Royal College of Teaching call at Tweet-Up

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Calls for a Royal College of Teaching and a clear, national strategy for teachers' professional development were made at a Teacher Development Trust "Tweet-Up" last week.

Hosted in conjunction with SecEd, the event saw educationalists debating the question: How can we raise the status of the teaching profession?

A Tweet-Up sees a number of keynote speakers delivering 140-second addresses (to match the 140 characters of a Tweet) and debating questions with the audience. The audience, in turn, is encouraged to tweet from the debate and SecEd's Twitter feed, @SecEd_Education, was among those reporting live last Thursday, September 27.

Opening the discussions, John Bangs, a senior research associate at the University of Cambridge Faculty of Education, said that the conditions for a high status profession included self-efficacy linked with improved instructional practices. Distributed leadership and teacher leadership was vital too.

Mr Bangs, a former assistant secretary at the National Union of Teachers, also called for a national strategy for teachers’ CPD and for professional development to be an integral part of teacher policy.

He said: “We need a new approach to teacher conditions. A new definition of teachers’ working conditions which is around professionalism. We need a pluralistic discourse between teachers, their organisations and government on teachers' policy.”

Philippa Cordingley, renowned researcher and chief executive of the Centre for the Use of Research and Evidence in Education, called for professional learning to be placed “front and centre” for teachers.

She said: “We need to emphasise professional learning for the teaching profession. The key to raising the status of the profession is involving teachers in structuring, validating and tracking each other’s professional learning.”

Charlotte Leslie MP, meanwhile, led calls for a Royal College of Teaching, after acknowledging that politicians are “involved up to their elbows in what goes on in the classroom”.

Ms Leslie, a Conservative member of the Education Select Committee, said that the College would be apolitical and independent of government, comparing it to medical institutions such as the Royal College of Surgeons.

She told the debate: “A Royal College of Teaching would complement the work of the unions in raising the status of teaching. It could be a research base, it could be a place where CPD could really be formalised.”

Ms Leslie’s call proved timely, coming days before the Prince’s Teaching Institute (PTI) published the findings of an “exploratory workshop” to consider the feasibility of such an institution.

The report, entitled Investigating the Appetite For and Remit of a New Member-driven College of Teaching, has been sent to education minister Michael Gove, as well as shadow minister Stephen Twigg. It suggests that a College of Teaching would promote professional development, provide evidence to inform policy, and bring practice and research together.

The exploratory workshop was attended by teachers, school leaders, academics, subject associations and unions and they reached a “broad agreement on the need for a body that would advocate professional standards ... and provide teachers with a greater degree of self-determination”.

Six areas of need were identified:

  • Ensure high professional standards .

  • Provide stability through changes in political cycles.

  • Promote evidence-based initiatives.

  • Bridge the gap between classroom practice and research.

  • Establish an authoritative voice to defend professional standards.

  • Raise the status of the teaching profession.

The PTI says it is keen to act as an “independent broker” to take the process forward. Co-director Chris Pope added: “There is clearly an appetite within the profession for a College of Teaching that would be independent from but work with government, and that would involved itself not in pay and conditions, but in upholding professional standards.”

Back at the TweetUp, Professor Chris Husbands, director of the University of London’s Institute of Education, who warned that we cannot forget the role of salary and of self-regulation.

But he also had a message for schools: “We understand the knowledge base of effective teaching, (but) we are much less effective at insuring that the knowledge base circulates around the profession.”

Other TweetUp speakers included president of the Association of School and College Leaders, Mike Griffiths, and Teacher Development Trust trustee and primary head Alison Peacock.

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