College of Teaching

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Are you for or against a proposed College of Teaching? Or are you still someone who is undecided?

I was delighted to receive an invitation to the House of Commons on behalf of the proposed College of Teaching. This is not a new idea. I write this update and share what I think (now) needs to happen. The jury is out …

Run for teachers, by teachers, the College will be a member-driven and voluntary body, committed to improving the education of children and young people, enhancing the status of teaching and recognising excellence.


Neil Carmichael MP, Chair of the Education Selection Committee, hosted a reception event (21 January 2016) at the House of Commons, London, to mark the progress achieved to date in the development of the College of Teaching – the independent, chartered professional body for the teaching profession.

The reception event introduced the Founding Trustees of the College of Teaching to teachers, headteachers and key influencers in the education sector alongside representatives from the Claim Your College coalition including unions, subject associations, school improvement and leadership bodies, academy chains and teaching schools.

Speakers at the event included Claire Dockar, Chair of the College of Teaching and teacher at Lipson Co-operative Academy in Plymouth; Lisa Pettifer, teacher at Nelson Thomlinson School in Wigton and Sir John Holman, President-Elect of The Royal Society of Chemistry.

The College is different from anything that has gone before and it is not a government agency – teachers have a unique and once in a lifetime opportunity to grasp the College and to shape it from the outset. Our ambition is that the College will prove itself to be a new, professional voice in the education debate that represents the experiences and views of classroom teachers who are too often ignored. (Dockar)

It was actually @Lisa7Pettifer, a teacher who had traveled south from Cumbria to be with big-wigs at the House Of Commons that made a difference for me. It was her and her speech that made me finally understand what impact a College of Teaching could have on all teachers across England.

“I am exactly the sort of teacher that needs the College of Teaching and I think its development is crucial to the teaching profession” Pettifer said.

She read an extract from here blogpost, That Was Then, in which she describes herself as an NQT writing to the College of Teaching many years later in 2028, thanking them for their support. It is this where we can start to believe we do have the opportunity to take back control of our profession:

I wouldn’t be where I am today without the College of Teaching. I wouldn’t have received the mentoring, support, stimulation to develop my teaching, or the confidence to engage with others on a broader platform had I not committed to the College all those years ago, when I became an NQT.  I’m now part of a profession which has grown and grown in status and professionalism since the early days of the College. Before then, once you qualified and did your NQT year, you were pretty much at the mercy of your school for the rest of your development. Some were great with CPD, others not so. Teacher Standards were pretty fixed, either you did something or you didn’t and schools didn’t always know the best way to engage you, or the best experiences to offer in support of you, if you weren’t quite there yet. You got your annual appraisal and a set of targets, but there wasn’t as much joined-up thinking as there is now about how one year’s experience can form the basis of the next year’s progression. And it seemed to change in 2015. That was the year of our debate in school …


‘I call upon the evidence …’

For me, a respected professional body is much-needed in our profession. We need a self-identity so that we can be truly autonomous. But, in all honesty, I am undecided as to whether or not the proposal will work in the short-term.

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Here I tell you what my 3 areas for improvement are to make this proposal work;

In April and May a total of 13,004 teachers responded to a survey carried out via The Education Company, who were providing pro-bono support to the Claim Your College coalition. The survey looked into the thoughts of classroom teachers and subject leaders about the College. The results were extremely positive with over 80% seeing the ambitions of the College as important and the benefits it promises as valuable, almost a third of respondents said they would be willing to contribute to a crowdfunding campaign to help found the College, with almost seven in 10 respondents indicating they would be willing to make a donation of up to £25. (Source)

1. Funding:

Why should we fund something so important to get it kick-started? There is already an established history, dating back over 150 years. The College of Teaching already has two Royal Charters. If we were a valued profession, wouldn’t the government give us their backing? There is already a membership for classroom teachers and I’m assuming it is fee-paying.

Since 1849 we have shaped the face of education from the establishment of teacher training, to creating the first chair of education in England, to developing certification for school children, to supporting the professional work of others who work in education. (Source)

I accept that donations may have been required to see our ambitions kick-start a College of Teaching and make it a reality, but I do believe this should be government-funded. I also believe teachers should not have to pay an annual membership fee to be part of it.

Instead, I think a (funded) membership should be automatic after achieving QTS (Qualified Teacher Status), with this membership growing in stature at various milestones. For example, on securing a middle or senior leadership position in school, or after a certain length of service or recognition. Members may be accredited or voted on to various committees, as well as take an active part in others’ professional development across various regions.

I want to belong to something because I am qualified and that I have earned it through professionalism and hard work, not because I have paid for it.

2. Membership / Status:

College of Teaching crest logoI do believe membership should be open to applicants who are teaching in classrooms only. Yes, when asked about role with the College of Teaching and asked about ‘what you do’, your first response should be; ‘I’m a teacher’ and not anything else.

A board of non-practising teachers just makes validity of any college contradictory.  Of course, running such a large-scale institution, led by full-time classroom teachers makes it almost very difficult to manage , but it is not impossible. A few experienced souls who are still working in our schools would be also be beneficial.

Terms and conditions of membership should be monitored and evaluated by the College, and teachers and their College status reviewed annually. This will require external support outside of the classroom.

3. Vision / Clarity:

We have a relatively good(ish) idea about what the College of Teaching is for. The next issue that is more difficult to answer; what is the purpose of the College? At the moment, the vision and its vales are deep and broad, in parts not yet defined or simplified for the busy classroom teacher to digest.

The purpose of the College needs to be made much more simple. And then communicated. Once everyone understands who is involved and what it is for, funding, membership and purpose will gain momentum.

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We have come far in a short period of time, but the jury is still out.

I’d like to see that College work hard to address these 3 simple issues I have posted here, before I can confidently say it is achievable for every teacher in England to be part of a College of Teaching that is protecting and steering the profession for the future. There is a video here that offers something to help us.

What do you think? Read the facts for more information.


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10 thoughts on “College of Teaching

  1. Why should membership stature change simply because of a promotion? Indeed in most schools, Senior Leadership roles lead to a greatly reduced teaching involvement, contrary to your point in 2. Membership/Status

  2. I tend to go with Martin. If the model is to mirror the other charters, membership is by qualification only (aside from those with an exceptional fellowship entry point). To create any tiered or status driven model will discourage many teachers from joining. We are either teachers or not and should have equal status in a body intent on representing all teachers. Inevitably, experience and expertise will prove influential but the principle of equity is likely to prove of greatest impact in convincing colleagues to join in the belief that the college can provide one voice.

    1. So how will a body of experts to lead the college be appointed or identified, or even help with succession planning? We have to start somewhere with an executive board. They can’t all be teachers?

      1. If you consider the balance achieved in recruiting the Founding Trustees, therein lies the answer. Teachers will buy into the college if it adopts a principled stance which clearly reflects sincere professional regard for all teachers irrespective of their position within school shadow structures. As I said however, it is somewhat inevitable that we would wish the driving forces at the helm hold significant professional and experiential acumen but also, maybe more importantly, be able to clearly demonstrate deep understanding, rapport and resonance with overarching aspirations. This requires balance, breadth and vision to create an informed professional voice and standard by teachers, for teachers.

        I feel we could easily become entrenched in cynicism when reflecting upon the potential that exists (in any such situation) for the executive to be swayed by one particular interest or another. However, I have great faith in our vocation and of those who sincerely wish to bring a truly representative body into the public domain unifying the wide range of views which are often fractured and weakened by having so many representative bodies currently.

        We need one voice and I have heard few argue otherwise – the only way this college is going to become an effective body is for teachers, all teachers, to fully participate in building it from the ground up and the executive down. This blog will help even if only because of your popularity Ross but it would be useful if blogs, articles, press releases, etc were brought together in one forum. This is a rare opportunity and we certainly need voices of concern, doubt, even devils advocacy but more importantly we require these debates in one easily accessible place. One for the college?

      2. There is a collection of articles, blogs, etc, relating to the CoT on Pinterest. Gareth Alcott from Oxfordshire has been collating them. Look up “College of Teaching”. It’s a broad collection – not just supportive pieces.

  3. It’s great to see such discussion taking place on the blog. Can I add a reminder that , the CoT website, would gratefully receive your ideas if you haven’t already shared them.

    All of what follows is purely my opinion as an enthusiastic supporter and observer-

    Membership levels are a really interesting topic, and from my point of view should not be tied to in-school promotion, although there will need to be more consultation about how this would work. It should be possible for a classroom teacher to reach the top of the CoT.

    I’ve been of the opinion for a while that the key staff and board of the ‘mature’ college (i.e., once it’s beyond this ’emergent’ stage) should be employed teachers – but would need to be allowed secondments to carry out College duties. These might be of three-or-so years’ duration, depending on role, and would need to be v well coordinated, not least with their schools. But in order to maintain the integrity of the College OF TEACHING, these people should go back to their teaching jobs at some point. A CoT ‘job’ shouldn’t be anyone’s forever job.

    Lisa Pettifer @Lisa7Pettifer

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