Increasingly, the Government praises the quality of teachers and pays tribute to their efforts. There is a new mood music playing: trust teachers and their professional judgment; get off their backs. But has the tune really changed, or just the lyrics?
The wider public has always thought well of teachers, who consistently score highly in opinion poll ratings. But how deep does that trust run and how meaningful is it if it does not translate into active engagement by all parents in their children's learning?
Given the climate of disdain and distrust that prevailed during the 1980s and early 1990s, it would be surprising if teachers' professional self-esteem had not been dented. But I believe we are now in a better position to rebuild and develop a sense of pride in our profession and its reputation in the eyes of the public.
There are many ways to define the values and characteristics of a profession. Commonly these include defined entry standards, an expectation of continued learning and a commitment to public service. For teachers, professional values are often expressed through their personal commitment and relate directly to where they work and the pupils that they teach. So professional registration as a means of assuring the wider public of teachers' quality may not seem immediately necessary. Yet if we believe that teacher education makes a difference and that we are better teachers because we have studied for the role, it follows that the public should know that children are being taught by professionals of good standing.
That is what basic registration involves. But a more active type of professional registration could not only deepen public trust in the profession, but also demonstrate to decision-makers that teachers are well placed to shape teaching and learning in schools.
Other professions require members to provide regular evidence that they have taken part in continuing professional development. That is their interpretation of active registration, but not what I have in mind. After all, teachers specialise in learning, so we know that clocking up a certain amount of study does not guarantee that learning has taken place. Many of us have experienced poorly designed CPD. The good news is that we have abundant evidence of what makes for effective CPD. Teacher associations have worked hard to ensure an entitlement to it. They recognise that a commitment to learning is a hallmark of a profession and the key to ever higher standards of practice.
From the start of this term, we have a performance management framework that should lead to teachers' CPD needs being identified, which is the first step to having those needs met.
So most qualified teachers in maintained schools would already meet my basic criteria for active registration a commitment to, and participation in, continuing work-based learning. But what of supply teachers? We know from our annual survey that they are at a disadvantage in their access to CPD. Opportunities for them and for those returning to teaching after a break need to be extended and improved.
As a former PE teacher, taking a more active approach has a natural appeal. But having achieved a basic level of fitness, can we demonstrate to everyone the benefits of a commitment to CPD that is recognised and accredited by teachers themselves, and that gives true professional ownership of pedagogy and practice?
Active registration is one piece of the teacher professionalism jigsaw. The General Teaching Council's role in supporting that is something we want to debate and develop in the coming months and years and we want to hear your views.
is chief executive of the General Teaching Council for England