The collective teacher voice opposing grammars could evolve into a stronger, more influential, profession

15th September 2016 at 15:16
Collective Teacher voice
There is so much in government policy to object to that this former teacher thinks it might force the profession to at last speak with one voice

Sometimes it feels as if Tory leaders only make radical decisions so as to achieve a longer entry under “criticism” on their Wikipedia page.

Certainly, David Cameron will have earned a few extra paragraphs by his decision to offer Brexit to the people.

Now, Theresa May already seems to be following suit with her divisive grammar school policy revival which is being viscerally taken apart: it is perhaps the first time that the NUT and Sir Michael Wilshaw are singing from the same hymn sheet.

That’s before we even get started on May’s plans for academisation, faith schools and school funding. She has ignored the most pressing concerns - workload, teacher recruitment/retention and pay - and the advice of the profession too.

However, believe it or not, I think there might be a silver lining to this apparently horrific situation. Is it possible that the alienation and devaluing of teachers through lack of autonomy and moving goalposts will see shared discontent as a rationale for better communication between teachers in different contexts?

While most teachers don’t want to strike nor deny their students a day of education, necessary measures will be taken to address the malaise felt by teachers towards decision-makers. Just look at how the junior doctors, who have been at the receiving end of vindictive policy making, have come together.

What we must hope for is teachers using this shared appetite for change as a force for good. Of course marches and strikes can be necessary, we must be mindful, therefore, of the positive impact that the collective voice can have on the whole profession.

And we can’t just rely on the unions to do it for us. We have to create local networks and hubs of teachers who are committed to sharing best practice, research and advice to address issues at a school and policy level.

We might look to Teach First’s local area networks in which teachers often act collectively to address disadvantage in their local communities. Growing, collaborative, local networks are critical for any hope of long-term positive change being seen in the education space.

Despite the rise in controversial, anecdotal and misguided education policy, we need to view it as an opportunity for teachers to really demonstrate the power of the collective voice.

It has to be loud and it has to be done together. Out of crisis can come opportunity.

Oliver Beach is a former inner-city teacher, Teach First ambassador and star of the BBC show Tough Young Teachers

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