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Plans for 'College of Teaching' fail to convince teachers

The majority of teachers are yet to be convinced of the need for a College of Teaching to act as an independent body for their profession, a new survey has revealed.

The proposed professional body for teachers, brokered by the Prince’s Teaching Institute (PTI) and currently being developed by a specially-appointed commission, would be intended to give teachers a greater say over education policy, professional standards, curriculum and assessment, as well as offering support in developing their own teaching skills.

However a new poll, commissioned by the Sutton Trust and carried out by the National Foundation for Education Research, found that more than half were either against, or unsure of the plans.

Of more than 1,100 teachers surveyed, 41 per cent said they supported the plans, 17 per cent opposed them and 41 per cent had not yet made up their minds. In the secondary sector, 45 per cent of teachers were in favour, compared to just 37 per cent of those working in primaries.

Under the latest proposals, membership of the professional body would cost between £30 and £130 per year. Of those who supported the plans, 26 per cent said they wouldn't be prepared to pay for it and 47 per cent said they would not be prepared to pay more than £30.

Lee Elliot Major, the Sutton Trust’s director of development and policy, said that while the college has “real potential” to improve the “status and professional development of teachers”, it is “crucial that it wins their backing and a willingness to fund its independence”.

Chris Pope, chair of the commission for the college, acknowledged that there was still “low awareness” among teachers about the nature of the proposals.

“In the PTI’s earlier research, we found that when this and the benefits are explained, the number of teachers who opposed the idea dropped from 17 per cent to 7 per cent and the number who would pay £75-£175 rose from under 1 per cent to over 60 per cent. This highlights the importance of this organisation needing to grow from within the profession and not be seen as a compulsory imposition,” he added.

At the NAHT heads' union's annual conference last weekend, 98.4 per cent of delegates supported a manifesto which included a call for a College of Teaching.

General secretary Russell Hobby said: "We back a College of Teaching. If the profession wants to wrest back control over its destiny it needs an independent voice based on evidence. A college could crowd out political interference.

 "The college needs to begin cautiously, even modestly, and win the trust of teachers by providing a voice they need. Then it will gather momentum and influence."                                                                                        

Plans for the college were also supported by ATL general secretary Mary Bousted. “We strongly believe that teachers and other education professionals should determine how children are taught and that politicians should not be involved in the detail of how teachers teach,” she said.

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