Could College of Teaching plans stem staff exodus?

6th February 2015 at 00:00
Hopes that chartered teacher status will increase satisfaction

The creation of "chartered teacher" status could stem the tide of people leaving the profession, according to a leading figure behind plans for a College of Teaching.

After TES revealed last week that the number of teachers quitting the classroom was at its highest level for a decade, the Claim Your College coalition has unveiled its vision for how a royal college would operate.

It estimates that average membership fees for the voluntary organisation would initially be pound;70 per year and anticipates signing up some 50,000 members within four years, should the plans be given the green light by the Department for Education. A scheme for full chartered membership of the college would launch in 2019.

Chartered teacher status is envisaged as a gold standard for teachers to aspire to, allowing them to progress in their careers while remaining in the classroom. Eventually, it could also become a requirement for promotion or employment.

Angela McFarlane, chief executive of the existing College of Teachers, one of the partners in the Claim Your College coalition, told TES it could help reduce the number of people who were leaving the profession.

The latest DfE figures reveal that almost 50,000 people quit teaching in the 12 months to November 2013, 25 per cent more than four years earlier.

"We're looking at a situation where something like a third of schools struggle to attract and retain teachers," Professor McFarlane said. "The idea of chartered status is to [provide] the option of a pathway for ambitious teachers who want to stay in the classroom, so they don't have to choose between taking on a management role or changing careers.

"In order to become a chartered teacher, you would have to show evidence that you are reflective and critical of your own practice, that you know how to use evidence and research, and that you evaluate the impact of your teaching on learners.

"These standards won't be set by some mandarin in Whitehall but your peers in your profession."

The coalition behind the college plans envisages that chartered status should eventually become "an achievement that headteachers and employers value and come to regard as a normal expectation of those seeking promotion or employment".

The blueprint for the college, published this week, stresses that although chartered status would initially be reserved for classroom teachers, membership would be open to "anyone with an interest in education", in order to allow the organisation to grow "as quickly as possible".

Further specialist roles, such as chartered teaching assistant or chartered exam officer, could later be made available.

The move to invite a wider cohort of members has come under fire from teacher-blogger Andrew Old, who said it was an "insult" to the professional identity of teachers.

In a blog responding to the plans, he writes: "The efforts to accommodate every vested interest in education have resulted in a plan that is not even about teachers, and may even be a threat to their professionalism."

But Professor McFarlane stressed that the coalition hoped the two distinct tiers of membership would keep everyone happy.

"While associate membership of the college could be quite broad, chartered status could be for practising teachers only," she said. "There are two ends of the spectrum: those who believe very strongly that membership should only be for classroom-based teachers, and others who say it should be open to anyone who might have something to contribute; a broader community of practice."

The report adds that the College of Teaching could ultimately be given the power to "set and assure standards for initial entry into teaching".

Opposition to the plans has also come from within the trade union movement. The general secretary of the NASUWT teaching union, Chris Keates, described the proposals as "flawed", and said the claim that the government would fund the college without political interference was as "risible as it is insidious". She also criticised the "lack of clarity" about the college's aims and objectives.

The latest proposals stress that the college would be "independent of unions and will not seek to represent teachers on matters such as pay and conditions".

No strings attached: finding funding

In total, pound;11.9 million in funding is expected to be required to get the College of Teaching off the ground by 2019.

Some financial support has been offered by the Department for Education, but the Claim Your College coalition has stressed that any help must be on a "fire and forget" basis, with no strings attached.

Organisers are currently in talks with a "range of charitable and philanthropic sources", and also intend to establish a "crowd-funding platform to recruit founding members" from individuals keen to offer their backing.

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