Teachers across the country have been taking part in a national consultation this month to shape the future of the new College of Teaching – a professional body for teachers.
Some schools have already hosted staff meetings to provide feedback on the role of the college and views on its membership. Teachers have until the February half-term to participate in online consultation.
But how far are you acquainted with the new college? And how will it impact teachers’ lives? Here’s what you need to know.
What is the proposed College of Teaching?
The aim is to create a voluntary, teacher-led organisation for the profession that will support teacher development, promote and share evidence-informed practice, as well as recognising excellence in teaching. It would be an autonomous, member-driven body, similar in structure to the Royal College of Surgeons, and it would be independent of both government and the unions. It would not seek to represent teachers on such matters as pay and conditions.
How long has this been in the works?
The idea of founding a College of Teaching was first broached by headteachers in 2012. Since October 2014, the campaign has gathered pace and support under the banner of the Claim Your College coalition. This was initiated by the existing College of Teachers, a small organisation; the Prince’s Teaching Institute; the Teacher Development Trust and the SSAT. The founding trustees – who comprise five classroom teachers, three headteachers and five non-teaching professionals – were selected from hundreds of applicants to oversee the establishment of the new college and to encourage teachers to get behind it.
What are the benefits of such a body?
The aim of the organisation, which would be non-regulatory, is to help the profession take control of its “destiny”. Under the proposals, members of the college would have access to quality-assured professional knowledge, which would include academic research and teachers’ experiences around the world, on the best ways to help children succeed. Staff would be accredited against professional standards, which would be recognised by schools, and given more opportunities for professional development – including receiving support from a college mentor. It is hoped that the accreditation would have parity with other chartered professional associations as part of efforts to raise the status of teaching.
How much support does it have?
Some critics have suggested that teachers would not be interested in joining and paying the fee – which is expected to be less than £100. However, a survey carried out by Claim Your College last year revealed that 80 per cent of respondents viewed the college’s ambitions as valuable. The proposal also has the support of the government – including a one-off grant. When the campaign launched its proposal for the college last February, it was backed by a number of educational bodies – except the NASUWT teaching union, which does not believe that a government-backed campaign would be able to remain independent. But one of the college’s founding trustees, Angela McFarlane, chief executive of the existing College of Teachers, told TES that it would not accept any government money if there were “strings attached”.
Has anything like this been tried before?
The General Teaching Council for England (GTCE) was the professional body for teaching from 2000 to 2012. The body was criticised for being little more than an extension of the civil service. Michael Gove, then education secretary, announced the government’s intention to abolish the body in 2010.
Who could become a member?
The membership of the college is being reviewed in the consultation. Teachers at every stage of their career, including school leaders, are being asked who they would like to see the membership open to. Staff are being asked whether those working in the early years, higher education and FE sectors should be allowed to join.
How will it be funded?
The college must be owned and run by its members. Last year, a crowdfunding campaign to raise £250,000 from the profession was launched. There have been more than 150 donors so far. The target is 1,000 by the end of February, and over £19,000 has been raised.
What can we expect this year?
The college hopes to open up membership by the autumn and secure 5,000 members in two years. Ms McFarlane believes that a college is needed now more than ever. She told TES: “Sometimes you need a crisis to facilitate change and maybe this is the right time as it’s only when people get to the bottom that they are prepared to think about radical change.”
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