A question about The College Of Teaching | @Nick_J_Rose

Nick MugshotNick Rose is a ‘Leading Practitioner’ for psychology and research, and teaches at a comprehensive secondary school in Hertfordshire. His blog can be found here and he occasionally tweets as @Nick_J_Rose.

The College of Teaching is looking to teachers to ‘help shape’ its direction and priorities. Whether you’re enthused by what you’ve heard about the college, or sceptical about the direction it appears to be heading, I’d encourage all teachers to pitch in and offer their honest opinion. Having completed the survey myself, I was left with many more questions than answers about what the college will actually be doing.

One question relates to the ‘aspiration’ of the college to create a new set of ‘aspirational’ standards for teachers. There are several mentions of standards in the college survey. For example, teachers are asked to rate the importance of:

“That sets its own aspirational standards and helps teachers to challenge themselves to be ever better for those they serve.”

“Professional standards. Members will be accredited against valid, portable, respected, sector-led standards; these will provide opportunities for career development, confer status and inspire respect.”

“A common code of practice that reflects aspirational standards of teaching, an evidence informed approach to practice, ethical behaviour, promotion of the profession and the best possible opportunities for learners. “

All sounds very worthy perhaps, but it left me rather wary. Accountability in teaching is already pitched way beyond the reliability of the judgements about the quality of teaching; so, I’m a bit unsettled by this heavy emphasis on creating another set of standards for teachers. After all, there are already statutory teacher standards which, for any limitations, have the great virtue of being short!

In what way will these new standards be ‘aspirational’? I can only imagine that the intention is to extend the list of things a teacher must or should do to be considered to be fulfilling professional standards. After all, reducing the number of standards which apply to teachers hardly seems very ‘aspirational’. I thought I already fulfilled a valid, portable, respected set of standards as a teacher, so why is the college implying there should be additional hoops for members to jump through in order to earn such professional ‘status’ and ‘respect’?

Another aspiration listed in the survey was a college: “That is led by teachers, enabling the profession to take responsibility for its professional destiny.” What is the anticipated model (or possible models) of the process by which these standards will be created? Surely, there is something that can be said about it? Will ordinary classroom teachers create these standards, or will it be an ‘expert group’ – perhaps using a similar process to the selection of trustees – overseeing the process? If this group comes up with standards which teachers feel are bureaucratic, burdensome or simply bonkers, will members who are classroom teachers have the power to reject any proposed addition to their standards

Who might judge whether a member has met the new set of standards created by the college? The survey mentions a ‘validated portfolio documenting professional impact’ – which sounds ominously like going through threshold again! Just who exactly will validate it? Will it be a ‘college mentor’? (Who are they? How will they be selected? Will they be serving teachers? Will they be paid? Who will train them?). How valid and reliable will those judgements be? We’ve seen how difficult it has been for the inspectorate to ensure reliability – how will the college ensure it avoids the pitfalls of making unreliable judgements of teaching?

What genuinely worries me is that in place of concrete proposals for discussion, the college appears to offer hand-waving, ‘aspirational’ rhetoric. Given how central the creation of standards appears to be for The College of Teaching, it seems reasonable to ask for some idea of the processes involved (or at least how those processes themselves will be created). Until something more substantial is offered, perhaps teachers should heed that ancient advice: caveat emptor.

3 thoughts on “A question about The College Of Teaching | @Nick_J_Rose

  1. Thanks for the post Nick – I’m glad you see the benefit in engaging with the debate. You made some really great points and raised some pertinent questions that will need to be well-thought through if the College of Teaching is to be embraced by teachers and recognised by leaders.

    I don’t propose to have any definitive answers, but am happy to put some thoughts forward. I think it’s important to say from the off that the CoT is a voluntary organisation so teachers can choice to join or not as the case may be.

    With regards to the “aspirational” standards, my understanding is that they will enable teachers to work towards chartered status. So yes, they may well be an extension of the existing standards – but I would hope that they build upon these rather than being completely separate.

    I would also see the aspirational standards and chartered status as a way for ambitious teachers to stay in the classroom and be recognised for their efforts, rather than following the more traditional route and moving out of the classroom as they move up the hierarchical/leadership ladder.

    I’m not sure the intention is for these chartered standards to make those who don’t work towards them feel anything less than professional – they are merely a way to be recognised, in the same way other professions use a chartered status system.

    I assume the process to create any professional standards will be presented by the Founding Trustees/Board, yet personally I would hope that there will be a consultation of the CoT members (when membership is agreed) as well as input from other subject associations and expert panels.

    I think we have to remember that the CoT will be working for teachers and if it presents/creates models that are seen as unacceptable, teachers will vote with their feet because it’s voluntary. The premise of any successful voluntary organisation is that it’s beneficial to its members – if the CoT doesn’t listen to teachers – it will fail, if the CoT doesn’t represent teachers’ views – it will fail. But I don’t think this will be the case as those presently driving it forward have teachers’ thoughts at the heart of the CoT.

    The issue of who will make the judgements and how they will make them is also an excellent question – and like you, I believe mentors may well be the best model. So here I think we must turn to other professions where a chartered system is effectively and efficiently running with mentors, which I hope could be researched and presented by the Board to the members who can then have their say before any approval.

    I think your concerns about consistency are valid and something that must be carefully considered – is this an issue in other chartered professions? How do they overcome this issue? This must be a consideration in other professionals, so let’s see how they deal with it.

    I agree that the professional standards are central to the success of the CoT and that a clear model of the process for their creation needs to be relayed with transparency to those who the CoT wishes to serve.

    Finally, I think we have to recognise that the CoT is not trying to solve all the woes of teaching or education in one fell swoop. To create a professional body that will be run for teachers and by teachers will take time…no one is proposing an overnight revolution. We must stand together as a profession and decide what we want. I hope we decide that a College of Teaching is worth having.

    I hope these points address some of your concerns – I don’t have all the answers and am just one voice in a very large group of professionals.


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