Category Archives: College of Teaching

Do You Want to be a Chartered Teacher?

Teaching_Bucharest_1842.jpg

Some people are very excited about the new College of Teaching and, especially, its charter. This means that by accrediting various courses and other types of professional development it will be able to award (royal) chartered teacher status and thereby cement its role at the pinnacle of conferring the new ‘outstanding’ teacher status on the most deserving.

In Scotland a Chartered Teacher Programme which began in 2003 has been abolished, the Donaldson Report stated the following reasons:

The grade of chartered teacher was created with the intention of rewarding teachers who remained in the classroom and to simultaneously provide encouragement for main grade teachers at the top of their salary scale to engage in a robust, self-funded continuous professional development programme. The design intent was to recognise and reward excellence. To encourage participation in the Chartered Teacher Scheme two routes to chartered teacher status were created; one via accredited prior learning, the other on completion of twelve modules (for each two modules completed a salary increment is awarded).

As of May 2011, 1,216 teachers have attained chartered status and a further 2,800 are currently on the programme and have gained at least one module. Entry to the accreditation route to chartered status was ended in 2008.

While we received evidence that demonstrated the commitment and professionalism of many chartered teachers, the widely held view is that the existing cohort of chartered teachers does not singularly represent the best teachers in Scotland. The reasons for this are several; the means of entry to the scheme when it was first created and the self-selection process for entry did not provide a sufficiently robust means of screening applicants; also some of our very best teachers for a variety of reasons have not embarked on the route.

Until recently, self-selection without approval of a headteacher resulted in instances of headteachers not being aware that staff in their schools had applied for chartered teacher status. This has been revised recently and headteachers must now approve applications for staff to participate in the programme – albeit that this process is still rather light touch. Absence of specific duties attached to the role of chartered teacher means that in some instances, chartered teachers are paid more to undertake the same job they have always done with no improved outcomes for children and young people.

We heard evidence that there are barriers to participation in the Chartered Teacher Scheme in the form of finance and the time available to complete the modules. Thus some dedicated classroom teachers are unable to embark on the programme of study that would result in achieving chartered teacher status because of other commitments.

Local authorities have no means of controlling the cost of the Chartered Teacher Scheme because it is essentially self-selecting. Additional salary is, in some instances, paid to staff for little tangible benefit, and indeed we heard evidence that some chartered teachers would prefer that it were not known within their schools that they had achieved the status, lest expectations would rise that they should contribute more. We also heard some evidence that the scheme is seen as mainly academic and did not sufficiently recognise good classroom practice.

The responses to the Review’s call for evidence clearly demonstrate that there are mixed feelings amongst the education community about chartered teachers. Thirty-eight per cent of respondents felt the scheme should be retained, 37% felt it should be amended and 25% felt it should be discontinued.

We are of the view that the Chartered Teacher Scheme, while laudable in its aims, has not delivered against its stated objectives. The available evidence does not show that the ‘best’ teachers have remained in the classroom rather than pursuing promoted posts – indeed promoted post holders have commented to us that theirs is a vital role and should not be equated with not wanting to teach or being inferior teachers. Furthermore, the overall contribution made to education in Scotland by chartered teachers does not represent a good investment, due mainly to the lack of any formal role post qualification.

Taking all the evidence into account, we believe that the Chartered Teacher Scheme should now be discontinued. Our view is that despite positive steps such as the introduction of the revised Standard by the GTCS and notwithstanding the excellent practice we are sure some chartered teachers bring to schools, the concept of chartered teacher has not worked successfully since it was introduced by the Teachers’ Agreement. The model by which individuals are able to enter the system without sufficient gate keeping regarding their appropriateness has damaged the credibility of the Chartered Teacher Scheme. Similarly the lack of clarity as to the role of chartered teachers has made it dif cult for both local authorities and the teachers themselves to make the most of their skills.

I am sure those involved in the setting up of the College are aware of these problems and will wish to address them as there are some clear questions that a teacher might want answers to before they commit to joining the College of Teaching:

If the existing cohort of chartered teachers does not singularly represent the best teachers in Scotland how will chartered status in England ensure that it does?

Will headteachers…  approve applications for staff to participate in the programme ? If so will Headteachers coerce staff into joining the College, if not, will there be much point in joining the college if the Headteacher doesn’t think you will achieve chartered status? If the Headteacher doesn’t want a teacher to apply for chartered status how much of their free time will a teacher have to devote to attaining chartered status?

Will there be specific duties attached to the role of chartered teacher?

If there are not specific duties will it mean that in some instances, chartered teachers are paid more to undertake the same job they have always done with no improved outcomes for children and young people?

What will be done to ensure there are no barriers to participation in the Chartered Teacher Scheme in the form of finance and the time available to complete the modules? 

How can dedicated classroom teachers [who] are unable to embark on the programme of study that would result in achieving chartered teacher status because of other commitments be sure of their future in the profession, or will they become looked down as second class teachers?

And as the overall contribution made to education in Scotland by chartered teachers does not represent a good investment, due mainly to the lack of any formal role post qualification.

What formal role, if any, will chartered teachers in England have? If so, is there any evidence that teachers want this role, if not will it be a good investment?

I look forward to seeing if any answers to these concerns are forthcoming.

 

Master* Teachers: Community and Expertise

 Solness_építőmester

“Obsessing about quality is a way of subjecting the work itself to relentless generic pressure; workers given over to this passion can dominate or detach themselves from others less driven. Both are dangers…” Richard Sennett: The Craftsman

Whilst writing Trivium 21c I came across the work of Richard Sennett, I would recommend his writing to anyone interested in arts, crafts, community, organisations and creativity. In The Craftsman he has some interesting things to say re: mastery, expertise, guilds and professional organisations. I try and get the gist of some of his ideas here and look at what implications they may have for our current debates in teaching.

Sennet talks about there being two sorts of expert, the sociable and the anti-sociable. One can quibble about silly dichotomies but this interested me. He posits the idea of the sociable expert as the master craftsman who was, from the middle ages onwards, central to the medieval guilds and their civic and religious rituals; participation and experience were key. However, as time went by, the ‘foraging curiosity’ of the amateur but experienced Master Craftsman was seen as being of lesser value than specialised knowledge. More recently, professional associations, that had started with similar community values as the guilds, became more in thrall to the knowledge of experts. In the twentieth century professional associations weakened over time as market forces and centralised bureaucracies took their toll. The professional, marked out as more than a mere employee, found herself having to react mainly to the whims of the law and legislation, dictating the very content of her expertise and thereby destroying ‘sociable expertise’ and replacing it with ‘anti-sociable expertise: the surrender of the mastery of the craftsman to the superior specialised knowledge dictated from above.

The ‘master’ craftsman possessed sociable expertise, through time, because of specialisation, this was replaced by anti-sociable expertise. This is where the conflict arises, if you know ‘so much’ about something, if you are ‘superior’, your expertise can be anti-sociable, because you may look upon the community from which you are now ‘apart’ as foolish. Sennett looks at the work of Vimla Patel and Guy Groen: they compared brilliant, novice, medical students with experienced doctors. The ‘by the book’, novice, applies the rules rigidly. The more experienced doctors focus on the patients and look beyond immediate cause and effect. The experienced doctor can see further ahead than the novice who knows ‘a lot’. The two sorts of expertise can be in conflict.

To paraphrase Sennett: ‘Treating others as whole persons, in time, is one mark of [mastery] sociable expertise.’ The master or sociable expert sees overall purpose, can make, make do and mend as part of a continuum. The master is good at mentoring and advising, reaching out with an open hand to the community of fellows and ‘customers’. Turning outward is the essential part of this sort of expertise.

Anti-sociable expertise institutionalises the inequality between the expert and the non-expert. This can lead to the experts feeling contempt for others as they withdraw into themselves becoming a group apart. You then have a profession of those ‘who know’ and the others ‘who don’t’. The non-experts feed on resentment and the institution becomes marked by division. Expertise becomes about showing off knowledge rather than sharing it. It can, when driven by competition, succumb to the need to beat others, often by cutting corners, and by not seeing the ‘whole picture’ due to the drive to see immediate rather than longer term results.

In teaching the discussions about the role of professional associations, professional development and ‘what works’ research could do with discussing some of these ideas. Can an organisation encompass expertise that is at once both specialised and sociable? Can we ever recognise the value of experience and realise the Burkean idea of seeing institutional wisdom, exemplified in the tradition and carried out by experienced practitioners, passed down through the generations, as having importance and even value it alongside specialised expertise?

I like the idea of associations that grow from the grass roots, formed like the old guilds, that have their rituals and sociability ingrained in their community. I like the idea of experience being honoured as having a different form of expertise than one that is measurable or noticeable in the shorter term. I worry about expertise coming from outside of the profession and possibly passed down on tablets of stone via anti-sociable experts. This is what happened with ASTs, Expert teachers, QCA and the GTCE, a whole raft of expertise drawn from outside of the profession was used via these agents to dictate to the profession. It arguably ‘de-professionalised’ some members of our profession (vocation).

A college of teachers needs to be sociable and not built around the anti-sociable concern of teaching. It needs to be drawn from the community it serves, and within that community experience needs to be valued and not derided even if ‘the knowledge’ the expertise holds is seen to be inferior to the knowledge of the experts who ‘know’. I think this is crucial, institutional knowledge in the collective memories of experienced people needs to be harnessed. If an association of teachers tries to bypass the human relationships, for the ‘specialised’ knowledge from outside of the association by experts answering to the Government’s (or even Pearson’s et al) desire to ensure we top the PISA tables, then this is not a sociable guild it is an anti-sociable dance of expertise from outside the association fawning to whatever the current direction of the OECD dictates. In the long term this will be to the detriment of the very people we all desire to have flourishing lives: the children we teach. It is by valuing the teachers’ expertise that we can then help grow that expertise. Outsource that expertise, you lose it and you derail the tradition.

How can the researcher be brought into the association? And the consultant, the journalist, the nursery teacher and the university professor? How can we harness and share all this expertise and experience in a sociable way? At the same time how can we ensure an association is not a guild-like secret society protecting its tradition against outside influence? Who is valued, in the hierarchy of the association? To me it needs to be the ‘craftsman’*. The role of the teacher is central, it is her passion and experience that should ‘be’ the community, drawing on knowledge and expertise, from wherever it may come, but knowledge and expertise that she sees as relevant, rather than having this ‘driven’ by outside forces who see an association as a method of controlling teachers in the short term interests of the current whims of government and/or global organisations.

*for want of non generic terms – Master/Mistress Craftsman/Craftswoman I am aware I am using ‘masculinised’ terms though ‘mastery’ is not explicitly gendered… I try to counteract this by using she and her within the text.

Some Questions About The Proposed College of Teaching

Mortarboard_(PSF)

A college of teaching is to be set up to: “Protect standards and to raise the status of the teaching profession”. “Ms Morgan says she wants teaching to be seen as having a similar status as professions such as medicine and law. In a joint statement with Mr Laws, the education secretary says teaching is “almost unique amongst the professions in lacking such an organisation”.”

This is fascinating on a variety of levels, the most salient being that teachers do not lack such an organisation. There has been a College of Teachers since 1846 and its current patron is His Royal Highness, The Duke of Edinburgh, K.G., K.T. I still can’t fathom why this is overlooked in the press releases or interviews about setting up a College of Teaching. Perhaps teachers are almost unique amongst professions in that everyone, including most teachers, ignore or are not aware that we have a professional organisation. The College of Teachers claim that: “Everything we do is driven by a commitment to raise standards in education and improve learning for all.” This is a noble aim and seems to aim higher than the College of Teaching which seems only to want to protect standards… It does make one wonder though that if this organisation has been committed to raising standards since 1846 why are we so in need of another ‘college’ in 2014? Maybe people think there is something lacking in the current college but are too polite to say so…

Even the old college seems happy about the new college, as are the Teaching Unions but will teachers be happy to join a Union, and a couple of colleges of teachers? Surely something will have to give. There are a growing number of teachers who seem not to bother to even join one of these organisations. If you look at what makes most teachers stressed it will be the organisation that does most to challenge the day to day drudgery of unnecessary paper work, pointless meetings, long hours chasing targets and sorting out bad behaviour that would be the one to join. Will this new college do that?

What is this new college for?

Ministers say they will provide the dosh for: “Evidence-based professional development, led by a network of more than 600 outstanding teaching schools”. Are ‘outstanding’ teaching schools fit for purpose? Do these teaching schools become superior partners in a College of Teaching? Can the imposition of leadership by a minority of schools be tolerated by an independent College of Teaching? Who said that these schools are outstanding? Ofsted? Do teachers trust Ofsted to make the judgement about these schools and who is to say that all the practice in these schools is ‘evidence based’ or, if some of it is, it is not affected by stuff that is not ‘evidence-based’? What is the measure by which evidence is obtained, who pays the Piper? If evidence is to be the tune to which we all must dance is the evidence based on current testing models? What happens if someone wants to challenge those models? Can teaching ever be ideology and value free? Would we want it to be? Should a College of Teaching have an ethics committee to raise concerns and ideas about the purpose of education? If the college is to be free of political interference does it also have to sign a Faustian pact: a pretence of political impartiality as it divests itself of ideology?

The Guardian sees the statements today by Morgan and Laws as an attempt to outflank Labour. Can a non-political organisation be set up in such circumstances? What stance will a College of Teaching take on political interference in education? Will it campaign against a National Curriculum? What relationship will it want with OfSTED and OfQual? What will it say when a PrimeMinister makes great play, as Cameron did yesterday, of ensuring that it is: “absolutely vital” to the country’s success that maths, science and computing are taught in the “modern way”… “This set of skills and this new way of teaching is for everyone”… The ‘modern way’? Is this evidence based? Cameron seems to think we are in a global race and that we must win! Is this race winnable? Where is the finish line? Will a college of teaching call the Government to task for hyperbole and, if so, what will be the role of Government in education in England, will it lead the College, follow the College, see it as a thorn in the side, ignore the College, or starve it to death financially if it becomes too troublesome… Or is the college meant to be meek and mild?

Morgan and Laws say that this body will “Allow teachers, like other professions, to set their own high standards for their members.”  What happens if a teacher doesn’t want to join? The College of Teaching is to be voluntary but if a teacher is ‘struck off’ does that mean they will no longer be employable? What is the difference between a teacher who has been struck off and one who doesn’t want to join, will they have a similar status? Will schools be urged to only employ teachers who are members? Will someone who is struck off have to divulge as to why they have been struck off and will they have legal recourse to the decision and, importantly, will they have access to legal aid?

Michael Gove made much of the idea of allowing Academies to employ people who aren’t qualified as teachers as teachers, could this create a further problem? Will it be possible to discern whether someone is a teacher or not? Or will it be perfectly acceptable to say: ‘I teach, therefore I am…’  Could anyone come along and say, for example, I’m a teacher, I teach an adult class once a month in origami at the leisure centre and I want to join this college of teaching to raise my status and ensure I have access to an evidence base of the latest and most efficient paper folding techniques.

((This is what the college says about itself. Though this doesn’t quite answer the questions above) And here is the consultation document launched by the DfE today)

(One way to make the status of teachers as high as lawyers (how high is the status of lawyers , I wonder?) and doctors  would be to pay us more and enable us to buy and drive to school in posher cars, wear posher clothes and bedeck ourselves in much bling. That would impress da kidz anyhow.)

If these problems can be overcome then a College of Teaching can’t do any harm.

Can it?