Bea Groves, former president of the Institute for Learning, recently authored an interesting piece entitled ‘Where the lfL went wrong, and why the ETF has already failed with its legacy’.
Her article reflects on the legacy of the IfL and draws comparisons with the development of the College of Teaching, the new independent chartered professional body for the teaching profession, arguing: “The 'new' College of Teaching also blunders at the outset for many of the same reasons."
The article outlines some important points. All those I have spoken to about the College of Teaching agree that it will need to be truly democratic and that it must ensure rigorous standards for membership, so that none of its members find themselves in the position of “defending a weak position like a polar bear on a shrinking ice floe” that Bea Groves outlines.
However, her argument misses some crucial points of difference between the College of Teaching and the IfL. One of these is the need for the new College of Teaching to be financially self-sufficient in the long term. The blueprint published by the Prince’s Teaching Institute (PTI) in 2014 identified that this would probably only be feasible with membership fees.
This point has been reinforced by the 400-strong Claim Your College coalition, which has always collectively worked to the ethos that any further offers of financial support will be accepted only on a "no-strings" basis and an understanding that it cannot compromise the college’s independence.
Any funding from government will be for start-up investment purposes, allowing the college to reach sustainability from membership income more rapidly. With the government therefore not being the paymaster of the college, it will not suffer from the government calling the tune, or have an issue with speaking truth to power.
The demise of the IfL gave no joy to any of us who have been involved in the College of Teaching. The 2014 blueprint included responses to extensive consultation with the education community and the commission gathered oral evidence from more than 40 people and organisations, including Toni Fazieli, former IfL chief executive, who was generous with her time and in sharing the pitfalls that she felt the college should avoid.
A lively debate is taking place around the exact details of the structure of membership for the College of Teaching – one that many quarters of the FE sector have shown interest around in recent weeks.
The blueprint and proposal put forward by the Claim Your College coalition suggests different tiers of membership that would allow any interested party to join. It is, of course, for the board of trustees to take that debate further forward on their appointment in early October, but the Claim Your College coalition is uncomfortable with the idea of a College of Teaching excluding people who wish to join and can demonstrate the excellent teaching practice that membership will require.
As Anne-Marie Duguid, head of teaching and learning at SSAT, recently said at an event: “We all need to own the college to ensure it is authentic, aspirational and absolutely led by the profession. There are so many reasons that we could argue as to why this should not happen. We have done this for years, but we have our chance now where so much of the education community have come together and passionately want the college to become a reality. Membership will not be compulsory and that path will be determined by the profession, as all professional bodies should be and are."
This is why it was so important to have a teacher-led selection committee that represented an excellent cross-section of phases, region, ethnicity and professional bodies to appoint the college’s board of trustees.
Any teacher in the country was invited to apply to become a founding trustee and all teachers are being invited to run awareness-raising sessions in their locality to debate and discuss the current developments.
The College of Teaching is not here to compete with existing organisations, it is here to collaborate and work in partnership and we are mindful that it is early days. This will include working closely with the Education and Training Foundation (ETF) and the recently launched Society for Education and Training (Set), which is taking on a specialist and needed role supporting the FE sector.
The call for founding trustees of the College of Teaching has had an extremely strong response from practising teachers and headteachers. So the college is indeed being born where Ms Groves wishes it to be – “at the legendary chalkface where the work gets done and the standards of teaching and learning are enacted”.
I would like to leave my final words to Iain Hulland, an executive headteacher who recently said: “Where is the College of Teaching? It is in each and every one of us. We need to put the profession first and ourselves last."
I do hope you will join us on this journey.