Profession attacks Labour’s Hippocratic oath proposal


A proposal to make teachers take a public oath before they can begin in the classroom has been widely attacked by the profession.

The idea has been proposed by shadow education secretary Tristram Hunt, who says it would be similar to the Hippocratic oath taken by some doctors.

The idea is inspired by a similar oath that is taken by teachers in Singapore – Mr Hunt has just returned from a visit to the country.

He told the BBC: “What we have learnt from Singapore, one of the most successful education systems in the world, is that they focus on the quality and standard of teaching in the classroom.

“What we want to discuss with the profession is a new Hippocratic oath, like doctors take, committing teachers to improve themselves year-on-year to raise results and be better teachers in the classroom.

“It’s bolstering the moment of qualification and the meaning of qualification – what it means to become a teacher. It can’t just be a gimmick, it has to be part of a commitment to professional development.”

The proposals sparked an outcry on the Twitter social media network, to such an extent that the hashtag #teacheroath was trending for much of the week. Among the tweets were the following pledge suggestions:

  • To focus entirely on academic achievement and suppress any urge I have to encourage creative thinking.

  • To work with commercial enterprise to deliver education that gives value for money to investors and shareholders and not somebody as inconsequential as children.

  • I shall not let my practice be dictated to by politicians or clowns with little pedagogic understanding.

Other comments posted by teachers included:

  • Those who can, teach. Those who can’t come up with stupid ideas like (the teacher oath).

  • Obviously being £20,000 in debt from my three year degree and now working a 60-plus hour week just isn’t dedicated enough.

  • My profession has been abused enough by fag-packet wheezes from career MPs.

The Hippocratic oath for doctors includes a pledge to always work in the best interests of patients. It states: “I will use treatments for the benefit of the ill in accordance with my ability and my judgement, but from what is to their harm and injustice I will keep them.”

However, school leaders also said that it would take more than an oath to raise the status of teaching. Brian Lightman, general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, said: “Governments must ensure that teaching and school leadership is a desirable and attractive career route with good pay and conditions, a manageable workload and a proportionate accountability system. These are much more urgent than a Hippocratic oath.”



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