I got home from Friday exhausted. The first week back in school is always tiring as you settle back into old routines and the pressure, stress, and difficulty of maintaining a healthy work-life balance reappear. It was with a great deal of relief then that I retired to read my book, and a great deal of exasperation that I rose to see Tristram Hunt’s new proposals.
Mr Hunt told the BBC:
“Just like lawyers and doctors they (teachers) should have the same professional standing which means re-licensing themselves, which means continued professional development, which means being the best possible they can be.”
Now don’t get me wrong. I am all for continued professional development and being the best I can possibly be. So too do I agree that ‘If you’re not a motivated teacher – passionate about your subject, passionate about being in the classroom – then you shouldn’t really be in this profession.’ but forgive me if I approach political proposals with scepticism and an air of caution.
The proposals are not completely clear yet it seems that:
- Teachers would require a licence in order to teach.
- The licence would need to be renewed every few years (somewhere between 5 and 9 depending on what report you read).
- The licence would be controlled by a professional-led Royal College of Teaching.
- There is an emphasis on CPD but removal of INSET days.
That last point seems to contradict itself, particularly as some outlets have reported that CPD would be part of the structure of everyday work. If there is a genuine commitment to teacher’s development, enabling them access to training that will have a positive impact upon their teaching and the pupil’s learning then this is a welcome development. However, if this is some money scrounging technique to cut back on the amount of support a teacher receives from outside of their school, it is loathsome.
The direct comparison being made in reference to a license is to doctors (although we have considerably less respect and a much smaller wage). There is talk of restoring teacher’s professional standing. Now my experience may differ from yours, but the standard of teaching within the profession is as good as I’ve always known it to be, if not better as the years have gone by. However the reputation of teachers has nose-dived in recent years. The governmental rhetoric has bordered on propaganda in an effort to blemish our reputation so that they can break our pensions and pay and conditions. Yet, to their eternal credit, any teacher I know has dug in and continued to devote themselves entirely to obtaining the best possible outcomes for their pupils. It is with great distain that I hear Tristram Hunt speak of ‘rooting out incompetent teachers’. They are very few and far between. I wish I could root out incompetent and idiotic members of parliament. Yet, the silver lining here may be if Labour devote themselves to reinstating the requirement for ALL teachers to have QTS.
I also worry about how a teacher’s governing body would assess teachers. We know that one-off lesson observations are unreliable. So too do we in the profession know that judging teachers on ‘value added’ is unsustainable as pupils do not learn in some rhythmic linear fashion. Yet these are the two main ways in which we are ‘held to account’.
I won’t sit here and oppose every single governmental proposal for the sake of stubbornness. However, neither will I endorse it until I am sure of its value to teachers and to education. The sceptical side of me has an eye on the summer of 2015 and the election that hangs over those in power, and those who seek it. If there was a vote tomorrow, I think I would abstain. That last sentence hangs heavy on me, as my forefathers fought and died so that I had the liberty to appoint those to speak for me. Yet nobody does. These days politicians seem to see a route to more power and self-promotion through teacher bashing.
These latest proposals raise more questions than answers:
- Is it a political stunt?
- Will there be a genuine interest in investing in teacher’s development?
- Will a Royal College of Teaching lead to teachers being respected again?
- Will all teachers be expected to obtain a licence?
- Will teachers ever be trusted to do what they are skilled at doing, as trained professionals?
- Will education ever be allowed to flourish by removing it as a political football?
All we can do for now is wait to see how the unions and political parties play this one out. I, for one, remain unconvinced.