Still professional

5th May 2006 at 01:00
Colin Richards' concern at the erosion of professional judgement raises the wider issue of the changing nature of teacher professionalism.

The drive to apply synthetic phonics universally is just the latest example of pressure on teacher professionalism, which began in earnest with the 1988 Education Reform Act. This did not stipulate teaching method but set a climate in which it became increasingly common for governments to impose requirements in the classroom.

But teachers are, by necessity, creative and ingenious. They no longer work behind closed doors but in dialogue with colleagues sharing evidence, knowledge and skills. Effective teachers continue to exercise professional judgement in developing practice.

Innovation is alive and well in our schools, but requires constant negotiation and adaptation to the pressure of external demands. It thrives best in schools where the head knows how to swim with the tide of policy without drowning in initiatives, and how to be creative in adopting and adapting external interventions.

Carol Adams

Chief executive, General Teaching Council for England

Whittington House

19-30 Alfred Place, London WC1

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