The College of Teachers, formerly the College of Preceptors with a royal charter dating from 1849, plans to be the independent body to "assert the intellectual authority, leadership and professional excellence of teachers".
Membership, costing pound;54, will be open to any teacher who agrees to abide by a 12-point code of practice. This requires them to "conduct themselves at all times with integrity", "maintain high standards of personal behaviour" and "take no improper action which might injure or malign the reputation of other professionals".
Members will be allowed to use the letters MCT after their names and they will be entitled to certain privileges such as reading rights in university libraries.
The college aims to work alongside the proposed General Teaching Council, which will award or remove the right to teach - much as the Royal College of Surgeons co-exists with the General Medical Council. "We do not act as keepers of the gate for entry into the profession," said Professor John Turner, president of the new college. Run by teachers for teachers, it will work with any professional body which shares its concerns.
Seven subject associations and 100 schools have taken out institutional membership. The number of members is expected to grow from 2,000 to 5,000 over the next six months, with a five-year target of 15 to 20 per cent of the profession.
Mandy Wilding, deputy head of William Hildyard primary school in Market Deeping, Lincolnshire, and a member of the college's professional committee said: "My aspiration for the college is that it will refocus the public perception of what really inspires and motivates us as teachers."
The college's royal charter enables it to award qualifications. The former College of Preceptors was one of the first bodies to provide formal qualifications - and pioneered management training for the profession.