Arise if you like the concept of a royal college

12th October 2012 at 01:00
Universities, schools and unions back plans for such an institution

Surgeons have one. Psychiatrists have one. So, too, do nurses. But now support is building for teachers to have their own royal college, as part of a move to "reclaim their professionalism".

The idea of a Royal College of Teaching was first mooted by the Commons Education Select Committee in May as a way to ensure, as Conservative MP Charlotte Leslie put it, that "excellent practice is celebrated, and proper standards are set, pushed and protected".

Since then, the idea has generated a head of steam. Last month, the Prince's Teaching Institute (PTI) held an exploratory workshop to consider the feasibility of such a college and what its remit might be.

The verdict from the representatives of universities, subject associations, schools and unions present was unequivocal: it was unanimously agreed that the plans should be taken forward. While the college's precise remit has not yet been finalised, it would include promoting teachers' professional development, providing evidence to inform education policy, and bringing practice and research together.

The development process is being brokered by the PTI. "There is clearly an appetite within the profession for a college of teaching that would be independent from, but work with, the government, and that would involve itself not in pay and conditions, but in upholding professional standards," said co-director Chris Pope.

The classroom unions have all expressed support for the concept of a college. Writing in this week's TES, Mary Bousted and Russell Hobby, general secretaries of the ATL and the NAHT heads' union respectively, give their backing to the creation of a "fully independent body that would create and police standards and practice, free of the absurd political interference under which the profession currently labours".

It would be "not a recreation of the General Teaching Council for England," they write, "but a body developed from the ground up, owned by teachers and respected for its independent stance".

Dr Bousted and Mr Hobby criticise the decision by education secretary Michael Gove to remove the requirement that academies and free school must appoint qualified teachers.

"Imagine the public reaction if a health secretary made a parallel announcement: surgeons no longer need to be qualified; they can operate if they show aptitude and the right attitude," they write. "The coalition government is licensing the disrespect of teachers. If politicians will not take care of the profession, we will have to do it for ourselves."

They also stress the need to acknowledge that "not every teacher is a good teacher". "The number of poor teachers is small, but we do the profession no favours to deny they exist," they write.

Dr Bousted and Mr Hobby also implicitly criticise the aggressive stance taken by the NUT and NASUWT unions over lesson observations. In their ongoing industrial action, members of the two largest classroom unions are instructed to boycott all observations if their school exceeds the former limit of three hours a year, which was scrapped last month.

"The debate over lesson observation sums up the misuse of professionalism," Dr Bousted and Mr Hobby write. "Once again, it can be done badly, but that is an argument for good observation, not no observation."

See Comment, pages 44-45.

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