Chartering a revolution

12th November 2004 at 00:00
As the first groups of chartered teachers begin to emerge, it is timely to consider the place of the chartered teacher within a school.

Policy dictates that they decide on an individual basis to enrol in a CT programme, which they fund themselves.

For every two modules undertaken successfully, they are guaranteed an increment in their salary. They are therefore in a very different position in relation to how they negotiate their colleagues' involvement in collaborative professional enquiry.

Aspiring chartered teachers are not doing a private course of study that impinges on no one but themselves. They are having to enact a new way of being a teacher, which requires them to involve their colleagues. This impacts on established roles, relationships and professional identity.

In discussion with students, it is very clear to us that they are having to invent the role as they go. They are having to make spaces for themselves to function within a school system, which has as yet no place for them.

Our evidence from talking with our students suggests that:

* Initiating a collaborative project without the legitimation of being a manager can be difficult.

* CTs cannot necessarily rely on the backing of their local authority or school.

* For some class and subject teachers, it is difficult to find a place in relation to the development plan.

* Systematic collaboration has not until now been a feature of teaching.

* The culture, ethos and structures of most schools do not really enable collaboration, which means that we are asking these teachers to lead the revolution from the back.

In discussions around the country, it is becoming clear that the place of the CT within our schools is not yet fully understood, or even considered in many settings. Unlike candidates for the Scottish Qualification for Headship, these teachers are not sponsored by their local authority or backed officially by their headteacher. They are not part of the system, as yet.

This allows the growth of a misconception in some staffrooms that a chartered teacher is someone who works for his or her own personal gain without responsibility or accountability to anyone else, and who is being rewarded for doing a course that they have chosen to do. They are perceived as positioning themselves as good teachers rather than being positioned as good teachers by others, and this can give rise to resentment.

But it is by no means all doom and gloom. Some teachers, in some settings, are feeling supported and being encouraged. Some schools are finding spaces and places to develop the role of chartered teachers. We are hearing of schools that are welcoming discussion with their aspiring CTs and encouraging them to enquire with their colleagues into a problem of shared concern directly linked to the school improvement plan.

In one local authority where improvement planning is based on action enquiry, aspiring CTs are finding that the role makes more sense to their colleagues.

Where CTs are being well supported and encouraged, these benefits are also being felt by others in their school community. The process of collaborative enquiry into pupil learning encourages professional dialogue and debate and fosters evidence-informed practice.

This can surely only be to the benefit of all.

Alison Fox Jenny Reeves University of Stirling

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