In education, we are used to new initiatives. But occasionally, something comes along which has the potential to have a huge impact, long into the future. The launch of the College of Teaching presents us with one of those once-in-a-lifetime moments.
The college is the new independent chartered professional body for the teachers. Surgeons and solicitors, engineers and accountants, physicians and architects: all have had chartered bodies at the heart of their profession for a long time. Recently, many other chartered professional bodies have been founded: for plumbers and ecologists, secretaries and payroll professionals.
For a variety of complex reasons, the teaching profession alone has lacked a strong, independent professional body, led by teachers, responsible for promoting high standards and supporting professional development. With the launch of the College of Teaching, that is about to change.
In the past few years, a consensus has emerged that such a college is necessary and its time has come. A remarkable alliance, or coalition, has formed in the education world, including subject associations and national educational charities, teaching unions and learned societies in associated disciplines. The idea emerged spontaneously in 2012 at a residential conference run by the Prince’s Teaching Institute. The PTI established a commission, including a cross section of teacher. Following an overwhelmingly supportive consultation with 1200 responses, it published a blueprint for a College of Teaching. This led to the formation of the Claim your College Coalition, which published a start-up proposal at the beginning of 2015 and established a process to recruit an independent, teacher-led board of trustees.
What is the College of Teaching? It is easier to answer this question by way of what the college is not. It is not a regulatory body, and will not have a disciplinary role. That was the role played by the widely disliked General Teaching Council (GTC), which was imposed as on the profession without its consent and abolished in 2012. An example of this distinction in another profession would be between the Royal Medical Colleges (the professional bodies), and the General Medical Council (the statutory regulator).
What’s more, it will not be compulsory. Teachers had to pay to register with the GTC and were obliged to join. There will be a subscription payable to join the College of Teaching, but teachers can decide whether to do so. The college is not a commercial or political organisation. It is an educational charity, so any surpluses will be reinvested towards teachers’ continued professional development, and all activities will be for the good of education. Furthermore, it will be independent: in particular independent of government, driven only by sound educational research in the hands of the teaching profession.
The establishment of the college will ensure the profession has the status, aspiration and routes to promotion recognised by chartered bodies in other professions. Teachers will work in their early years towards a higher professional standard (‘chartered’ or ‘fellow’ status). This will demand rigorous, ongoing professional development and create expectations on employers and new entrants, which will match those in other professions. It will create a platform and structure for career‑long, continuous professional growth of each teacher. The development of the college has been carefully designed to benefit the profession as a whole.
As part of its contribution to the common good, the Church has been at the forefront of every major development in this country’s education system. The Churches created the first infrastructure for educating the vast majority of the poor in the early nineteenth century. We founded the first teacher training colleges, such as St Mary’s College (now St Mary’s University) in 1850 and Notre Dame College (now part of Liverpool Hope University) in 1856. We pioneered the formation and education of teachers, recognising how central this was to improving outcomes for pupils.
The Church, its schools and universities have remained at the cutting edge of the education system, marked by innovation and high standards, not just for the benefit of the Catholic community, but for society at large. That is why the Catholic Education Service was an early supporter of plans for a College of Teaching, and why Catholic teachers, schools and colleges should support its launch and ensure its success for the benefit of the whole education system.
The College of Teaching is now calling on teachers, schools and colleges from all phases and stages to put take part online in The Big Staff Meeting before the end of this term. The Big Staff Meeting introduces the college’s place in the professional landscape of teaching in the UK.
The college needs to be shaped by teachers, and we want every teacher to be well informed on the developing plans and to share views on who should be part of it and what it should offer. All this will be vital part of shaping what the college looks like. By taking part in this national consultation, teachers can contribute their opinion on the scope and benefits of membership that will shape the future direction of the college.
This is an enormous opportunity for the teaching profession to come together to set its own standards. All teachers are urged to share their views by the end of February via an online survey (www.research.net/r/N3L3KMC), talk about it with their colleagues, and get involved.