College of Teaching defiant after crowdfunding ‘hiccup’
Organisers of the embryonic College of Teaching insist that their plans are still on course, despite the failure of a campaign to crowdfund the development of the new professional body.
They had hoped to meet a target of 1,000 donors by the end of yesterday, but had made just over 200 as TES went to press. A financial goal of raising £250,000 was also on course to fall short – by more than 90 per cent.
A college spokeswoman insisted: “The crowdfunding campaign is just a hiccup. It’s just one piece of the jigsaw. The college is in good shape. We are the tortoise, not the hare.”
But one prominent supporter – Sir Kevan Collins, chief executive of the Education Endowment Foundation, is concerned that teachers could be about to miss a “oncein-a-generation opportunity” to own their profession. “If it doesn’t fly this time, it would be a great regret,” he told TES. “Those people knocking it have to be careful.
“You need to keep it moving forward. You can’t have the option to tread water all the time. The agenda for teachers will be overwhelmed by other things.”
Lack of ‘concrete information’
It was hoped that the money raised through crowdfunding would release approximately 500 days of teachers’ time to allow them to work on the new college.
But as the target was not met, none of the money that was pledged will be taken, and there will be no relief for the teachers who are volunteering alongside their day jobs.
The crowdfunding began in September after a survey of 13,000 teachers, commissioned by the college, found that just under a third would be willing to contribute financially to a campaign to support it.
This week, Claire Dockar, chair of the College of Teaching, described the idea as a “bold move”. She believes it failed because teachers lacked “concrete information” about what the college would offer.
“This has provided a barrier to individuals giving financially to the college at this time,” Ms Dockar, a maths teacher at Lipson Cooperative Academy in Plymouth, told TES.
She said that other challenges included the limited amount of free time that teachers could offer owing to their ever-increasing workload, and geographical “reach”.
Awareness is good in some pockets of the country – such as Lancashire, Oxfordshire, Cumbria and Sheffield – while in others, there are no active advocates on the ground.
But Ms Dockar insisted that the campaign remained strong: “It is a movement that is taking off and teachers want to be involved in it.”
Feedback from The Big Staff Meeting, a national consultation into the college, which closes on Monday, reveals that teachers are more willing to pay for a membership offer that they know will give them direct benefits – such as access to research journals – than to donate to the college through an early pledge.
‘Game changer’ still to come
The trustees’ plan to launch a membership offer in the autumn, providing long-awaited details on eligibility and the cost of joining, which is expected to be less than £100 a year.
Former executive headteacher Iain Hulland, promoting the campaign in Lancashire as a volunteer, said that the release of details could be a “game changer”. He added: “It’s really crucial that we get a very clear picture defined about what the college would do.”
But for some, the memory of the old General Teaching Council for England (GTCE) – which many teachers believe failed to live up to its promise – remains strong.
College supporter Gareth Alcott, assistant headteacher at King Alfred’s Academy in Oxfordshire, said: “Sometimes when they [teachers] hear about that we are offering, they think of the GTCE where they were forced to join. We couldn’t be further from that. This is teacher-led and GTCE was driven by politicians.”
There have been some benefits from the fundraising, according to the college, which says that awareness of its plans has increased from 45 per cent to 70 per cent of teachers since the campaign began.
The trustees aim to attract between 5,000 to 10,000 teacher members in the first two to three years of the college and Ms Dockar said she was confident that “enough teachers are ready to respond”.
Sir Kevan said: “There is an obligation to support these people. It needs the support of all of us to keep it going.”
To take part in The Big Staff Meeting, go to claimyourcollege.org
The wrong crowd?
The campaign was launched in September and ended yesterday (see claimyourcollege.hubbub.net). At the time of going to press, it was far short of its goals.
What do teachers want from their new college?
The College of Teaching’s Big Staff Meeting has revealed that teachers’ top priorities for their new professional body are:
Professional knowledge – drawing from academic research and teachers’ judgements of the best ways to help children succeed in specific contexts.
A common code of practice – reflecting aspirational standards of teaching, an evidence-informed approach to practice, ethical behaviour, promotion of the profession and the best possible opportunities for learners.
Allowing schools to affiliate where they can demonstrate their commitment to providing their staff with access to continued professional learning and accreditation, including peer-to-peer review.
Professional standards – accrediting members against valid, portable, respected, sector-led standards, providing opportunities for career development, conferring status and inspiring respect.
For more, see claimyourcollege.org