What would a College of Teaching mean for you?

Written by: Claire Dockar | Published:
Photo: MA Education

A proposal for the start-up of a new College of Teaching has been published by a coalition of organisations. What is it all about and why is it so important that you and your staff start thinking about it now? Claire Dockar explains

There is a rumbling, a voice that needs to be heard, a clamour for an opportunity to be taken. There is a vision, one that becomes clearer day after day; an image of pride and of professionalism, of exacting standards.

There is a desire to be recognised, to be respected, to excel. What is happening in the world of education that could engender such emotions?

Last month, the Claim Your College coalition unveiled its detailed plan for the start-up and mobilisation of a new College of Teaching. The new College will be committed to improving the education of children and young people by supporting teachers' development and recognising excellence in teaching.

It will be led by teachers, enabling the teaching profession to take responsibility for its professional destiny, to set its own aspirational standards and help teachers to challenge themselves to be ever better for those they serve.

Through voluntary association and membership that is available to all teachers but forced upon none, the College will demonstrate a deep commitment to high professional standards, CPD and evidence-informed practice.

Members of the College (who may become known as Chartered Teachers) will have demonstrated that they are deeply committed to their profession, to their life-long learning and to the enhancement of the learning of others.

Schools looking to fill a vacancy, will welcome a candidate who comes with this accreditation, and when parents are taking the decision about which school they feel offers the best education for their child, might they be influenced by a school where the teachers are members of such a College?

Among the key roles of the College, the proposal identifies providing a "community of professional practice" and promoting "evidence-informed practice" as core functions.

The College will fulfil the role that independent professional bodies already do for their members, providing professional "mooring" for practitioners at all levels that is, importantly, external to their workplace.

Such chartered membership organisations are well established in other professions such as medicine, law and engineering. They establish high standards of practice and hold their members accountable for achieving and maintaining these standards in order to earn and retain individual chartered status. It is through such activity that these Colleges and institutions have established and retain the trust of the public and policy-makers in their professional practice. The College of Teaching will fulfil this role for the teaching profession.

The Claim Your College proposal has been backed by a long list of organisations, including teaching and leadership unions, subject associations, universities and individual teachers and schools and the list is growing.

The government has already said that it would like to see a College "opening for business" in 2016 and has said that it must be led by teachers and that it should be independent of government and unions.

The story so far

The Claim Your College coalition has grown out of the work that was initiated by the Prince's Teaching Institute (PTI) in 2012. The PTI has been joined by the current College of Teachers charity, the Teacher Development Trust and SSAT and, collaborating with practising teachers and school leaders, has developed an implementation and business plan to set up a new College of Teaching.
Published last month, the coalition's proposal outlines the establishment of a new College of Teaching which is voluntary, member-driven and independent.

The Claim Your College proposal has been shaped by wide consultation with the education sector over the last two years. It sets out the areas of consensus and immediate next steps alongside the extensive consultation and piloting process that will follow. The proposals are underpinned by a set of guiding principles including, most importantly, that the College will be developed for teachers, by teachers.

Highlights from the Claim Your College proposal

The new College of Teaching will be committed to improving the education of children and young people by supporting teachers' development and recognising excellence in teaching.
n It will be led by teachers, enabling the teaching profession to take responsibility for its professional destiny, set its own aspirational standards and help teachers to challenge themselves to be ever better for those they serve.

  • It will be an autonomous, voluntary body, independent of government but working alongside and complementing it. It will also be independent of unions and will not seek to represent teachers on matters such as pay and conditions.
  • It will have parity with other chartered professional associations, enhancing the status of teaching.
  • Its Charter will also provide full independence from government.
  • Importantly, the College will not regulate, nor will it be compulsory or have a disciplinary role. It will also not be a commercial organisation; any surpluses will be reinvested towards teachers' CPD.

You can download the full and detailed proposal online, where you can also add your name to the list of individuals and organisations who are supporting this start-up plan.

  • Key questions: what are your first impressions about the idea of a College of Teaching, or about the Claim Your College proposal? What questions do you have? Look at the FAQs page on the Claim Your College website.

What would this mean for teachers?

As part of the wide-ranging consultation, school leaders and teachers have come together at events across the country as well as online, in order to debate the core priorities for the College of Teaching.

One such event gathered together a hall full of teachers at Waverley School in Birmingham to discuss and debate key aspects of the College of Teaching – summarised by attendees as "a momentous day in teaching" and "the day that everything changed for the better".

The areas of greatest consensus among primary headteachers across the country have been to prioritise:

  • Establishing a professional framework that defines the profession with depth and integrity.
  • Accreditation of the very best classroom practitioners.
  • Creation of clear pathways through the teaching profession, which keep the best teachers teaching.
  • Creating opportunities for evidence-informed professional learning.
  • Raising the profile and status of being – and remaining – a practising classroom teacher.

Schools familiar with the respected national Lead Practitioner accreditation will be interested to know that it has been put forward as a proposed framework for the membership and fellowship of the College of Teaching. Much discussion is underway about developing this with a wide range of partners and mapping the myriad of ways that already exist for recognising great teachers. You can find out more about this proposal on the SSAT's College of Teaching webpages.

  • Key question: how do you see these College of Teaching priorities in relation to work already underway within your own school and through partnerships that you already belong to?

What's happening next?

Now that the Claim Your College proposal has been published we continue with extensive consultation.

This proposal is only the first step in this stage of the planning, and refinements will still be made. It is absolutely vital that questions are asked and debated – have a look at some of the videos from teacher workshops on the homepage of the official website and share your own questions and views through the website, including perhaps responding to the questions in this article.

It is absolutely vital that the new College of Teaching is led by and for teachers, and significantly, the new College of Teaching will have serving teachers in key governance positions – they will never be in the minority in governance structures.

  • Key question: what could you offer to the College of Teaching, either in its founding stages, or once more established?
  • Claire Dockar is an SSAT lead practitioner.

Further information

For further details on the proposals, visit the Claim Your College website at www.claimyourcollege.org. This includes an FAQs section (www.claimyourcollege.org/faqs-proposal/). You can also go to the SSAT's College of Teaching webpages at www.ssatuk.co.uk/collegeofteaching

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