08 Dec 2014
If you're still waiting with bated breath for the answer to the question we posed on 20 Oct, the answer is, apparently, yes, we do need a college of teaching, but no, not necessarily a royal one.
This is according to both Nicky Morgan and David Laws - such a body will "allow teachers, like other professions, to set their own high standards for their members; to take a lead in improving the profession’s skills and abilities; and to champion higher standards for children".
In case anyone was thinking that the college sounds very like the GTC, scrapped by this government in the great bonfire of the quangos, we'd like to point out that it had very different aims, namely "to contribute to improving standards of teaching and the quality of learning, and to maintain and improve standards of professional conduct among teachers, in the interests of the public". See: previously we had teaching and learning then professional standards, now we have the two aims the other way round! Genius!
It seems that "the GTC came to act more as a lobby group for teachers,” according to one Whitehall source so it's easy to see why Gove couldn't allow it to continue. With the respected but (publicly) apolitical Angela McFarlane at the helm, the new college should be able to steer clear of this pitfall.
OK, so what can we hope for from the college? Well, first, a response to the DfE's Workload Challenge consultation - 43,000 responses from teachers about what makes the job tough. Teachers have been complaining about workload for donkey's years and this (I think) is the first time anyone has invited them to do so, albeit without any promise of action to follow and with an election scheduled before any action can be anticipated. If you've spent time in staffrooms you can probably anticipate what the response will be.
The eponymous challenge will be to do something constructive with it: the tabloids will undoubtedly report it as moaning, and the college, if it is to achieve anything, will have a battle on its hands to elevate the status of the profession to that of doctors and lawyers, after years of "more pay" industrial action.
The development of professional standards is an interesting one, too: Ofsted have made a very large contribution to these already; schools which fall below Good are those which have not managed to instill high standards among staff: good teachers follow these standards as part of their everyday life - as far as possible. So it's difficult to imagine what new standards the college will deliver, or what it will do to enhance the practice of those we already know about.
All of which may sound rather negative, but we support the development of the college and encourage our readers to take an interest - see for example this (rather badly produced) video from the recent roadshows and the website.
The government has a launched a consultation (closing 3 Feb) on the provision of the new college "led and owned by teachers themselves without interference from the government" - see gov.uk.
There is a sense that the college is going to be a sort of coordinating body for the work of teaching schools, but with a (renewed?) emphasis on standards at the heart of CPD and with an online presence that allows sharing of evidence-based good practice. Hopefully there will be some training available on how to generate this evidence as much practioner-based research seems to be a justification of "why our idea was a good one". Perhaps schoolzone should offer to help...
Anyway, questions asked in the consultation are:
Q1. What are the greatest impediments teachers and schools face in regularly undertaking high-quality professional development?
Q2. To what extent, and how, do teachers currently evaluate their professional development? What would support more rigorous evaluation?
Q3. Where should the balance of responsibility lie between teachers, schools and Government for ensuring that appropriate professional development is undertaken? How, in the longer term, might responsibility sit with a new independent professional body?
Q4. Despite the growing reach of the Teaching Schools network, are there areas where coverage of schools would remain a concern? How could any gaps be addressed?
Q5. What should the funding criteria be for Teaching Schools wishing to draw on the new funding pot for professional development? Should there, for example, be a requirement for Teaching Schools to work with a predetermined proportion of schools which are not already “good” or “outstanding”?
Q6. Will teachers benefit from an online platform that collates and presents evidence-based best practice?
Q7. In addition to the proposals outlined here, what other approaches would help schools to remove barriers and incentivise effective professional development for teachers?
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