'Politicians can live with an NHS where the professionals set the parameters. Why not education?'

18th February 2015 at 00:00

Joan McVittie, head of Woodside High in Tottenham and former ASCL president, writes:

During my one-year presidency of the heads' union ASCL in 2012, I had the privilege of working alongside the MP Charlotte Leslie and IoE director Chris Husbands while they explored the idea of setting up a National College of Teaching.

Charlotte was able to introduce us to key people from the Royal College of Surgeons, Physicians, and a few other medical areas where these colleges were long-established. We explored the origin and the benefits of such institutions and, on the basis of what we had learned, put this idea forward to the teaching profession. From there, as you know, the Prince’s Teaching Institute provided support and it now feels as though we are very close to the realisation of this initiative.

On a separate, but related, note, in 2013, I applied for and joined the board of the heart and lung transplant section of the NHS’s blood and transplant health authority as a lay person. I work alongside top heart and lung transplant surgeons and physicians to guide the principles on which of these transplants take place. It is absolutely apparent to me that these medical professionals are the individuals who should be making decisions about how the transplants are carried out, which hospitals and surgeons should be doing this and the method of dealing with both the donor families and the recipients. However, as a lay member, I am able to give a view about criteria for both donors and recipients. Under no circumstances would these doctors permit the government to dictate to them the surgical methods they would use nor, indeed, how they would communicate with their patients.

It is with the same logic that I totally believe that it is high time that the teaching profession took responsibility for determining the appropriate curriculum for their students, the pedagogy, the methods of assessment and everything else that goes towards providing a rounded education for our children.

In education, as with the health service, costs have to be met from the public purse. We therefore have a duty to listen to the government – and also to the public, after all, this is public money. However, to have content, methodology, etc, dictated by government and other officials who change as frequently as there are elections means that education is dependent on the vagaries of a range of political ideals and research that sometimes has a limited basis.

A College of Teaching must take responsibility for teachers and for education. It must ensure that teachers continue with their professional development so that they grow and provide the best for the children in their care.

I am delighted to say that all three parties are in agreement with a College of Teaching as this involves a loss of power from central government. However, politicians and the public have been able to live with an NHS where the professionals set the parameters and the guidelines and I see no reason why they should be unable to do the same with education.

For more views on the College of Teaching, visit our special collection.


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