This post is written for May’s #blogsync.
I’ve read the first three posts in this month’s blogsync series and in keeping with those I will reiterate that teachers are the most trusted profession in the country. Research from a Mori Poll in June 2011 showed that 81% of UK adults say they trust teachers to tell the truth. This is excellent news and is therefore a good place to start.
So we’re off to a good beginning. The public trusts us, at the moment. How long will this last? The main thrust of my post is (controversially) that sometimes we teachers are own worst enemy. Sometimes we play right in to the Government’s hands by behaving in a less than dignified manner. If we don’t act like professionals we can’t expect to be treated like professionals. Can you think of the last time the Doctors went on strike? They are the most trusted profession and they last went on strike in the 1970s, over 40 years ago. This helps towards their professional standing in my opinion. Teachers last went on strike in November 2011, a mere 18 months ago. Further industrial action is planned for this Summer and Autumn. While Doctors remain quiet and dignified teachers are increasingly agitated and loud. It is little wonder that the public are beginning to look upon us as less than professional.
Do not misunderstand me. We have much to endure. The Government and in particular Michael Gove are determined to dumb down our professional status. They have thrown PRP at us, raided our pensions, given us an ever changing ill thought out curriculum and recently accused us of cheating in controlled assessments. New initiatives are introduced regularly before we’ve even had sufficient time to implement the last initiatives. Gove’s latest theory is that we don’t work enough hours and we have too many holidays. Michael Wilshaw is set on a collision course with the teachers for introducing what many see as a less than supportive inspection regime. It seems that nothing the teachers do is right for this Government.
I have no idea why the Government is doing all of this. I’d hazard a guess that it’s to encourage academisation. Whatever the reason, they are determined to paint a picture of a profession in disarray incapable of educating the next generation of children. The Sun Newspaper is Britain’s most widely read newspaper and its claimed that its readers have an average reading age of 12 years. That’s a huge proportion of the population in this country reading and possibly believing the Government’s persuasive views on teachers. I hear it myself when I’m out socialising. I’m told how badly educated our children are compared to those in other countries. ‘I blame the teachers’ is the mantra. Statistics! That’s the answer I give if I bother to answer. We all know what can be done with stats. Without realising it I’m often sucked in to a debate based on what people have read in ‘The Sun’!
The unions are not entirely blame free in my opinion. Should the unions be encouraging the teachers to be so antagonistic all the time? Why do the unions want to challenge every change that is mooted? Some initiatives never make it to the classroom or the law books. The unions would have us all riled up at the thought of any tiny change. Would it not be better to choose the big arguments that we need to win and accept that there must be some change for society and education to improve? I’m not defending all the changes, I’m questioning our response to them. We can’t stick our heads in the sand and refuse to change at all. The World is changing and we must respond accordingly. At this moment in time teachers are beset with more problems than ever before. There has to be an answer.
My answer is for us to become more like doctors, be quiet, dignified and more professional in everything we do. Pick a few arguments and concentrate on them. Let Gove raise the qualifications for entering teaching to a 2:1 degree. This is not harmful and apart from a few genuinely talented people do we really want people with a weak degree teaching our children? Raising the entrance qualification will raise our professional status. Let Gove change his exam system. He can’t make his mind up which exam system he’s going for anyway. The more he changes his mind the more foolish he looks. If we give him enough rope he will eventually hang himself. Exam cheating and grade inflation, do we really need to defend this? If we had maintained a dignified silence, no outraged cries of denial the story might have died a death. By continually arguing we are playing right in to Gove’s hands. PRP is a tricky one. There are elements of this which I despise and elements which I wholeheartedly believe in. Maybe this is one of the arguments that as a profession we need to tackle collectively. This is a simplistic view but if we don’t argue back there is no argument to report in the newspaper and no argument to be had. The newspapers would be forced to pick holes in Gove’s policies rather than our response to them.
I’ve just picked a few issues here to give you an idea of where I’m coming from. The essence of what I’ve said so far is that we need to improve our relationship with the Government by quietly accepting some of the less important changes. Let’s be more professional and dignified about things and then we may be taken more seriously.
On a more practical level I’m looking at the Teaching Schools and the Royal College of Teaching. I have no wish to put the universities out of business. They do a grand job and produce brilliant teachers. There is a place for both. Teaching Schools know what schools and trainees need. They are in a position to ensure the appropriate provision is there to meet these needs. They ensure high quality placements with on the job training and assess against the teaching standards. Four days in school on a high powered placement and one day in university to back up the required theory. This would produce highly skilled, hopefully professional teachers.
This brings me to the Royal College of Teachers. Rightly or wrongly I have high hopes for this. Not much information has been given about this so far so I’ll tell you my hopes for it. I would like it to be run by the teachers for the teachers, not the Government and not the unions. Let’s not provide the Government with another stick to beat us with and let’s keep it independent from the unions. I would like it to be closely linked to what’s required for the future of education, closely linked to the teaching standards and maybe linked to educational research. I’d use it as a forum for sharing good practise in the same way the Teaching School alliances do. This would give us some credibility as a forward thinking profession.
There we have it. My three thoughts on what would raise the status of the teaching profession. First, teachers could be more quiet and dignified and think carefully before embarking on industrial action. In short, be more professional. Secondly, involve the Teaching Schools further. Teaching schools are in a fab position to identify what schools need and can design and implement the relevant courses. Thirdly, bring on the Royal College of Teachers with the caveat that it be free from the unions and political intervention from the Government.
With these three ideas I believe we could raise the status of the teaching profession. Let’s be the master of our own destiny and let’s reinvent our professional status.