Mary Bousted: `A college will have to demonstrate its worth to school teachers and leaders'

1st January 2015 at 00:00
Mary Bousted, general secretary of the Association of Teachers and Lecturers, writes:

The great and the good are convinced that an independent body responsible for regulating teachers' professional standards and promoting teacher professional development is needed. Hence the government's invitation for expressions of interest to establish a College of Teaching.

It is generally recognised that for too long teachers have been buffeted by the ill winds of ill-informed politicians, whose latest fad is enthusiastically enforced by politically-driven inspection.

Teachers need a body that will support and advocate for the profession, which will produce, in consultation, intelligent professional standardsto replace the reductive, narrow set of competences imposed upon us at present.

Teachers need a body that articulates just what effective professional development should look like, and supports the (at present sorely neglected) concept that teachers, whose professional lives are about supporting pupil learning, have a right themselves, too, to be learners.

So the College could have an important role to play in the education landscape.

But if it is to work to achieve the ambitions outlined above, a college will have to do a few things, very well.

A college will need to chart a careful course, rendering to teachers those things that are central to their professional knowledge, expertise and practice - while accepting that democratically elected governments have a right to promote their education policies. This will entail the judgement of Solomon.

A college will have to demonstrate its worth to school teachers and leaders whose decision, whether to join, or to ignore, the college will have huge impact on any potential claims to legitimacy.

And finally, a college must be clear about what it will not do. It will not have any role in representing individual teachers, nor any role in pay and conditions negotiations.

The government is prepared to pump the college with initial funding. I don't think that this is a problem as long as the conditions attached do not impair the ability of the College to be detatched from, and independent of, party political agendas.

The road ahead for the college is rocky. Much has to be done to convince teachers, the majority of whom cared little for the demise of the General Teaching Council, that a college is needed. But I think that change is possible, and that the college is an idea whose time just might have come.

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