New professional body for teachers under discussion
Teaching needs to develop as a profession
There is widespread consensus that the teaching profession needs to be professionalised and its status raised. If you look at the highest performing systems-Finland, South Korea, Singapore, for example, their teachers are members of a high status profession.
The idea of a new (Royal) College of Teaching, appears to be gaining cross party support, aimed at nurturing professionalism and professional development. The growing feeling articulated in a recent discussion document is that the lack of an independent body really does matter, because its absence has resulted in governments stepping into the vacuum to define professional practice. This has, in turn, led to the progressive dis-empowerment of the profession, which has affected the standing of teaching in society, and its ability to develop as a profession. A discussion document says:
‘This is an idea whose time has come. A new College of Teaching has the potential to become the deeply respected voice on professional matters that teaching needs, and to develop the teaching profession in this country as the finest in the world. In doing so, we believe that it will make a significant contribution to the lives and life chances of children and young people in this and future generations and so to the success of our country.’
Under its vision section the Discussion Blue print document says :
‘The College will need to be motivated by a deep sense of moral and intellectual purpose. It would celebrate high achievement in teaching, embody the most rigorous standards, be driven by its members, advise policy-makers, and ultimately determine the standards for teaching and teachers which should be met. If the College does its job as fully and as effectively as we envisage, teachers nationally will aspire to become members and see the professional opportunities that it opens up as a powerful contribution to the development of their careers’.
Overall the vision suggests that QTS would not be the end of training, as it is now, but mark the beginning of a journey up, the grades for example, from associate to fellow, rather like the journey from registrar to consultant in the medical profession . It would require greater levels of professionalism for membership than the basic requirements of QTS, which ought to be thought of as a minimum requirement. There are already subject associations and the existing College of Teachers. So part of the challenge is to bring these together. For it to be credible, the thinking goes, it needs to be autonomous, independent, and, in particular, financially independent. That would require it to be at arm’s length from Government and from politics. Some believe that in the long run the college should have considerable powers and duties in relation to competence, conduct and standards. The debate on its future is being shaped now.(see link to discussion document below). The implicit assumption is that this body will be voluntary and will rely on subscriptions from teachers. If about 20% of teachers subscribe it might work. The feeling is that if, after a few years , there was anything less than one in five teachers signed up, it probably wouldn’t pack any sort of punch.
Unions have given a guarded backing to this initiative. But some leaders will see it as a possible threat to their influence. Unions have failed to raise the status of the profession partly because they agree on little, and partly because politicians tend to ignore them, so they largely fail to shape the environment within which their members work.
A new member-driven College of Teaching: A blueprint for discussion -Discussion Document June 2013