This may be our last chance for respect;Letter

2nd July 1999 at 01:00
"A job for Mr Justice Collins" - what an excellent letter. (TES, June 11). It certainly reminded me of the lack of respect our professionalism is afforded by the Government, local authorities, the Office for Standards in Education, and the public in general.

After more than 30 years in the teaching profession, my view is that we have only ourselves to blame.

I was disappointed that more head and governing bodies did not seize the opportunity given by the grant-maintained movement. Instead of seeing it as a political manoeuvre to break up local authorities, I saw it as an opportunity for schools to stand on their own feet and be responsible for the "running of their own ship". We bought back the services we required from local authorities (not necessarily our own). This made authorities more customer-driven. We proved that we could run schools without the intervention of outside agencies. Was not this an opportunity to be more professional?

Opportunities were missed when the Schools' Council was originally mooted. Internecine arguments between unions have done little to improve our standing as a profession.

We are being visited again with an opportunity, via the general teaching council, to develop a body similar to the General Medical Council and British Dental Council. It is important that the profession does not waste this chance.

Teachers have been instructed to go in one direction; then it changes and they all willingly shuffle in the new direction. At the same time they are criticised for shuffling too slowly or too quickly. We have been grossly patronised. In my view we should stop having ill-conceived, short-term solutions imposed on us.

This professional opportunity, however, brings with it a professional responsibility. We must sufficiently care for our students that we become prepared to say "Yes, there are a few poor schools and a few poor teachers and will ensure that, if after remedial support, there has been no marked improvement, then we will remove from them the status of qualified teacher."

In the absence of rigour and high standards and a zealous high regard for the profession of teaching, other forces will move in to do it for us. We are, after all, spending public money and our students deserve the very best we can do for them. Only when we take a grip on our own profession and weed out the few incompetents will I be willing to agree that we have grown up.

Stuart Holt

Headmaster

Clitheroe Royal Grammar School

York Street

Clitheroe, Lancashire

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