College of Teaching plans to open its doors in September

Written by: Pete Henshaw | Published:
On track: Chair of the College of Teaching, Claire Dockar – a maths teacher from Plymouth – pictured at the Parliamentary reception (Photo: Andy Barker)

Teachers should be able to apply to join the Royal College of Teaching from September if all goes to plan in the coming months.

Chair of the College of Teaching, secondary maths teacher Claire Dockar, has told SecEd that important details such as membership eligibility and the level of membership fees still need to be thrashed out in the coming months.

However, she is hopeful that by the start of the next academic year, teachers will be able to sign up.

It comes as Neil Carmichael MP, chairman of the House of Commons Education Select Committee, hosted a Parliamentary reception to mark the progress so far in creating the College.

The College is now a registered charity and last week saw a petition submitted to the Privy Council seeking approval of the Royal Charter that has been donated from the existing College of Teachers charity.

Speaking at the event, Ms Dockar – who is a lead practitioner at Lipson Co-operative Academy in Plymouth – set out her vision for the College, warning that it would have to be independent, “especially of government”.

She said: “I know from other professions that being independent means being prepared to say the right thing – what the evidence tells us – even when that may not be what people want to hear.

“We will ruffle some feathers: including in government. I am so glad that ministers – and indeed all the political parties – recognise and endorse this.”

She also warned that the College “must stay close to the classroom”. She added: “We will always seek to put the needs of the classroom teacher first – not government, not Ofsted, not anybody else.”

Ms Dockar went on to outline the three key roles that she sees for the College: “The College will lead the drive to make teaching a rigorous, evidence-informed profession. Promoting excellent practice drawn from academic research and teachers’ judgements of the best ways to help children succeed.

“It will define excellence in teaching by accrediting members against valid, portable, respected, but most importantly teacher-led standards.

“And it will champion a career pathway that develops teachers’ knowledge, creativity, skills and ambition, through access to high-quality professional development.”

Speaking to SecEd after her address, Ms Dockar said that in the coming months a key task would be to finalise what “the membership areas will look like, the offer to teachers and what the College will do”.

Membership eligibility and fees are two of the key issues that had still to be agreed. The first of these features in the on-going consultation exercise – called The Big Staff Meeting – which is asking teachers around the country to respond to questions about what the College should look like.

The four membership options on the table range from allowing anyone involved in education to join to restricting membership to practising teachers in 5 to 18 schools and colleges.

However, the consultation does not tackle the question of membership fees. Research by the Sutton Trust in 2014 involving 1,200 teachers found that 41 per cent supported the idea of a College, but that a quarter of those would not be prepared to pay a membership fee and most others would pay no more than £30 a year. Ms Dockar told SecEd that she understood the cost pressures on teachers, including that they also have to pay annual union fees.

She said that the level of the membership fee would be linked to “what we are offering” and the “opportunities for teachers”.

She added: “It links back to a profession that is respected. (Members) will be supported, they are going to be mentored, they are not going to hit that plateau.”

Elsewhere, Ms Dockar told SecEd that the trade unions supported the development of the College, adding that the new body would not be crossing any “union boundaries”, such as by tackling issues like pay and conditions.

For more details on the College, including The Big Staff Meeting consultation exercise, which runs until the February half-term, visit www.claimyourcollege.org.uk


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