In the first-ever attempt to codify the moral basis of teaching, the profession may soon have its own version of the doctors' Hippocratic oath - a set of 11 guiding principles which should underlie everything they do.
The precepts, which include having the moral courage to challenge official opinion, were drawn up by the Universities Council for the Education of Teachers.
Professor John Tomlinson of Warwick University, one of the authors, emphasised that "they are not intended to be seen as the 11 commandments imposed from above; they are the result of two years of discussion with teachers and teacher-educators, and should be seen as the basis for further discussion. We don't want teachers thinking that we're trying to tell them how to behave. "
Professor Tomlinson has been campaigning for seven years for a General Teaching Council, which the Labour Government is committed to introduce in a Bill planned for the autumn. The following 11 principles, he said, could be adopted by the GTC, provided that it has the power to regulate professional standards and conduct: * Intellectual integrity: teachers should have a respect for truth, the canon of knowledge and the importance of evidence, and should cultivate a "lively scepticism" * Vocational integrity: involves the duty to keep up to date with subject and professional knowledge and to develop new skills * Moral courage: teachers should show independence of mind and action and be prepared to teach subject matter or use methods that are officially frowned upon "if intellectual or vocational integrity so demand" * Exercise altruism: pupils' interests must come first; teachers should respect pupils' individuality * Exercise impartiality: teachers must avoid favouring one individual or group * Exercise human insight: teachers should be sensitive to the diverse social backgrounds of their pupils, ensure equality of opportunity and avoid stereotyping * Assume the responsibility of influence: teachers should be aware that they can have a powerful impact on their pupils' lives * Exercise humility: teachers must be willing to acknowledge that they are fallible, and remember that "their most significant measure of success is a pupil who can learn without their aid" * Exercise collegiality: respect and work co-operatively with colleagues, be prepared to learn from others and accept that disciplines have common as well as separate concerns * Exercise partnership: recognise and make use of pupils' talents, and the talents of their families and associates * Exercise vigilance with regard to professional responsibilities and aspirations: be willing to promote the profession by commenting publicly on education policy.