Do all teachers want to create a better profession for one another?
I have roughly 150,000 to 200,000 readers to Teacher Toolkit every month, but last weekend, one loyal reader reminded me that I hadn’t blogged about the College of Teaching for 2 years.
A group of willing volunteers
In 1993, I left Fleetwood in Lancashire to become a qualified teacher in London. In the same period, Fleetwood Town Football Club – originally formed in 1908 – was reformed as Fleetwood Wanderers in 1997 and became Fleetwood Freeport just after the start of the 1997-98 season. The Highbury ground had been empty for a couple of years with almost all the facilities vandalised. A number of willing volunteers set about clearing up. After much effort, the club was accepted for league membership and at the start of the 2002-03 season, it reverted to its former name of Fleetwood Town.
In 2011-12, England forward James Vardy had been signed from FC Halifax and scored 31 league goals. For the first time in their history, the club reached the football league in the 2012-13 season and in May 2014, won the promotion play-off to league one. In 2015–16, the chairman Andy Pilley announced that the club’s strategic direction would move more towards a self-sustaining model utilising the development and sell-on of home-grown talent rather than to buy in players to attempt to climb the league pyramid further. It was a difficult season.
Where would Fleetwood be today without those ‘willing volunteers’? Or without James Vardy who now plays at the highest level? What if Pilley decided to ‘keep home-grown talent’ rather than sell players in order to grow the football club? The club would be nowhere I suspect …
A College Council Elect
The Chartered College of Teaching is the new professional body for students, teachers, and colleagues working alongside teachers. One of their main aims is to bridge the gap between research and the reality of classrooms and provide a safe community where teachers can share practice, ideas, and support.
I write here to help raise the profile because I know far more of you read this website than follow idle commentary on social media. It is easy for key messages to be lost and not know where to start.
For many of you reading this website, you may be unaware of the College of Teaching’s council elections in England. Why? Because many of you (~20% which is broadly 40,000 readers per month) will read this blog outside of England and (have little or no interest). In England, there are over 450,000 teachers in England and over the last academic year on my travels, I have had it affirmed time and time again, that social media is very much an echo chamber. That the vast majority of teachers do not use social media for professional development, yet many of you choose to read this blog and others.
My doctoral research suggests less than 10% of the teaching population are using social media. In March 2018, I understand that 12,000 people have decided to join the College in the last 18 months which is great news, but there is much more work to be done.
Whether I am a teacher; an academic; a school leader; a Teaching Awards judge; a consultant; a PGCE tutor and mentor; a blogger or an author; or even a teacher working as a consultant after school hours – as I have done all of these things within education – I want the College of Teaching to be largely made of classroom teachers and led by those working with students, teachers, schools and universities. How this works in practice is another matter and something for the next phase of its evolution.
Everyone interested has a say …
Imagine a football club run entirely by footballers? No manager; no club owner; no fans; no CEO; no finance department and no hotdog stand! It would be a pretty depressing football club to follow – even my university football team at Goldsmiths College (and I was captain of the first team don’t you know) had a manager! Imagine if the brilliant ResearchED was entirely led by people outside of education? Or a school led by a headteacher who had never been experienced working in a school?
Consider Fleetwood Town Football Club, who have a range of corporate partners, sponsors and other forums to ensure its survival and growth. The College of Teaching, to ensure its survival beyond the first five years of Government funding, it will need a range of teachers, academics and policymakers – or an organisation may brand these people as corporate partners, sponsors and other forums – to be willing to volunteer to help it get off the ground.
Without a nationally recognised organisation to shape and direct the profession, one that holds anyone and everyone working within education to account, we will be left to the goalpost-tyranny of the Government.
For me, rather than holding on to the notion that it can only be made of up teachers, I hold true to what I first wrote about a College of Teaching in 2013: “It should support the whole teaching profession; not just teachers in schools, but also HE lecturers, industrial trainers, tutors, peripatetic teachers; supply teachers; hospital teachers … everyone!”
In the original Claim Your College campaign, the founding trustees branded the new College of Teaching as an organisation run for teachers, by teachers. How true this core message is today now that the organisation is off the starting blocks is questionable. I think the strapline was great for marketing, but in principle harder to sustain. The definition of ‘teacher’ however can be broader than just a classroom, that’s for sure. Anyone and everyone is all allowed to adapt our mission and values – Fleetwood Town, the College of Teaching, McDonalds, British Airways and even you and I. We have to adapt with the period in which we operate …
Writing about the College of Teaching in January 2016, less than a handful of people will know that I applied to be the CEO of the College in July 2016. I managed to get the last five candidates after a two-day interview. I shared my concerns online and in person at the interview (shared below) with the founding members. It was only on day two at interview that I realised I was not the right person for the job.
I was delighted when Alison Peacock was announced as the person to take the organisation forward. Yet still, I have an interest in helping shape the organisation’s foundations to ensure that it surpasses its first five years of funding – and more. Something Peacock has managed to sustain with grace, determination, and pace. At interview and on this blog I spelled out my concerns in black and white. Like the pair of jeans you are wearing or a receding hairline, our perception of the world changes and or values are refined as we learn and grow from the work that we do.
Two years later …
To touch on the issues I raised in 2016, here is what I understand now that the College of Teaching a living and breathing organisation:
- Funding: In 2016 I wrote, “Why should we fund something so important to get it kick-started?” As a member and as a fellow, I have some idea of what my cash is paying for. The cost of staff salaries; printing; marketing; events and payments to various educators to speak and write etc. I believe the new Impact Journal is a brilliant magazine, something I would have loved to have read as a classroom teacher. As a school leader, blogger and education author, the portal to the online research is worth every penny on its own! I have access to thousands and thousands of research journals that would typically be locked away, or far too expensive to access for 24 hours, never mind forever! The most difficult aspect of securing membership funds is the College team securing a growing membership to ensure its long-term survival at a ‘price’ and ‘mission’ that is right for everyone within education.
- Membership: I am a qualified member of the College of Teaching because I have earned it through professionalism and hard work, not because I have paid for it. I still hold this belief today; that I gain fellowship and council status through various landmarks and an assessment of my career. In 2016 I wrote “A board of non-practicing teachers just makes the 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.” Two years on? I still hold this view, but how to achieve this and how the College can reach the groundswell it really needs for its long-term survival, I don’t believe we are in this position (yet). Meaning, an organisation for teachers, led by just teachers. Perhaps in the future, yes, but not at present. The organisation is a College of Teaching, not a College of Teachers, and as I have written above, your definition of a teacher may be different to mine.
- Vision: Two years later I still hold the same view. “We have a relatively good idea about what the College of Teaching is for, but what is more difficult to answer is “What is the purpose of the College?” This will still be refined, just like any classroom teacher or school leader mastering their work, an academic, a consultant and a new organisation, creating a vision must adapt to meet the needs of the values it aspires to meet.
At a strategic level, I understand what Peacock and her team need to do in order to achieve its long-term success. For the profession, just like Fleetwood Town Football Club, the College has an established history that is shedding its skin and wading through a chequered future of stakeholders, utilising a wide group of “willing volunteers” to guarantee its long-term viability.
Are you a member or a sideline cheerleader?
Regardless of your views, for anyone to believe that an organisation can be successful in the long-term – if it is only made up of its just school teachers – holds insular views. For anyone to keep pedaling the myth that a College of Teaching must be led by teachers alone, is simply sideline cheerleading. One must understand (membership and fees aside) that any view against ‘having a College’ is in the best interests of those who need it most. I suspect some are more fascinated by the College and its downfall. To those who criticise the organisation, I have three key questions to ask if you have managed to read this far:
- Are you a member?
- If you are a member and are not happy with the shortlisted candidates for council, did you put yourself forward?
- If you are not a member, are you happy to work with Government, or would you to work with those in the profession who understand it best?
Whilst you have a think about your answers, colleagues in Scotland look on in disbelief. Meanwhile, Peacock and her team are getting on with the job in hand and I am fully behind helping shape the foundations of a College of Teaching. In 10, 20 or in 50 years time, I want every teacher to reap the benefits of the work we are putting in today. That even includes one or two souls who, on the surface are criticising the College, but at a strategic level are actually helping to shape the College swerve away from potential disasters. For that, I thank you.
Have your say?
The Chartered College’s Council is responsible for the governance of the organisation. The elected individuals will play an important role in the Chartered College’s work to help shape the future of the teaching profession. Have you say and vote for the College’s council members: voting will close at 17:00 Friday 28 September 2018.
Wherever you are in your teaching journey, whether this is in or out of the classroom, there is a membership for you.