College of Teaching dreams close to becoming a reality

12th December 2014 at 00:00
Government endorses plans for independent professional body

A College of Teaching could eventually be responsible for managing teacher training and qualifications, it has emerged.

Proposals for the profession's own royal college were formally backed by ministers this week, with education secretary Nicky Morgan announcing that government funding could be made available to get the long-awaited project off the ground. But teachers have stressed that the proposed independent body must remain free from political interference.

The college would give teachers a greater say in professional standards, curriculum and assessment, as well as offering support in skills development, but would play no role in representing members on issues relating to pay and conditions.

Schools minister David Laws said that the college would put teachers "on an equal footing with other high-status professions like law and medicine".

A public consultation, launched this week, called for expressions of interest from organisations keen to get the college up and running. Significantly, the document reveals that the institution could be handed some regulatory functions "in relation to teacher training and development". These could include managing the allocation of teacher training places and awarding qualified teacher status, duties that are currently undertaken by the National College for Teaching and Leadership.

The move was welcomed by Alison Peacock, a member of the commission set up to develop plans for the college.

"It's helpful for the government to signal that, ultimately, if the college were as successful as one would hope it would be, there would be scope for coming into the territory that has previously been owned by government," she said. "That opens it up to the prospect of something that goes beyond political ideology."

Ms Peacock, who is also headteacher of the Wroxham School in Potters Bar, Hertfordshire, added: "This does need to be an independent organisation, [run] by teachers, for teachers. It's brilliant to have cross-party support, but there is a real recognition that this is something that needs to be encouraged but independent."

The Department for Education has said that the college could take on responsibility for "professional standards and CPD, moving stewardship of the profession out of the hands of the government and to the profession".

The government has also unveiled plans for a new fund to support "high-quality, evidence-based professional development programmes". Louis Coiffait, chief executive of NAHT Edge, a union for aspiring school leaders, described the idea as a "TripAdvisor-style website which will help to gather evidence of which training `works' best".

He added: "Although these are early-stage plans from the government, they are an important step in the right direction. All teachers need support in developing their skills."

Although the DfE has revealed that it could offer some start-up funding to help establish the college, TES understands that other bodies behind the project - such as the Prince's Teaching Institute (PTI), the Teacher Development Trust and the existing College of Teachers - are also keen to secure financial backing through crowdsourcing and philanthropic donations.

Christopher Pope, co-director of the PTI - which has brokered the early development of the College of Teaching - said the government support would "help accelerate the process" of getting the institution off the ground. "We will do everything that we can to help nurture the wide coalition across the whole education sector behind this idea," he said.

A blueprint for the college, published earlier this year, proposed that membership would be voluntary, with fees ranging from pound;30 to pound;130 per year, but the details have not been finalised.

In August, deputy prime minister Nick Clegg became the first government minister to publicly signal support for the project. He told TES that the government should move from "passive acceptance" of the plans to "actively supporting" them.

The proposal has been supported by teachers' and school leaders' unions, but NASUWT general secretary Chris Keates warned that it was doomed to failure without a change in government policy.

"A College of Teaching can never succeed unless the conditions are right. It requires a fundamental change of government policy, including the reinstatement of the requirement for qualified teacher status and a proper national system of regulation of, and entry into, the profession," she said.

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