Dame Alison Peacock has been appointed the College of Teaching’s first chief executive, TES can reveal. And the primary head does not view “failure as an option”.
But she accepts that her role in developing the body – designed to offer high-quality, continuous professional development for teachers – will be a “huge challenge”.
The College aims to raise the status of the profession by helping teachers to share knowledge and best practice. But it has faced opposition and wariness from unions – amid fears it will lack independence from the government – and apparent apathy from teachers.
A crowdfunding campaign earlier this year secured less than 10 per cent of its target.
Dame Alison told TES that the campaign had been a “setback”, but said she was confident the College would go “way beyond” the target of 5,000 members in two years .
“I am not worried about attracting support. I think it will be there,” the executive head of Wroxham Primary School, in Hertfordshire, said. “I don’t see failure as an option.”
She revealed that the annual membership could be pitched as low as £29 to encourage more teachers to join. Previous suggestions had been that it could be as high as £80.
'Here to stay'
Dame Alison added that the original target of signing up just 1 per cent of the profession in two years was “not very ambitious”.
“A lot of things in education feel like a fly-by-night, but this is different,” she said. “This is here to stay, if the profession gets behind it.”
However, teachers may have to wait until January to sign up while a website is finalised, despite previous plans to launch this autumn. Dame Alison said: “I am a bit like Tigger and want to get on with things, so I understand it can be quite frustrating.
“But we have got to be careful not to run before we can walk. Everything needs to be about quality.”
The new chief executive made a plea for support from the rest of the education community. “This is a once in a lifetime opportunity for the profession,” she said. “But I can’t do it alone.
“We are big on ideas but small on resources. It’s about connecting things up, not taking things away. We hope that organisations will support us. This is not a one-woman band. We need to make sure that we are known and seen as part of the solution,” she added.
But scepticism still exists within the profession from those who fear that the College will struggle to remain independent of the government, especially in light of the £5 million funding agreed by ministers.
There have also been suspicions that the organisation will be like the former compulsory General Teaching Council for England (GTC) – which was criticised for being driven by politicians and heavy-handed in regulating the profession, a role that the College will not have.
Dame Alison said: “The GTC was a very different organisation, but people do draw parallels. GTC became associated with people that didn’t do what they should do. It felt as if it was something that was imposed upon us.
“My style of leadership is that we get the best out of people when we trust them. It’s about opportunity, not about finding people out. [The College] is not compulsory.”
The TES columnist acknowledged that the College must be owned by its members in the long-term to ensure independence.
“The only way this will work is if people buy into it,” she said. “The only thing that can hold us back now is that teachers may think it’s not for them.”
To encourage thousands of teachers to join up, Dame Alison says she will listen to both supporters and critics and try to inspire education professionals to get involved.
But she does not plan to “hector” teachers about the College, as she doesn’t think that will work. Instead, Dame Alison hopes to spread examples of how sharing good practice can work and benefit all.
She said: “It’s about helping them to see that by connecting up with others they can improve education for young people.”
If you have any ideas on how you think the College should develop, contact Dame Alison on email@example.com