has not been recognised within the arena of CPD. The diagram above is indicative of the considerable academic research which emphasises that it is the quality of teachers which has thebiggest impact on raising student outcomes[6]. Paradoxically, given the paramount importance attached to the impact of teacher quality and the need to develop higher level teaching skills to remain globally competitive, there remains a vacuum in CPD[7]. This CPD vacuum flies in the face of research which reveals it is precisely such teacher driven development strategies, supported by the government, that establish the conditions for young pupils to achieve.

Social media and more sophisticated communications networks are now, however, empowering teachers to take professional learning into their own hands. A pioneering minority have taken to twitter to share ideas and links to research and examples of good practise. Such exchanges have led to the creation of informal TeachMeets where teachers and other education professionals meet up to present their research and ideas free of charge. Similarly, Massively Open Online Courses enable teachers to access rigorous academic research, learn more about critical reflection, and watch lectures from world experts in their field, for instance consider the ‘How to Learn Math’ course provided by Stanford University for maths teachers and designed by leading Professor of Mathematics Education Jo Boaler, again at no cost[8]. Whilst digitally tailoring professional learning in this way certainly breaks free from the prescriptive In-School Training days, it would seem appropriate to have some mechanism through which teachers can collate and demonstrate the various components of their specific professional learning. This would not only be of tremendous value to themselves, but also future employers and the teaching profession as a whole which would be able to benefit from sharing best practise more effectively.

A powerful professional organisation can be considered as one of the key features required for an occupation to be termed a profession[9], so perhaps the absence of such a body, thus far, has lead to the ambiguous position of teaching vis-à-vis more established professions such as law or medicine[7]. Suffice it to say, such a body would be uniquely equipped to act as a mechanism through which individual teachers can chart their professional learning, and through which the profession can foster the development of and share the findings of evidence based practise. Indeed, it is in the arena of evidenced based practise that teachers can take a lead from their medical counterparts and, in particular, the work of Dr Goldacre[10] who advocates that:

  • research on what works best should be a routine part of life in education
  • teachers should be empowered to participate in research
  • myths about randomised trials in education should be addressed, removing barriers to research
  • the results of research should be disseminated more efficiently
  • resources on research should be available to teachers, enabling them to be critical and thoughtful consumers of evidence
  • barriers between teachers and researchers should be removed
  • teachers should be driving the research agenda, by identifying questions that need to be answered.

Goldacre goes on to emphasise that this research agenda is not about telling teachers what to do, rather empowering them with evidence-based, independent and informed decisions on, for instance, the factors that help to raise teacher effectiveness. He extols the huge gains made by the medical profession, having become a truly evidenced-based profession, and argues that teachers have the same opportunity to leap forward. A prospective professional body, analogous to the British Medical Association (BMA), could therefore act as a vehicle through which to coordinate, encourage and promote rigorous research and share the findings in order to help raise levels across the board.

Whilst there is a compelling rationale for a Royal College of Teaching, what would it actually look like and, as a teacher what would I see? One such suggestion is put forward by Ross Morrison McGill[11] who advocates teachers combining professional learning in a portfolio that could contain the following:

  • a video of a lesson observation.
  • a record of performance management targets.
  • classroom data.
  • CPD records over the past 5 years.
  • personal information e.g. address, next of kin etc.
  • access to references over time i.e. for each job application.
  • an honest ‘about me’ section that could contain a voxpop, a blog or twitter account that could demonstrate personality, as well as my teaching ability.
  • a collection of all social-media sources

Allied to the results of research, best practice, resources and any formal professional exams that may be introduced by a professional body to achieve a ‘Chartered Teaching Status’, this would provide a useful chronicle of professional learning for both the individual and future employers and through which the professional body would be able to draw upon to help raise the bar across the board.

A professional learning portfolio is in stark contrast with traditional prescriptive and disjointed CPD perspectives. Within the literature, professional learning is now conceptualised as dynamic, on-going, continuous, and set in teachers’ daily lives – embedded in the classroom context and constructed through experience and practice, in sustained, iterative cycles of goal setting, planning, practicing, and reflecting[4]. There are a wide array of activities that could be considered to be embraced by such a collaborative and job-embedded model of professional learning including: analysis of a school’s culture; peer observations of practice; small-scale classroom studies about students’ work; analysis of student data; lesson study groups; involvement in a development or improvement process; and case studies about patterns in students’ classroom behaviour. The roll of the Royal College then would be to promote such an individualised and collaborative approach and coordinate and disseminate key findings and best practise across the profession. In so doing, it could also help to raise the profile of the the profession vis-a-vis other occupations and encourage more graduates and career changers to consider teaching.

A collaborative culture in the broadest sense, not just within the teaching profession but also in association with all those involved in education, in conjunction with the introduction of an effective professional body could see the start of a new wave of ‘democratic professionalism’ in which teachers digitally tailor their professional learning and use evidenced-based research and widely disseminated best-practise to analyse and inform their teaching and help raise standards across the board[12]:

“There is an outstanding momentum of consensus from an incredibly broad range of interests who all agree that the time has now come for the teaching profession to look to form its own professional body”.

Charlotte Leslie MP, Education Select Committee [1]

[1] Charlotte Leslie MP, member of the Education Select Committee, interviewed by SecEd

[2] The Prince’s Teaching Institute College of Teaching Consultation

[3] The New Visions for Education Group

[4] Literature review Quality in Teachers’ Continuing professional development, European Commission

[5] Barber, M. (2005) Informed Professionalism: Realising the Potential. Presentation conference of the Association of Teachers and Lecturers, London, June 11

[6] Teachers Matter: Attracting, developing and retraining effective teachers. OECD

[7] It’s time to give teachers the skills the skills and respect they deserve. Tim Brighouse & Bob Moon

[9] Millerson, G. (1964) The Qualifying Association. London: Routledge & Kegan Paul

[11] Job Applications: what I’d really like to say

[12] Whitty, G. (2006) Teacher Professionalism in a new era

Lizzie Overton (@enliven_ed): Who’s leading the way?

This blog was originally published on the Enliven Education blog (@enliven_ed)

Lizzie Overton (@enliven_ed)

I came across a twitter ‘live chat’ run by #UkEdChat and hosted by @informed_edu on the theme of The Royal College of Teaching.  Having read through the archive I’m now indulging in some longer sentences to clarify my thinking.

The idea that a Royal College could bring greater respect and recognition for the profession, as well as protection from ill-informed political interference, would seem like a pretty uncontroversial premise upon which to build it.  But working out how to achieve this in practice is already provoking wide and sometimes heated debate.

One of the tweets that caught my eye was from @mberry who suggested that the concept of ‘collegiality’ could be a useful one where we might find ‘the authority of a master craftsman rather than a leader’s power’.

Whether we are teachers, senior managers, inspectors or teacher trainers we all have responsibility to guide and lead.  So perhaps the duty of a Royal College could be to set the standard for us by modelling the kind of leadership that Ken Robinson identifies in his televised TED talk this week where ‘command and control’ is substituted by ‘climate control’.

The College could demonstrate the difference between authoritative leadership and authoritarian leadership.   The former setting clear bounds within which creative, intellectual and innovative development could happen, and the latter limiting possibilities by building a culture of fear and resentment (of which we have plenty if the #ukedchat twitter stream is anything to go by).

It’s suggested by one of the contributors to the RCoT introductory booklet, that teachers should not get automatic entry as they did with the GTC but that instead “more experienced/accomplished teachers would be able to undergo ‘rigorous selection processes’ to gain the approval of the college through a tiered structure of memberships and fellowships.”

I would suggest that the College ought instead to operate a more inclusive approach to membership in the same way that any good non-selective state school would do.  It should welcome all those who’d like to belong and then work hard to build its own ‘climate of possibility’ where members are inspired to work within clearly defined values, high expectations and rigorous professional standards.

Free Education Campaign: The college of teachers as a champion of research

Reblogged from Pedagog In The Machine, aka the Free Education Campaign (@FreeEducation

Pedagog in the Machine (@_FreeEducation)

In the first post of this series, I examined what is apparently the primary purpose of the proposed College – to “boost the status of the teaching profession”. While this would be a welcome development, it is clear that this is not reason enough to establish a new College of Teachers. (As one commenter noted, teachers are already doing pretty well on the reputation front, coming second only to doctors in a 2011 Ipsos Mori poll).

In the second post, I examined what is undoubtedly the key question hanging over the proposed college – whether or not it will have a policy remit. To recap:

a)    It is currently unclear whether it will have a policy remit;

b)    It definitely should have one.

Perhaps the next clearest area of consensus in the essays is that the College should act as a conduit between academic education research and classroom practitioners – simplifying and sharing research findings, and potentially funding small-scale research projects.

It is difficult to foresee anybody taking issue with this. The gulf between academic research and classroom practice has been too great for too long, and any attempt to build bridges between the two – rather than building a ring road around “the blob”, which would appear to be Michael Gove’s preference – is a welcome development.

Dame McVittie suggests that the College should have a research arm, so that it can not only help simplify and disseminate research findings, but carry out research itself. However I would side more with Jonathan Shepherd, who thinks the College should refrain from carrying out research itself. In fact I believe that to do so would not only be unnecessary, but it would compromise the impartiality and independence of the College. Education research is inherently ideological: the questions you ask and the methods you use to resolve them place the researcher in positions which need to be defended against alternative viewpoints. For the College to undertake research itself would undermine its ability to establish itself as an impartial voice of reason. In addition it would save a tidy packet, and since it is currently unclear how the thing will be funded, it is probably best to resist the temptation to engage in research itself.

The work of the Teacher Development Trust in promoting enquiry-based approaches to CPD is an extremely valuable contribution to this debate, because it emphasises the importance of education research where it most matters: at the implementation end. It is not enough to just say “I use methods that have been shown to work in an RCT” – the focus has to be on whether teachers can show that they work for them, and for the youngsters in their care. Although the tone comes across as perhaps a shade strident at times (as in ‘The new body must demand evidence that teachers have undertaken activities that have explicitly improved the quality of teaching and learning in their classrooms’), the intention is a good one and I support it whole-heartedly.

The inevitable ‘but’

Disseminating research findings and facilitating research-based CPD is one thing. But what about when government ministers promote policies that run counter to the evidence? As the Gove versus Reality website so lucidly highlights, the current administration has enjoyed a rather, er complicated relationship with research evidence to date. But it’s not just Gove – it has often been said that ministers appear more interested in policy-based evidence than evidence-based policy, and with good reason.

In reflecting on the relationship between the Royal College of Surgery and the Government, Jonathan Shepherd suggests that “responding constructively to government proposals… [is an] important and continuous challenge.” Here lies a potentially fatal tension in the remit of the college:

How can it promote the use of research evidence while simultaneously “responding constructively” to government proposals that frequently run counter to the evidence?

In his introduction, Andrew Hall says that the proposed College would “provide a structure where issues of mutual concern and interest can be shared and debated”. And so to the deliberately dastardly question that rounds off this third post:

Is this not the very definition of a talking shop?

Talking Shop

Prince’s Teaching Institute – Consultation

This is republished from the Prince’s Teaching Institute web page (@PrincesTeaching)

Prince’s Teaching Institute (@PrincesTeaching)

“In response to a unanimous request from over 30 members of the education community, the PTI is leading a Commission of senior individuals to explore the idea of a new member-driven College of Teaching.

Including Headteachers, representatives from universities, subject associations, teaching unions, the existing College of Teachers, the Royal College of Surgeons and other education stakeholders, the Commission is being supported in its work by a Committee of Teachers.  The teachers on the committee are drawn from across the spectrum, including Nursery, Primary, Special and Secondary schools, from across a range of subjects, and encompassing a range of experience – from Newly Qualified Teachers to Headteachers with over 30 years’ experience.

The Commission is preparing a Discussion Document that will set out a blueprint for a new, member-driven College of Teaching. It will be published shortly and we welcome your response to this document.

The Discussion Document will not provide a detailed operational model or implementation plan, nor will it seek to provide solutions for many of the issues that would arise from the establishment of any such body; rather it will provide a blueprint for a new member-driven College of Teaching, with some approximate financial parameters, in order to provoke a considered response from stakeholders. No plans for implementation have been made, nor timetable drawn up, as this will depend on many factors, including most importantly the response to the consultation.

To register your interest in the consultation, please e-mail:

On publication, we will e-mail you a copy of the Discussion Document and look forward to your response. This page will also be updated, so please visit again!


You may be interested in the following recent publications that provide perspectives on a new member-driven College of Teaching:

Great teachers: attracting, training and retaining the best, Vol 1 (House of Commons Education Committee report, 1 May 2012)

Great teachers: attracting, training and retaining the best, Vol 2 (House of Commons Education Committee report, 1 May 2012)

Great teachers: attracting, training and retaining the best, Vol 3 (House of Commons Education Committee report, 1 May 2012)

Government response to the Education Select Committee report into Great teachers: Attracting, training and retaining the best. (House of Commons Education Committee report, 11 July 2012)

Investigating the appetite for and remit of a new member-driven College of Teaching: An exploratory workshop (The Prince’s Teaching Institute, 24th September 2012)

Taking Teacher Development Seriously: A proposal to establish a National Teaching Institute for Teacher Professional Development in England (Tim Brighouse and Bob Moon, January 2013)

Education Today, Vol 63/1 Spring 2013 (College of Teachers)

Towards a Royal College of Teaching (Royal College of Surgeons, 30 April 2013)

Derek Bell & Ross McGill (@TeacherToolkit) – Raising the status of the teaching profession

This blog was originally posted on Ross McGill’s blog (@TeacherToolkit) and was originally written by Derek Bell for the College of Teachers

Few people, if any, would argue against the need for a high quality, high status teaching profession. Indeed in today’s complex world with all its pressures, constraints and opportunities, the imperative has probably never been greater. The question is: how can we raise the status of teaching as a profession?

Having witnessed the introduction, establishment and then abolition of the General Teaching Council for England (between 1998 and 2012), which set out two aims:


  1. “to contribute to improving standards of teaching and the quality of learning, and
  2. to maintain and improve standards of professional conduct among teachers, in the interests of the public.”

…we are now left in a quagmire with no firm hope for the teaching profession. Only undercurrent ripples of anticipation, ebb away in discussions at the higher-echelon levels of union, government and sundry committee boardrooms. But what about grassroot classrooms across the country?


As well as the GTCE, many other education quangos in 2010 were culled (full quangos list); including most recently, the ‘green-light’ to employ teaching staff without QTS (Qualified Teacher Status). The teaching profession has never needed a firm hand to stranglehold.

Without a nationally recognised and useful forum to shape and direct the profession, policies; pedagogy; teacher-training and professionalism will be left in the hands of the DfE to tyrannize. I recently said in a guest-post for @LabourTeachers (March 2013), that teachers need to Ignore the DfE: Teachers are doing it for themselves! and take control of their own.

Tim Brighouse and Bob Moon have also supported this through the New Vision for Education Group here, but I remain unconvinced. If current classroom practitioners do not sit on their committee or in other similar bodies; to help steer the vision for the profession, then championing the call for a Royal College of Teachers will remain a pipe-dream and nothing more. What chance have I got as a classroom practitioner to embrace yet another top-down structure?

Grass roots hand


Well, what I’d like to suggest, before leading into this guest-post by the Royal College of Teachers; is that any Royal College of Teachers should support the whole teaching profession; not just teachers in schools, but also HE lecturers, industrial trainers, tutors, peripatetic teachers; everyone!  From grass-roots up! And that we should all be part of that process, from its introduction and establishment, to its eventual custom that we hope may be embedded, into all teacher-speak across the land.

The College are running a Professional Development Masterclasses in May and June. This is a great opportunity for interested teachers to meet existing staff of The College. For booking information, you can find out more at this link.

Ladies and gentleman: Stand up and be counted; I give you, a national Royal College of Teachers!

(Foreward above by @TeacherToolkit)

Raising the status of the teaching profession – towards a royal college of teaching?

The launch on Tuesday (30th April) of the booklet – Towards a Royal College of Teaching: raising the status of the teaching profession – brings into the spotlight the discussions that have been going on in various places for some while. The purpose of the booklet, compiled by an editorial team led by Charlotte Leslie MP, a member of the Education Select Committee, is to examine the idea of a royal college of teaching. The wide range of contributions addresses many of the issues from different perspectives but all point in the same direction – a royal college has a great deal in its favour. Others agree.

Published 30th April 2013 - download here

Published 30th April 2013 – download here

Ministers in the DfE have indicated general support for the idea of a Royal College, but are very clear that any such development must come from the profession and be independent of government. However, if a Royal College comes from the profession, it should include teachers in all forms. Teachers are found in formal and non-formal settings including schools, colleges, universities, hospitals, businesses, factories, homes, military establishments and youth groups. A Royal College of Teaching should therefore represent and support the whole of the teaching profession, not simply teachers in school buildings.

Teacher Unions have also shown interest in the Royal College proposal. Indeed writing in the TES[1] Mary Bousted (General Secretary of the ATL) and Russell Hobby (General Secretary of the NAHT), included “A Royal College of Teaching, created and run by teachers,” as one part of their four-point plan for the future of the teaching profession.

“…work with the government, to promote teachers’ professional development…”

More recently the Academies Commission in its report[2] in January 2013 recommended that, “The DfE should pump-prime the establishment of a Royal College of Teachers that would be independent from, but work with the government, to promote teachers’ professional development, provide evidence to inform education policy, align practice and research and promote peer-to-peer collaboration.”

Independently, a group of head teachers asked the Prince’s Teaching Institute (PTI) to host an exploratory workshop to discuss the idea. The key outcome of this workshop, was the proposal that the PTI act as honest broker to establish a group, to explore the potential and feasibility of setting up a Royal College or similar body. An independent Commission has now been established and it formally commenced work on 7 March 2013.

In parallel, the existing College of Teachers (COT) has adopted a very positive and proactive approach to the initiative and is contributing extensively to the debate in a variety of ways, including contributing to the publication of the book mentioned above and membership of the independent PTI Commission. It has made a clear statement of its own position on the idea of a royal college in a special edition of its journal Education Today – published March 2013, which also includes a series of articles that offer further perspectives on the role, a royal college might play in raising the status of teaching.

Discussion: “…the last thing we need at this, or indeed any stage, is fragmentation and the formation of splinter groups…”

Currently, these groups are in contact and are working together in order to stimulate discussion more widely and to explore possible models and the feasibility of such a body. This is important because the last thing we need at this, or indeed any stage, is fragmentation and the formation of splinter groups. Neither do we want to create another organisation that simply adds to the current crowded landscape.

To date, there is a long list of things that a Royal College ‘might do’, but we have to be clear, that it can’t do everything. Indeed, there are things that it should not do; specifically, activities that rightly sit with trades unions such as pay and conditions and other employment matters.

There is widespread agreement that it should promote the professionalism of teachers and, among other things:

  • ensure high quality professional learning;
  • provide stability through changes in political cycles;
  • promote evidence-based initiatives;
  • bridge the gap between classroom practice and research;
  • establish an authoritative voice on professional standards;
  • raise the status of teaching as a profession.

We know there are obstacles to overcome and setting up a Royal College will take time. We need to ensure that there is as wide a consultation as possible in order to ensure that, if a Royal College is established, it genuinely does come from the teaching profession.

So why not join in the discussions? As a start go to to access the booklet and provide feedback on the issues it raises and the ones it doesn’t!

Derek BellDerek Bell is a Professor of Education in The College of Teachers.

Derek Bell is a Professor of Education in The College of Teachers, having worked in schools, colleges and universities and being Chief Executive of The Association for Science Education.

You can follow the Royal College of Teachers at @CollegeOfTeach

Written by Derek Bell and edited by @TeacherToolkit.

Laura McInerney(@miss_mcinerney) – Why Education Reform Needs Some Rules

This was reblogged from the edapt blog (@edaptuk) and written by Laura McInernery (@miss_mcinerney)

Laura McInerney (@miss_mcinerney)

“With the recent announcement of the proposed Royal College of Teaching we asked Laura McInerney for her views on the rules of education reform.  Laura was a teacher for 6 years in London and is now a fulbright scholar at University of Missouri and policy development partner at LKMco.

Last night I had a dream about a faceless nameless education secretary. In the dream I invited him to watch a play I was directing. The play was three hours long, but I assured him that despite length it was spectacular enough to be life-changing. As the play opened, the on-stage scene was elaborate – props, fabulous actors, tantalizing costumes – the politician looked eager. Then, just as the first actor began to speak, I called for a scene change. Lights off.  Rearrangement. Lights up. New props, actors, costumes. Again it looked great, again – as the first actor went to speak – I yelled “Scene change”. On and on this went dizzying process, after an hour, the politician stood in fury.

“This is ridiculous,” he said. “This story isn’t going anywhere. It has no purpose, I can’t make head nor tails of it. What makes you think I have three spare hours for such nonsense?”

The cast cackled. An actor stepped forward: “But this is what you and the others like you have done to teachers over and over again. And not just for three hours – for decades. Tell me, why should we put up with your nonsense?”

The simple answer to this question is that politicians are voted in to make decisions about monies and legislation across many areas, including education. We must put up with politicians’ nonsense because it’s a good idea to have a dedicated group of people be in charge, just as it’s a good idea to have one theatrical director. But if the politician, or the stage director, never lets things get going before starting all over again then the results are repeatedly unsatisfying.

Calls this week for a reimagined Royal College of Teaching part arose from such frustration. There is a feeling among teachers that people familiar with the profession need to be on hand, speaking out about issues, and moderating the whims of reform-zealous politicians. The report , “Towards a Royal College of Teaching”, suggests the new body could be responsible for setting stabilising codes and values that would underpin the teaching profession, and members of the College would be called to advise – and potentially moderate – zany education secretaries.

But without careful thought this advisory body runs the risk simply being seen as a ‘barrier’ to change, and without agreement on the processes for consulting with teachers via the Royal College (and processes by which the views can be ignored or compelled into policy), it would be all too easy for a future Government to denounce the new group as deluded and then ignore them.

So what sort of procedures could be created to ensure stability in education reforms? First,the government could introduce an independent Curriculum Review Board, selected by political parties but working independently, and who revisit the curriculum at pre-arranged intervals rather than when politically expedient.  Hong Kong looks thoroughly and carefully at each grade once every ten years – no more, no less. In doing so there is guaranteed time for teachers to understand curriculum changes, and to develop, improve and share their materials. Why couldn’t we do this here?

A second idea is getting an independent teaching body to write “reviews” of Government education policy documents, and – here’s the important bit – completing the Government to publicly respond. This mirrors the Education Select Committee process where cross-party MPs scrutinise education policies and require governments to respond to their criticisms. However, MPs usually lack specialist education expertise. A Royal College of Teaching (or other such body) could instead follow the example of the US  National Education Policy Center, who assess education reports published by “think tanks” commenting on their academic quality and rigour. Holes found would then need to be defended in a published Government response.

Finally – if these processes sound cumbersome or too likely to be overtaken by ideological zealots – how about something as simple as a “Reformer’s Manifesto”? After three decades of school reform under his watch, US educationalist Charles Payne’s wrote the book So Much Change, So Little TimeIn it he argues that reformers do damage when they constantly rip up prior programmes without due regard for what was positive in them.  He therefore wrote a School Reformer’s Pledge of Conduct urging politicians to follow maxims such as “do not to try to scale up prematurely” or always “give people realistic estimates of the time and money it takes to implement my program”.

But we can do even better than these platitudes. Surely we can sit down and think of a few golden rules for education reform that, if followed wisely, would make a big difference. That, if followed wisely, would stop the endless scenery change, would constrain the director and would – finally! – help us realise where the story is going.

Over to you: What should education secretaries be bound to pledge upon taking office? What rules would you like to see governing all education reforms?”

Tom Bennett (@tombennett71) – Open doors and Games of Thrones, but this engine runs on hope

Reblogged from Tom Bennet (@tombenett71)’s blog: The Behaviour Guru: Tom Bennett’s School Report

Tom Bennett (@tombennet71)

One of my deeper shames is that I possess a certificate for NLP (see below). Worthless, utterly without value. Everyone at the course got one, which means that it’s as precious an accolade as the sensor that toots when I walk into my local newsagent. You turned up? Congratulations, welcome to the Star Chamber. It’s like getting a ‘Yes’ from David Walliams.

But imagine if teachers could be certified in a way that you’d be proud to hang on your wall. I bring this up because an idea has broken the surface that’s been submarine for several years: a Royal College of Teaching (RCOT). I wonder how many teachers are aware that there already is a College of Teaching? Well, there is, and what’s more it’s been around so long (since 1846), I’m surprised Dan Brown hasn’t written a part for them as the shadowy overlords of education across the centuries. These days it’s based in the Institute of Education, London, no doubt in some crepuscular underground ossiery. Plotting.

Support for the idea of a RCOT has been very broad indeed. In fact, it might be the most omnipopular suggestion since Bank Holidays or pudding. An unlikely Justice League of Education has put its mighty shoulders to this: the NUT, the NAHT, the ASCL, the NASUWT, Michael Gove, Labour, the Council for Subject Associations, the Education Select Committee, have all dropped their white balls in the bag. With that kind of political will, it feels like pushing against an open door, or perhaps jump-starting a speeding train.So who’s shovelling the coal?

Michael Gove indicated his support for its inception last week, although he stressed that it would be independent of the DfE, perhaps aware that his patronage would be considered by some to be as welcome as Julia Burchill helping Suzanne Moore win an argument (‘Here, let me put your ashtray fire out with this bucket of petrol’). He’s right to do so. The establishment needs to stand very still and quiet if it wants these deer to come closer.

A blue print for the RCOT is already being drawn up by the Prince’s Teaching Institute, one of the Heir Apparent’s charitable trusts formed in 2006 to promote the work of a series of Summer schools, themselves designed to ‘bring together voices in education’, which is a gloriously aristocratic ambition. Its provenance might suggest it might embody a somewhat homoeopathic attitude towards education. But an examination of their website reveals distinctly independent DNA: teacher training based on subject knowledge; professional development aimed at revisiting core knowledge, sabbaticals and so on. Now that makes a refreshing change.

Before we are teachers, we are subject experts, otherwise we aren’t fit to instruct anyone else. And yet, once we become teachers, how often are we encouraged to revisit the fuel and the flame that fired us in the first place? Most CPD consists of anodyne INSETS that are endured rather than enjoyed or embraced. Try telling your line manager you want to go on a training day specific to your subject, and watch the blank stare. Tell them you want to explore ‘Displaying progress in 20 minutes for Ofsted’ and their saddles will ululate like an Afghan widow.

First session of the proposed Royal College

The PTI’s aims are interesting. They advise teachers to take a step back from the centrifuge of the school once in a while to re-evaluate and reignite their passion and raison d’etre for teaching. I took a teacher fellowship sabbatical a few years ago and it sharpened- possibly saved- my career vim. Priests do, and I suggest that we should too.

Everyone *Hearts* the RCOT. Why?

The reasons are obvious: in the Guild of Teachers mirror, everyone can see their ambitions reflected. To understand it further, look at where such a body places itself. For the immediate future, it’s likely that its ambitions would be to provide a supplementary certification process to existing qualifications like QTS. It would be, in effect, a value-added supplement to the minimum height requirement of profession entry. Membership (in increments of mastery) could confer upon its participants the kudos of having achieved a certain level of acumen, CPD and evidenced attainment, which would then be redeemable in the job market.  That, so far, is as uncontroversial as custard.

It’s what comes afterwards that makes this a Game of Thrones. What if such a body started to appropriate QTS itself? Or certified approved CPD linked to job development? It could provide a magnetic north for teacher standards; it could define and prescribe the Shibboleths of good practice. In short, it could transform the way that teachers are trained, hired, evaluated and indirectly, promoted, retained and distributed. It could help to define what a teacher is. Add to that powers of excommunication and sanction, and you have three hotels on Mayfair.

No small prize. No wonder people are- for the best of reasons- queueing up outside in their sleeping bags waiting for the doors to open.

The fine print 

One of the main challenges in its emergent phase will be dealing with the Manichean cage fight occupying education for some decades, which might be broadly characterised by the child-centred and knowledge-centred approaches. Of course, depending on the mood and balls of the RCOT, they could simply pick a lane and race it like a dragster, but that would cleave a profession in two like Solomon’s baby. If it were to assume powers of registration and accreditation it could be a powerful force one way or the other, and culture change would happen anyway. A wise body would accommodate both poles wisely.

My shame. Luckily I escaped.

So what should it be? What shouldn’t it be? We don’t need another union; that pitch is as crowded as a conga in a coffin. We certainly don’t need another General Teaching Council, unlovely, unloved and missed by no one, which by its death rattle had become, to teachers, nothing more than an annual debit on their bank statement for which they received…well, nothing really. It’s greatest failure lay in what it didn’t do rather than what it did. It didn’t map good teaching- it merely punished the bad, and not always wisely, as a number of odd, high profile cases showed. It was meant to regulate the teaching profession- membership was compulsory in order to teach in maintained schools, and by its demise it had 500,000 teachers on its register- but the bar it set was so nebulous and so shallow that its impact was cursory.

So what could a RCOT be? It could be what the GTC was meant to be, but wasn’t.

  1. A regulatory body. Membership could be seen as a badge of credibility, something to be striven towards. At first, an aspiration. Later on, perhaps a minimum bar.
  2. A body of advocacy- not for pay, conditions, the profession of teachers- but for the practice of teaching. It could observe, analyse, dispute or promote the very best thinking in education- from both research and the collective well of experience, and take a lead in promoting and disseminating these treasures.
  3. A critical friend to itself. Teaching is not nursing or medicine. It is far more prone to dispute than either, because even the building blocks of educational debate are disputed. Because of this an RCOT needs to be a fluid, genuinely introspective body that welcomes, absorbs and accommodates the inevitable challenges from within and without that such a large and broad church will entail.
  4. A guarantor of CPD- or even a provider.
  5. An independent voice for teaching and teachers, liaising with all of the satellites that orbit our heavenly bodies. At present the press turns to a handful of names in its Rolodex when they need a quote. We need a body that can meaninglessly represent teaching, not merely telegenic partisans.
  6. A certifier of teacher development- what Tim Oates of Cambridge Assessment calls an ‘advanced certifier’. Doctors are required to evidence continued commitment to professional development; imagine if teachers had to do the same, not by ruinous days spent in mid-price conference hotels scooping up pens and shortbread, but revisiting their subjects, and learning skills they genuinely want and need.

I’ve frequently written with frustration at how, in education, we have student voice, stakeholder voice, parent power and Westminster voice- but never teacher voice, which is odd when you consider that we are the professionals most affected by it all. What an odd omission. Who would think it logical or fit to exclude such an important community? Yet here we are. There is room, of course in any discussion, for those not blessed with the scars and spoils of the classroom, but for too long the room has been missing an elephant: us.

The RCOT needs to be constructed by teachers; populated with teachers; run by teachers. The iron, right  now, is red hot. The need has rarely been greater. The will is there. If we succeed, we can fix teaching from within, without waiting for someone else to do it for us. We can transform from many quiet voices into one authoritative one- not the moronic bellow of a crowd, but the careful proclamation of experience.

Get this wrong, and it’ll take decades to clear up the mess. Get it right, and we could change the lives of millions of children for the better. This engine runs on hope.

3arn0wl (@LePrecis) – What I’d like a Royal College of Teaching to do

Reblogged from 3arn0wl’s blog (@LePrecis)

Respect!  Acknowledge that not only do teachers hold a degree and a post-graduate teaching qualification, but that they have chalk-face experience which they bring to the table too:  The College of Teachers absolutely must not be top-down.

Advise & support. The College of Teachers shouldn’t be the Orwellian Big Brother regulator that the GTC soon became, but a Professional Carerable to offer sage advice.

Broadcast sound pedagogy. Enough of the looking anywhere but the country which has a very long and fine tradition of educating! The Collegeneeds to shout best pedagogy to government.

Offer courses. Teachers have 5 inset days a year, few of which in my experience are used for CPD.  There could be 5-day intensive regional conferences around the country, where teachers opt into the lectures/courses they’re interested in pursuing, or smaller courses on relevant things, which could be narrow-cast.  The College should have a role in connecting teaching teachers with learning teachers too.

Offer graduate and postgraduate courses, run in sympathy with work commitments.

In a digital age, the college must have online fora to discuss and share ideas with colleagues:

  • An in-house version of Twitter’s #UKEdChat.
  • An online messageboard to share best practice. Maybe by subject discipline as well as general topics.
  • A Dropbox-esque place (or obvious links to) to share materials.
  • A blog, with entries from house and guest education luminaries, and the chance to discuss the topic.

Free Education Campaign: Professional autonomy is there for the taking (Part 2)

Reblogged from Pedagog In The Machine, aka the Free Education Campaign (@FreeEducation


Pedagog in the Machine (@_FreeEducation)

And so to the precarious question of the proposed College’s relationship with policy.

Alison Peacock suggests that the College should be able to “have influence on the appointment of Her Majesty’s Chief Inspector”. Of course this is to be encouraged: but is this really the extent of the College’s ambitions?

In his essay on ‘the importance of professionalism’, John Armstrong says: “The beauty of an independent professional body, working in the public interest as prescribed by Royal Charter, is that it can combine setting professional standards, awarding qualifications, creating and enforcing a rigorous code of conduct and set of values, having an effective regulatory framework, providing thought leadership *, formulating research and policy, and sharing international best practice.”

So there it is in black and white: formulating policy! The days of political interference in education are finally behind us!

Ah but what’s this…? David Weston’s essay on ‘what grass roots teachers want’ states that “Our new professional body must work with schools and policy makers…” – which suggests that to his mind at least, the College would not have the power to create policy.


So then which is it?

Why should we be concerned with the relationship between the proposed College and Policy?

Well, there is good reason to believe that the main barrier to our education system becoming truly world-beating is the endless interference from politicians that has characterised our profession for as long as living memory will allow.

Mary Bousted hits this point home with some force:

The current government and its predecessors have, for the past forty years, driven a constant revolution in education policy. Each succeeding administration, keen to make its mark and widen its scope of influence has introduced legislation to control the education system. We are now at the end of the road of this approach. We have arrived at a place where too many teachers feel little or no agency and where matters which should be left to the teaching profession – matters which go to the heart of what it is to be a professional – are the subject of ministerial dictat. The curriculum, the qualifications which count, teaching and learning strategies, approaches to special education needs, teaching standards, and so much more – all are decided by politicians whose conclusions are fine for the sound and fury of the Westminster village but utterly unsuitable in raising standards of teaching and learning in our schools.

Deborah Lawson hits upon a similar theme:

Relentless government intrusion into education over several decades has undermined and compromised teachers’ professional autonomy, so, to build capacity for such an initiative, there would need to be active government promotion, support and brokering to bring together interested parties and facilitate the actions and dialogue needed to implement an appropriate scheme…

An appropriate scheme

The proposal to establish a College of Teachers presents a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to transfer the power to create the policies that dictate how our schools are run away from government ministers, and into safer hands. I do not mean to suggest that government ministers are ill-equipped to devise policy. Even the most contentious policy initiatives tend to be scrupulously well-informed and intentioned.

Everybody wants to make the system work better – in this we are all united.

However, what is beyond dispute is that since 1945, we have had 34 secretaries of state for education – an average of one every two years. Similarly, since Mrs Thatcher became Prime Minister there have been no less than 20 Education Acts – again, more than one every two years.

Nobody becomes a government minister because they want to keep things ticking over. Naturally, each incumbent wishes to make their mark in the time that they have: they frequently admit as much. As a result, sweeping policy changes are endlessly ushered in on a wave of revolutionary rhetoric, only to be quietly dropped a few months later. It is this short-termism that blights meaningful progress, tearing up at least as many good ideas as are set in place.

This is the true enemy of promise.

Even the most adept headteacher would not be expected to turn a school around in two years. They could tighten the screws of course, and you may see a short-term spike in results. But not if their predecessors had exhausted all the short-term fixes. To  change the culture of a school takes longer than that: five years at least. To change the culture of an education system takes longer still.

Let’s uncouple policy-making powers from the short-term concerns of the electoral cycle, and provide the time and space for longer-term improvement planning to take root.

So what’s stopping us?

David Weston suggests that “We will only stop politicians and the media lecturing us with their solutions to problems when we grasp the nettle and show that we can make the hard changes ourselves. Others will stop trying to force change on us when we are seen as trustworthy leaders of change. We are, at present, a long way from this vision…”

This rather self-flagellating assertion appears to suggest that if only we can all work harder to please our political masters, eventually they will set us free. However this is based on an understanding of the nature of power that runs counter to the evidence. In 2005, Michael Gove wrote: “The reason I’m in Parliament is not really to see my colleagues win power, it is to see us at last in a position where we can give it up.” However since coming to office, Gove has appointed himself more than 50 new powers, including the ability to close a school without any opportunity for challenge, to insist that any new school that’s built becomes an academy, and whose Free Schools and Academies Act masquerades as a march to freedom when the reality is that such schools simply exchange local authority for central government control.

Can we really believe that politicians will hand all these powers back at some non-specified point in the future, once we’ve somehow proven that we are worth our salt? Even if we can envisage a time when teachers have “grasped all the nettles and made all the hard changes” – whatever that means – politicians would claim any improvement as evidence of their deft governance, and would tighten their grip ever further. We know this to be true, and yet we don’t want to entertain it because as a profession we have developed a sort of collective Stockholm Syndrome.


An idea hat has come of age

Freeing education policy decisions from political control is not a new idea, and nor is it radical.

The Liberal Democrats had a policy in their last manifesto to pass an ‘Education Freedom Act’ which promised to “prevent politicians from meddling in the affairs of education”.

The fact that one of the major political parties had this in their last manifesto suggests that this is an idea that has come of age.

People have talked about Finland so much in recent years that it has almost become derivative to mention it. And yet the message from Finland is as clear as the day is long:

Less is More

Less cramming of literacy before age 7. Less inspections. Less testing. Just take a step back, and let the teaching profession – and, in turn, the student population – find their groove. Just see how quickly we rise up the international league tables.

In tomorrow’s post, I will examine the proposed  College as a champion of research.

* What is ‘thought leadership’? A couple of the essays mention it. Does it mean ‘telling people what to think’..?

Sue Cowley (@Sue_Cowley) – A spoonful of sugar?

Reblogged from Sue Cowley’s blog, Lighting a Fire

Call me cynical, call me suspicious, but I do wonder at the timing of this whole Royal College of Teaching idea. At this moment in time there are a lot of things the profession should be very worried about: a controversial new draft curriculum, the introduction of performance related pay, the erosion of degree and postgraduate level teaching qualifications, the increasing power of Ofsted, the increasing privatisation of education. But this RCoT idea has got lots of people buzzing with enthusiasm, and rightly so.

Before we begin, let’s just get a very clear focus on why we would want to have some kind of professional body. Let’s not forget that the main, over-riding aim of such a body should be to improve the education of all our children.

Tom Bennett offers a clear insight into the possibilities – both the upsides, and the potential negatives. (Plus, as he mentions, we have/had a couple of these already – a College of Teaching, which I’d actually never heard of, and the GTC, which we rejected before it could find its feet.) Interestingly, Bennett asks, what if a RCoT started to appropriate the award of QTS (this would please Gove, who will do anything to keep teachers away from the Marxists who he believes run university education departments). Bennett feels that if we get it right, it could ‘change the lives of millions of children for the better’ (although I suspect this is rather over stating the case). Debra Kidd offers an optimistic take on the subject, and she very sensibly decided to ask the kids what they thought about good teaching. Old Andrew throws up his hands and reminds politicians that everyone in teaching has an agenda. Either we care about the kids (the fluffy, child centered romantics), or we care about ‘the intellect’ (the rational, classicist types) but he’s pretty sure we can’t do both.

I’d like to offer my own take on this, starting with what for me is a fairly central question: why ‘Royal’? Yes, I’m aware that the Surgeons, Engineers, Physicians and Nurses ‘have’ one, and they don’t seem to mind, so why shouldn’t we? But hang on a sec, aren’t we living in a 21st century democracy now? Is it really the case that we need some kind of approval from the Royal family (a Royal Charter, presumably) to legitimise a professional body for us? I’m no anti-royalist, actually, I can’t be bothered (they just don’t feature that highly in my life). But please could we just stop for a moment and ask ourselves what exactly is that word/family going to add? I do wonder if this is one more method (Teach First being a prime example) to encourage some decent Oxbridge types, with a proper private education into teaching – give it a nice elitist tag to make sure mater and pater approve. (Please note that as a state comp educated free school meals child who quit school at 16, I’m gritting my teeth as I say that).

I have this image in my head of a meeting at the DfE. Gove says to his advisors “We’ve got to do something about these pesky teachers. I’ve got a whole load of medicine to give them, and it’s gonna hurt. Ha, ha, ha. How can I sweeten the pill?” Then one of Gove’s fresh faced advisors, not long out of Eton/Oxford, pipes up: “Offer them Royal, that’ll get ‘em hooked.”

As a profession, are we completely sure that the word ‘Royal’ hasn’t made us go: “Ooooh, I can say that I’m a member of the ‘Royal College of Teachers’, that sounds good. I fancy a bit of that.” Are we so sure that this is not a distraction or a panacea, designed to deflect us from all the other changes that are currently taking place? A spoonful of sugar, as it were, to sweeten all the bitter pills?

I’m a member of the absolutely brilliant Society of Authors – (no ‘Royal’ required) – and they act as a superb professional body for writers. They give contractual and legal advice, they organise training events and meetings, they fight against changes that might damage the profession and they act as a ‘voice’ for the profession. We have the equivalent in teaching already, you know. It’s called the teaching unions. Much of what’s going on now (free schools, academies) seems designed specifically to weaken the power that those unions give us, when governments want to change our contractual terms.

I think it’s fair to say that what many teachers are after is simply a way to get the government (of whatever persuasion) to stop telling us how to do our job. It seems as though everyone and anyone can have an opinion on what’s best for education, simply because we all went to school. Now, whilst Jeremy Hunt isn’t necessarily popular with health professionals, you don’t catch him going into a hospital and ‘seeing how great it feels to do some surgery’ as Stephen Twigg did recently in a teaching context. I would say yes, we do need a non governmental body to decide how to achieve the very best outcomes for children. But that we might do well to base it on a body such as NICE (the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence).

NICE is independent of government, but it has regulatory teeth. It ‘values the opinions of parents, carers and the general public’ – something that seems entirely missing in the current debates on how education should be run. The clinical guidelines that it develops offer examples of best practice for healthcare professionals – something my two graduate nurse friends rate very highly. Couldn’t we have something similar for teachers, on educational topics? That way, the guidance would be the remit of a group of reflective and collaborative professionals, rather than something that the government of the day makes up, based on their political persuasions.

Not ‘RCOT’ then (bit of a mouthful, anyway) but ‘NITE’ – the National Institute for Teaching Excellence – how does that grab you?

Sue Cowley (@Sue_Cowley)