Jules Daulby is a Literacy and Language Co-ordinator in a comprehensive in Dorset. As part of her role, she leads a specialist Speech and Language base, an alternative curriculum for students who follow ASDAN instead of a GCSE option and is responsible for whole school literacy.
It has recently been announced that Dame Alison Peacock is to be the CEO of a newly formed College of Teachers (CoT).
I was delighted by this appointment; my educational philosophy is aligned with the ‘Beyond Levels’ approach Peacock advocates and she has the backing of many teachers. Dame Alison Peacock has the influence and gravitas that the College needs to become successful.
My enthusiasm was not shared by some on Twitter however, in particular, @oldandrewuk. For him, a headteacher with such power is the wrong direction for the College of Teachers. He writes here that a leader who no longer teaches would be unable to represent classroom teachers at grassroots level; that it is just another senior layer to tell them what to do.
I wanted to know more about Andrew’s position and he kindly agreed to this Q&A session.
Do you think we need a CoT?
I don’t know if it’s actually necessary, but it could potentially be useful. There are lots of organisations claiming to speak on behalf of teachers who actually don’t, and lots of issues in schools around professionalisation, particularly around micro-management. A body that concerned itself with defending classroom teachers as professionals could be useful. An organisation that started from the position that the frontline should be experts, and should be listened to, would be a positive development.
Why can’t a headteacher who was a former teacher be CEO for College of Teaching?
As I said above, an organisation which speaks for the frontline would provide something new. The appointment of a head as CEO is just the latest of a series of decisions made by those setting up the CoT that suggests they actually want an organisation made up of, and led by, managers and non-teachers. These include:
- The initial proposals were put together by CPD providers, including a private company.
- There were events held during the daytime on school days (which have continued over several years, no matter how much teachers object to them) and events aimed at “system leaders” and “teacher trainers”.
- There was the initial decision to let “anyone with an interest in education” be a member.
- There was the appointment of 5 non-teachers onto the board of trustees, 3 places reserved for heads, and for the remaining “teacher” positions the majority were middle or senior managers. In the end only 2 trustees were unpromoted teachers. (By comparison, 58% of the profession are unpromoted, less that 5% are heads.)
- A non-teacher was appointed as vice-chair.
- One of the people setting up the CoT (again not a practising teacher) referred to teachers who questioned this as “the shouty brigade”.
- The acceptance of large amounts of government funding, thereby ensuring that they will not be reliant on teachers being willing to pay to join (and this was after an attempt to crowdfund showed little support for the organisation).
All this has been made worse though by the defenders of the organisation. At every point where they have been challenged by teachers the defence has been “well we couldn’t have left that to ordinary teachers” or “how dare you suggest that we don’t know what’s best for you!”. This must be the first professional body that has been set up under the belief that the average member of the profession cannot be trusted.
Imagined or real there is in teaching what’s been light heartedly called a GLOB (traditional) and a BLOB (progressive) – the former seemed particularly hostile towards the CoT and its appointment of Dame Alison Peacock. Is it possible for the CoT to represent all teachers regardless of their beliefs?
Yes. There is no obvious reason for the organisation to be partisan about teaching methods or philosophy, if the organisation supports the autonomy of the classroom teacher. Which gets us back to the main problem of the way this is being set up by those who tell teachers what to do, not those who are being told what to do.
Do you think Dame Alison Peacock is a progressive?
She is certainly part of a number of very progressive groups, like the RSA, the Cambridge Primary Review and the New Vision Group and her appointment has prompted a lot of Twitter progressives to start defending the College Of Teaching. That said, I don’t think this would matter as much if the organisation was accountable to the grassroots.
Would you have felt differently if the appointment had been Katherine Birbalsingh or Toby Young? (Examples of two senior figures in teaching who are on record as being traditionalists).
No. Neither are frontline teachers. The only advantage to one of them being CEO is that more progressives would have been willing to ask the questions that I am asking. That said, I think there are still a fair few progressives siding with me.
Why are you pleased with non-teacher Amanda Spielman’s appointment as OFSTED leader but not former teacher, Dame Alison Peacock for CoT?
The College Of Teaching is meant to be the professional body of teachers. There’s a problem if it’s set up on the basis that classroom teachers can’t be trusted to run it. Ofsted is not meant to represent teachers, in fact, in its day to day work, I want it to stay as far away from classroom teachers as possible.
Which concerns you more for the CoT? A CEO with perceived progressive bias or a CEO who is a headteacher?
The issue is about the CoT being a club for the managers and non-teaching experts in which the frontline are marginalised. The debates between progressives and traditionalists are only relevant as far as they provide a motive for some who wish to exclude the frontline, or if they are used to find teachers to endorse the CoT by looking for those who are more loyal to progressive ideology than to the profession
Would you be happy for a middle manager or deputy head to be CEO or must it be a main professional grade teacher?
I want it to be somebody who will return to teaching classes immediately afterwards. Some deputy heads have a full time table, and some have virtually no classes, so it’s not really about job title. That said, this is only one part of a big picture. If the CEO had been appointed by classroom teachers with a range of views, then the fact that she wasn’t one would be less of an issue.
Should they be full time or could the CEO be a part-time MPG teacher?
A sabbatical model would probably be best. It should be something you do in a short break from teaching.
That said, a lot of those defending the appointment of an executive head have done so on the basis that a CEO must have particular (non-classroom) experience. If that’s the case, then perhaps the organisation needs a different model entirely and there should be no CEO.
How long would you think reasonable for a CEO to have taught for?
I wouldn’t set that out in advance.
Do you have a preference for a primary, secondary or FE teacher to be CEO?
That’s not something I have given any thought to.
How would you see private schools participating in CoT?
Participation should be for teachers, not schools.
Do you think Institutions such as the IOE, TeachFirst, Policy Exchange and Belmas should be part of the College of Teaching?
And the large MATS such as ARK and Harris – do you think they will have a part to play?
I’m glad this is not about progressives versus traditionalists and agree that a CoT can represent all teachers. I disagree with his view on the appointment of Dame Peacock however, while I recognise frontline teachers will be central to the CoT I think this can be done with a CEO who leads teachers, who understands teachers and who champions them. The point about who appointed the CEO is valid in my opinion – would it have been better for frontline teachers to have made this decision?
For CoT to flourish, concerns from all teachers should be welcomed and debated; I hope this will happen. As Andrew states, the autonomy of frontline teachers must be the essence of CoT; for me, a headteacher as CEO does not put this in danger if they are dedicated to this message.
Thanks to @oldandrewuk for answering my questions.